Frazier aims to turn around Glenn Hills

Wayne Frazier doesn't subscribe to any don't-sweat-the-small-stuff philosophies.

 

The no-nonsense principal has become the Richmond County school board's go-to guy for turning around troubled schools, and he hopes to make big changes in his first year back at Glenn Hills High School, just as he did last year within four months of being reassigned to Tubman Middle. To do that, he's zeroing in on even minor infractions, such as sloppy attire and loafing between classes.

"I'm gonna' concentrate on the small stuff," Dr. Frazier said. "Because if you concentrate on the small stuff, hopefully you won't graduate to the larger stuff."

He spent much of the first day of school Friday hammering in his dress code, ordering boys to pull up sagging pants, tuck in their shirts and remove earrings. Girls were warned about short skirts and shirts that expose their midriffs or too much cleavage.

Administrators and teachers also coordinated on keeping hallways cleared, approaching anyone caught wandering between periods and ushering them into the right room or office.

And in a tactic Dr. Frazier says worked both at Tubman and when he headed Bungalow Road Alternative School before that, he let students know that anyone caught watching a fight will be suspended for 10 days -- twice as long as those actually fighting.

"Everybody in the area is participating in the fight, in my mind, by running to it or boosting it up," the principal said.

That new rule is going to make a huge difference, said Torri Williams, a math and statistics teacher in her fourth year at Glenn Hills. Looking up and down a hallway between classes, she marveled that even without a bell working it was completely empty -- no one chatting, talking on cell phones or texting.

"The kids, they're really a good group," Ms. Williams said. "They just need structure."

Along with a host of discipline problems last year, Glenn Hills had a graduation rate of 65.1 percent, one reason it didn't make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind for the fourth year in a row. Dr. Frazier said he's aiming to raise this year's graduation rate to 85 percent and make AYP, a feat he accomplished at Tubman, which had spent eight years on the "needs improvement" list.

"This school's got a lot of potential," said Executive Director of High Schools Lynn Warr, who paid a visit to Dr. Frazier on Friday, as did Superintendent Dana Bedden. "You just have to have a good, strong leader here."

Before being principal at Bungalow Road Alternative, Dr. Frazier was an assistant principal at Glenn Hills High earlier in the decade. He said he doesn't consider leading beleaguered schools a tough job, but more like a hobby, something he loves and enjoys doing.

Wearing a coat and tie and a Georgia Bulldogs pin that Coach Mark Richt gave to his wife, state Rep. Gloria Frazier, Dr. Frazier took to the microphone for morning announcements, then slowly sang, "I love you," eliciting laughs throughout the building.

Later in the morning, the school summoned a 15-year-old's mother because he was being stubborn about keeping his pants up. With his mother watching, Dr. Frazier confronted the boy in the main office, telling him to speak up, stand up straight and act like a grown-up. Eventually, the boy mumbled that his belt wasn't tight enough. The principal told him to go home, cut another hole in it and come back Monday.

"I'm gonna' give you an early Christmas present," Dr. Frazier said. "Christmas in August."

Throughout the day countless other teens with drooping britches found themselves face-to-face with the 6-foot-4 retired Army first sergeant, who told them that if they want to graduate, shape up.

"I've already suspended seven students today," he told one boy. "You're gonna' be the eighth."

Asked later why he had to suspend students on the first day, he said, "I didn't. You have to be a little creative."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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