Jeffie Frazier Way Unveiled

16 Sep 2019 10:20 PM | Anonymous

Jeffie Frazier Way Unveiled

by ALLAN APPEL | Published in The New Haven Independent on September 16, 2019

Allan Appel Photo


With retired Sgt. Shafiq Abdusabbur at the unveiling.

A lot of high school kids have to perform community service in order to graduate.

Now a legendary teacher, principal, and parent mentor proposes that parents of every kid in the New Haven Public Schools also be required to render volunteer service in their kids’ schools, the better to know what’s going on and to be their child’s advocate.

That potential plan of action emerged Saturday as the retired longtime principal of the Wexler-Grant School, Jeffie Frazier, stood among 50 admirers to see the unveiling of the corner sign “Jeffie Frazier Way.”

The sign was created in her honor at Foote Street at the entry driveway to the school that Frazier led.

“You made sure that parents everywhere took part in the education of children,” said Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison, who helped organize the event, along with Frazier’s sisters in the New Haven chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

The Dixwell community’s efforts to honor one of its significant elders began back in October with the gathering of hundreds of signatures—250 are required, with 166 coming from immediate neighbors. Money was also raised to pay for the sign, and approval granted by the Board of Alders in June.

At the ceremony Morrison and other speakers hailed Frazier’s pioneering efforts to involve parents, especially dads, through mentoring programs in the lives of their children at school.

“It’s not just the teachers and principals,” Morrison said. “You made sure education is outside the four walls of the school, and in the home, and the community.”

With Dixwell Alder Jeannette Morrison.

Morrison credited Frazier, a Louisiana native who migrated to the Elm City and started teaching in the public schools in 1966, with being critical to the development of her own son, now studying to be a social worker.

Frazier became principal of the Helene W. Grant School on Goffe Street and later the combined Wexler-Grant.

Since retirement in 2008, Frazier has continued donating her time to the community and is well known for working with kids and families and corralling volunteers, especially men, to help out at Wexler-Grant and other schools.

Other speakers hailed Frazier’s other contributions while helming Wexler-Grant. Those contributions include developing a policy to create dress codes that eliminate causes for jealousy and friction among children; taking groups of Wexler-Grant kids on trips to Senegal in Africa to see historical sites of the slave trade and other significant places ; and maintaining an open-door policy for parents, inviting them into the principal’s office and into the school in a welcoming way, no appointment necessary.

With her pastor, Philippe Andal.

Many of those approaches are now widespread in the schools. Frazier was credited with pioneering them, along with unswervingly high expectations for and a fierce dedication to her students.

“If you don’t want to teach my kids,”  one younger colleague of Frazier’s recalled an encounter overheard, “I’ll give you a recommendation, but you have to leave my school.”

James Harriott, a student at the Helene W. Grant School when Frazier was principal there, recalled that he had written a poem as part of a class assignment. Decades later he couldn’t remember much of it although it did contain the verse “Life is game and you’re holding the dice/ Don’t be a fool and take my advice.”

With fellow sorors Shenae Draughn and Khalilah Brown-Dean.

His words caught Frazier’s attention. She brought Harriott into her office and singled him out for praise. Subsequently he won an award for the writing.

“She knew every child’s name,” he recalled.

Following the pulling of the cord and the falling away of the pink banner to reveal the corner sign, Frazier received a bouquet of flowers. Then in her remarks she did not miss an opportunity to continue to emphasize that the education of children takes place, importantly, also outside the walls of the school, and involves bringing the parents and the community within.

“As citizens,” she said, “and I’m a citizen, not a senior citizen, it’s our job to get the community back into education. Let’s get these men to line up and to greet these students when they come to school. You don’t need a degree; you just need to stand tall. Our kids don’t know what’s right. You do. You need to show them. Get them a library card. Read with them. Sit at the computer with them.”

With grandsons Wesley and Wilbert Frazier.

Frazier said all schools in New Haven should be so good that families clamor to get into them.

“You’re not too good to wash tables in the lunch room, to stand with a kid who’s acting up, and take them, with the principal’s permission, to their parents. It’s about helping each other,” Frazier concluded.

One of the organizers of the event and a sorority sister of Frazier, Quinnipiac University political scientist Khalilah Brown-Dean, called her an educational stalwart, whose formal sign now in front of Wexler-Grant will be “a reminder of this community and the power of working together.”

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