Changes at Alternative School making difference

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April 12, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Augusta's Alternative School is where students are sent who cause trouble...anything from calling in fake bomb threats to armed robbery. The school has often been called out of control, with students running wild and teachers not teaching.

But now, the principal is inviting the community to see the changes they're making and how it's affecting learning.

The outside of Augusta's Alternative School has always looked the same, but inside, students are in uniform, walking in a line and in class learning.

Longtime faculty Queenie Lawton says it's a big difference from just a few years ago.

"The teachers had almost exhausted themselves trying to keep them intact," Lawton said.

She and others credit Principal Dr. Wayne Frazier. For the last four years, it's been his goal to turn around a school that's often been called a zoo.

"I believe in order for learning to take place, in order for teaching to take place, then the atmosphere and climate must be conducive," Dr. Frazier said.

And he runs a tight ship. Each day, before students can enter the school, they have to meet his specs.

"They must have paper, book and pencil in their hand, with a uniform, pants pulled up, shirt tucked in, white shirt, with a collar, hair combed, teeth brushed, face washed," Dr. Frazier said. "If they have all those ingredients, you can come in the building."

All of the students here have caused trouble in their regular school, from gang fighting to bringing weapons or drugs to school and even armed robbery. But here, they'll tell you Dr. Frazier won't have it.

"He don't take no stuff off nobody," said sophomore Chris Moody.

The school also recently added a visitors' desk in each classroom for parents or anyone in the community to sit in. Teachers are also now required to keep current lesson plans on that desk each day.

Students say all of the changes make it easier to focus and stay out of trouble.

"It teaches me I need to focus more on school than what people say about me," said junior Kim Staley. "I want to get my GPA higher. I want to have a high school diploma. I don't want to be a young mother with no education at all."

Earlier this week, the mayor and commissioners visited the school to see some of the progress.

The school is working to get us some numbers, but they tell us graduation rates are up and the number of students coming back after leaving the school is down significantly. They also say they haven't had any fights this year.

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