In life, Mike Frazier brought people together, as an educator, coach, school board member, and friend.
His death Nov. 24 from COVID-19 complications devastated members of the Southwest Independent School District community, who recalled the lessons of collaboration and tenacity the 75-year-old former trustee embodied in his 40 years on the school board.
Unseated in the Nov. 3 election, Frazier had served as school board president for 36 years. Frazier is survived by his wife of 42 years, Linda Jean; his children Melinda DeCock and Mike Frazier Jr.; and seven grandchildren.
Frazier was a fixture on the school board of the small district in Southwest Bexar County, attending decades of graduations, including those of some current school board members and of Superintendent Lloyd Verstuyft, who received his diploma on a football field in 1981. Frazier also worked with the district as it more than quadrupled its student enrollment to almost 14,000 and added dozens of new facilities.
“He’s going to leave a void that we’re going to work to fill, but you can’t fill 40 years of experience overnight,” Verstuyft said. “He’s definitely going to be sorely missed.”
A graduate of Southwest High School, Frazier worked as a teacher, coach, and counselor in Harlandale and Northside ISDs, retiring from the latter after 31 years in education. He was first elected to the Southwest ISD board in 1980, and during his 40-year tenure, he worked with five superintendents, pushing for facility improvements, and a strong curriculum.
“He had an educator’s lens,” Verstuyft said. “He knew the value and the importance of what happens when a teacher is in front of the classroom.”
On the school board, Frazier always reminded his fellow trustees that their purpose was to serve the students and to help them find success after high school, whatever paths they choose to follow in life, the superintendent said.
“At the end of every day, I think everything that man did was to make the educational pathway of all children the best we could make it,” Verstuyft said. “That’s what he fought for when he first came on the board, and that’s what he was fighting for when he left us.”
Board member Keith Byrom, first elected to the board in 1984, said Frazier became a friend and gained a reputation in the community as a “tough negotiator” and “skilled collaborator,” both of which were helpful to the board.
“He believed that our board should work collaboratively rather than in conflict with each other,” he said. “He went about building a collaborative board in a number of ways, and one of them was to constantly remind us that no one member was better or had more prestige or power than anybody else; we were all elected officials, and whether it be a president or a member, we were all equal.”
Frazier also constantly reminded his fellow board members that they couldn’t accomplish anything alone, that decisions could only be made as a board, Byrom said. Additionally, he encouraged board members to become experts in areas of education that interested them, such as extracurricular activities, special education services, and school finance.
“He trained us well in the areas of collaboration,” he said, “and we will keep going and continue to follow the blueprint that he put out there for us.”
Board member Yolanda Garza-Lopez said Frazier helped her settle into her role as a trustee when she was first elected in 2008 and that he ushered in a new way of doing business at the district. Frazier also handed Garza-Lopez her diploma.
“Throughout the years, we took a lot of cues from how bigger districts that had more resources operated, even though we were small,” she said. “He was instrumental in always being very mindful of getting the best value.”
Frazier believed in the importance of maintaining the appearance of Southwest ISD’s facilities and adding new ones that would help students grow, both board members said. For decades, he pushed for the district to build a natatorium, which Southwest will break ground on in early 2021.
Verstuyft said the only reason the natatorium is being built is because Frazier kept coming back to it each time voters approved a new bond issue. He knows Frazier would be proud to see the project reach fruition.
“That’s a living legacy of something he would not let go of. It took a long time to get there, but that’s how he was,” Verstuyft said. “We may not be able to do it today, but we’re definitely not going to take it off the books for tomorrow.”