When the public talks about his school, Wayne Frazier knows there’s a stigma attached.
Tubman Education Center, which houses the Richmond County School System’s alternative program, is the outlet for students found guilty in tribunals for fighting, discipline problems and other violations.
“This is where all the children come who get in trouble all the time,” Frazier said about the school’s image. “I already know what the perception is. If we live up to their expectations out there, our children are not going to make it in here.”
Since being transferred during the summer from Glenn Hills High School to Tubman, he has launched mentoring and academic programs to boost the school’s academic success and reputation. He said if educators focus on the emotional needs of children with challenges, higher test scores and better behavior will follow.
“This is going to be a school that you would want your A-B Honor Roll student to come to, not just your student that made a mistake,” Frazier said.
When switching him to Tubman this summer, Superintendent Frank Roberson noted the progress Frazier made in the alternative program when he served as its principal from 2003 to 2008.
This time around, Frazier began the year by establishing the school’s first PTA. After more than 25 faculty and staff members joined, Richmond County Council of PTAs President Monique Braswell confirmed its charter at the first meeting Thursday. About 30 family members showed up.
Braswell asked the crowd for volunteers to serve as officers. She needed a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary to establish the school’s chapter, but no hands went up.
“Come on, this is where the commitment comes in,” Frazier called out.
One by one, volunteers walked up front until four people stood together and got a round of applause for being the founding members of the school’s PTA.
The school has the challenge of breaking the trend of low parent involvement. Although 41 faculty and staff members signed up Thursday, only six parents made the commitment, according to graduation coach Demeterius Meyers.
“One thing we have to do is let people know what we’re all about,” Braswell said. “It’s not that old association where all you can do is fundraising and bake sales. Being part of it is enough. We don’t need all your time.”
Along with the PTA, Frazier is taking several initiatives to Tubman that he created at Glenn Hills. Every classroom now has a visitor’s desk, and Frazier asks the public to come any day, unannounced, to observe how the school operates.
He asked the staffers and faculty members to mentors the students, which could mean anything from a trip to a restaurant once a week to just spending an hour talking about issues at school.
About 30 mentors have signed up, from custodians to teachers, and Frazier said mentors will log when the pairs meet, what they do and any changes in a student’s academics or behavior.
Frazier has also begun a recidivism prevention program to keep students from returning to the program after completing their time.
The 90 students in the alternative program, ranging from sixth to 12th grade, have obligations to the program from six months to a year. The goal is to get students back to their zone school earlier than expected with a new attitude and a fresh start, Frazier said.
After students leave Tubman, two advisers will follow up with them and their new teachers for a year to monitor progress and deal with any problems.
This year, the school is keeping in closer contact with families. Once a week a secretary will call the home of every student to ask families whether they have any concerns.
Wanda Allen, a special education paraprofessional at Tubman, said she notices the impact when more parents get involved at a school such as Tubman.
Many discipline and academic problems have roots in emotional trouble with a child, she said.
“When you have the parents coming in here, it puts more emphasis on the child,” Allen said. “It makes them see we care, and that they can do it.”
Lelia Richardson said that when her granddaughter went to Tubman after failing ninth grade at Butler High School, she saw an immediate change in her attitude and behavior. She credits the small classes and sense of urgency to be better.
“It has changed her 100 percent being here,” Richardson said.
At the PTA meeting Thursday, Frazier asked the Tubman community to start having a different attitude toward the school.
“It’s going to take all of us and some more,” Frazier said. “That still isn’t going to be enough.”