Wayne Frazier walked the halls of Glenn Hills High on Thursday morning, practicing a concept he says has helped change the school's atmosphere in the two months he has been principal.
"One word -- relationships," he said, hugging student after student during a class change and even visiting one class for a joint rendition of a favorite song, I Love You, from Barney, the purple dinosaur.
On Thursday, teachers, parents and several students said there has been a transformation in how the school runs under Dr. Frazier.
"He's really changed this school," said senior DeontÃ© Lambert. "Last year, it was off-the-chain ... I was kind of scared but happy at the same time (when hearing Dr. Frazier would be principal)."
Last year, Glenn Hills had a number of discipline problems, and it hasn't made Adequate Yearly Progress levels under the federal No Child Left Behind law four years in a row.
Dr. Frazier, who has a reputation for turning around troubled Richmond County schools, said he hopes to increase the graduation rate and make AYP. He says his bigger goal, however, is "to make sure every student in the building succeeds -- to move from where they were to one level higher."
So how much progress has Dr. Frazier seen in two months?
"I would say about 85 percent so far as the climate is concerned," he said, picking up a ball of paper in a hallway. He also wants to keep hallways and bathrooms spick-and-span. He said his thinking is that even though the school might be old, it doesn't have to be dirty and it should be a place that he would be happy having his own children attending.
He said there have only been two fights -- "And I won both of 'em," he said with a big grin, noting that he has instituted a policy that while those fighting get five days' suspension, those who hang around and watch get 10 days.
Dr. Frazier is no stranger to tough assignments. His previous challenge was Tubman Middle, which made AYP last year. Before that, he headed up Richmond County's Alternative Center.
Dr. Frazier called Tubman his most challenging effort, noting that gang members "used the school as their own battleground." He said that instead of kicking such students out of class, he focused on them, and ultimately they were among those who scored highest when the school made AYP.
At Glenn Hills, parents and students say one of the biggest changes is structure. Long gone are hallways filled with students after classes have started. Baggy pants and untucked shirts are things of the past. And hugs offered first by students to Dr. Frazier were common Thursday.
"I think everybody respects him," said senior Tyrique Lane Sr.
Dr. Frazier said such structure along with the relationships he builds helps students focus on learning.
"I'm so glad he's here," said parent Grace Wright, who was at the school Thursday. "You can see a change when you walk in ... I love everything he's doing."
On Thursday, students quickly made their way out of the halls during class changes. A small group lingered in one hall after classes started, and Dr. Frazier escorted them and told their teacher to inform their parents that they had been late to class.
"You can't sit in your office and have relationships," Dr. Frazier said of his routine hall roaming.
When it comes to parents and other members of the public, Dr. Frazier said all are welcome to visit Glenn Hills. To do so, he has placed an open desk in every classroom for visitors to view lesson plans and fill out a survey.
"We can't continue to say we want parents to be involved in the process but not make them feel welcomed," he said.
The changes at the school also seem to be catching the eye of the school system's main office.
"It seems that Dr. Frazier has done a great job in establishing a school climate that is conducive to learning," said Superintendent Dana Bedden. "It is too early to tell just yet, but we look forward to seeing the academic progress later in the year."
Dr. Frazier said that while he appreciates a pat on the back, he knows the change "is not just what Wayne Frazier did. It changed because of the desire of good teachers who wanted things to happen."
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.