Last month a 16-year-old boy stood in the principal’s office at the Tubman Education Center, his hands folded behind his back and his eyes lowered.
He was attending the center’s alternative program because he had broken the code of conduct at his zone school. Now he found himself on the other side of Wayne Frazier’s desk because he yelled at a teacher.
Whatever the issue was in class, Frazier wanted to hit the problem he knew was beyond the school.
“Repeat what you just told me,” Frazier said when a visitor walked in.
The boy mumbled that he didn’t know who his father was.
“Well I didn’t know my real daddy either,” Frazier replied. “It doesn’t mean you act like that.”
It took negotiating, but the student eventually admitted he needed to apologize to the teacher. It came after a man-to-man talk about where his frustration might be coming from and where his path could go if he doesn’t let it go.
Frazier, a 6-foot-4 retired Army sergeant, uses a no-nonsense, throw-the-rule-book-away approach to leading the alternative program. Complaints from staff about his style is part of what caused Superintendent Frank Roberson to transfer Frazier from his position as principal at Glenn Hills High School to Tubman in 2012.
Now, after almost 10 months without him, some in the Glenn Hills community are fighting to get him back. Rico Jackson, the president of the Barton Chapel Progressive Neighborhood Association, has completed a petition with about 200 signatures urging Richmond County school officials to bring Frazier back to Glenn Hills.
“He has a particular way of doing things, and not everybody agrees with it, but it works 100 percent,” said Jackson, who fathers foster children that attended Glenn Hills. “(In the community) there’s drugs, violence, and we’re trying to get rid of that. A principal like him can get the kids back on track.”
After three years at Glenn Hills, Roberson transferred Frazier to Tubman after several teachers complained about the principals’ style – about 12 transferred out – and the percentage of students passing Math I was in the single digits. In a transfer letter to Frazier, Roberson also said the school system could use Frazier’s leadership at the alternative program for needed change.
In January, two Glenn Hills educators filed lawsuits against the Richmond County Board of Education alleging the board failed to stop harassment, abuse and a hostile work environment from Frazier.
On Jan. 31, Roberson gave Frazier a letter of reprimand, citing complaints made by his former secretary about unfair work demands and inappropriate comments made to students and teachers.
Jackson, who plans to send his petition to the Georgia Department of Education and Roberson, said Frazier’s style might seem harsh on paper, but the rule book does not always apply to real life.
Frazier said he knows his style might offend some who don’t understand it. He also said he believes his transfer and letters of reprimand might be more politically motivated than anything else.
His specialty is dealing with at-risk African American students, especially those coming from broken homes or crime ridden neighborhoods. And to avoid filling more prisons with more black youth, Frazier said an unorthodox approach is needed.
When boys have their pants sagging low, he tells them to “pull your panties up.” If a boy is embarrassed to give him a hug, Frazier tells him not to be a “sissy.”
And when students act like a teacher can’t understand where they come from, Frazier surprises them with his story. Frazier said he grew up with five stepfathers, watched his sister turn to prostitution and never had a bed to sleep in until he joined the Army after high school.
“They’re going through the same things,” Frazier said. “They’re not going to trust you unless you talk to them in a manner they understand. But I’m getting it to them through their own culture and their own experiences. That’s just the way it is.”
Frazier said he is unsure where he’ll be next year or if Jackson’s petition will be successful. But wherever he goes, his attitude will be the same.
“I treat the children how I’d treat my own children,” Frazier said. “I might say some rough stuff, but when they walk out of here, they walk out with their heads up.”