ABOVE: Brent Frazier, left, with is younger brother Chad Frazier (right).
Two Lake County principals had reason to celebrate when school grades were released in early July. Umatilla Middle School, led by Principal Brent Frazier, not only earned a B for the first time in six years, but also scored 65 points higher than last year – making it the school with the second largest point increase among all traditional public schools districtwide. It was second only to Eustis Heights Elementary, which improved from a D to a C and made a 104-point gain under the leadership of Principal Chad Frazier, Brent’s younger brother. Chad is the incoming principal for Mount Dora Middle School, a C school, for the 2019-20 school year.
“It’s pretty unique for Lake to have two principals who are brothers who led schools with the top overall improvement,” Chad said.
But having things in common is nothing new for the Frazier brothers. Both started their careers at Carver Middle School. Both taught science there. Each one took a turn as department head and athletic director at the school. Eventually, Brent took on the role of dean at Leesburg Elementary and when he moved on, Chad took his place.
Growing up, it was just the two of them, so to say the brothers are close is an understatement. They even live 200 yards apart in the same Leesburg neighborhood, and when they learned the good news about their schools they celebrated together.
“We’ve always had a pretty special relationship,’’ Chad said. “We’ve been leaning on each other a long time.”
Because of the four-year age difference, they never really competed against each other. That’s still the case today. “As principals, we’re all in this together, trying to educate all the kids in Lake County,” Brent said. “So, no, we don’t compete professionally. In fact, we share best practices.”
Brent attributes Umatilla Middle’s success to the hard work of his staff and their students, and “doing the right thing for kids every day.” Last year was his first as a principal and his first at Umatilla Middle, where a staggering 23 percent of students were homeless and 78 percent qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school two years ago, just before the district started providing free meals to all students through the federal Community Eligibility Provision for districts in low-income areas. The older Frazier established a theme – “We strive to give our best” – and he carried the message throughout the year on flags, signs in the hallway, and everywhere else he could think of in order to get buy-in from students and staff. He said that mindset along with setting aside a 30-minute block of time four days a week when students could either get support in areas where they were struggling or participate in “acceleration options,” helped bring about a successful outcome.
For Chad, the key to success at Eustis Heights was getting the right staff with a heart for kids and compassion. “We created a safe culture, where teachers felt it was okay to try new things,” he said. “I would teach some classes myself and had teachers come in and watch. I would tell them they didn’t have to be perfect, just do what’s best for kids.” The idea of building a strong team – not just with teachers and administrators, but with every adult on campus – is a strategy he is taking with him to Mount Dora Middle School.
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