This article originally appeared in the Greenwich Time; click here to read it on the newspaper's website.
Named the new head of school at Sacred Heart Greenwich back in January, Margaret “Meg” Frazier had many months to prepare for her new role at a new school.
And it turned out that she definitely needed the extra time.
In addition to starting a new job, Frazier was met with the challenge of reopening the private all-girls Catholic K-12 school in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s certainly been some transition,” said Frazier, a Branford native. “The realities of this summer with COVID-19 and planning for the students coming back to school, I’ve had to jump right in, pull up my sleeves and listen to the community. You just have to jump into the deep end of the pool.”
Frazier officially took over as head of school on July 1, succeeding Pamela Juan Hayes in the post. One of her first official tasks was to oversee the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 on July 24. That gave her a glimpse of Sacred Heart’s school spirit.
“All the speakers carried the same theme of how they grew and changed as people and how their own sense of faith in themselves and others pushed them to do big things at a young age,” said Frazier, who previously served as headmistress at Marymount International School in London for two years.“Graduation is a lens at which any of us look at a school. I noticed they all had that moment of sisterhood,” said Frazier, who also worked for 15 years at Georgetown Preparatory School, a Jesuit day and boarding school outside Washington, D.C., and two years as head of the upper school at Sacred Heart’s sister school, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md. A graduate of Branford High School and Dartmouth College, Frazier has a vision for each level at Sacred Heart — the Upper, Middle and Lower Schools.
“At the Lower School, we are looking to have girls of diverse backgrounds, who stay with us for the Sacred Heart journey,” she said. “We are hoping to introduce wonderful ways for them to be explorers. I want them to be questioners and explorers.”
In Middle School, Frazier believes a student goes through two experiences in four years.
“Grades 5-6 is one set and 7-8 is another,” she said. “It is important to recognize the social and emotional needs of girls coming into their own identities. In our middle school, we are seeking to build good risk-takers. We hope they see they can try things and not worry about failing. I feel in middle school, you start to see life beyond yourself.”
The Upper School students need to acquire the skills needed to prepare for college, Frazier said.
“We are really looking at how we are equipping our Upper School students to be leaders within the school, while paying attention to their own well being and striving toward their own excellence,” she said.
Start of school year
Sacred Heart’s first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 8. To prepare, the school has developed what it calls four “return to school scenarios.
Scenario 1 describes a typical on-campus learning environment, where physical distancing is not a requirement — made possible by a vaccine or no COVID-19 present in the community.
Under Scenario 2, which is the level planned for reopening in September, Sacred Heart calls for an on-campus learning environment with a modified schedule. Physical distancing will take place, and students, faculty members and staff must follow the state’s safety/health guidelines.
There is a hybrid model for Scenario 3, which alternates between on-campus and distance learning. For Scenario 4, the students will be fully in remote learning.
To adapt to the changing needs, Sacred Heart has instituted new times for the first classes of the day. Upper School students will start at 8:45 a.m. with Middle School starting at 8:20 a.m. and Lower School beginning at 8 a.m.
The school has formed a block schedule for its Upper School, with each class lasting 75 minutes. Depending on the day, Upper School students will have four, three or two classes.
Time will be allocated on certain days for students to spend extra time with teachers, hold class meetings or attend student council meetings as well as school clubs and activities.
“It was a real team effort,” Frazier said of changing the Upper School schedules. “We had our academic deans and chair of each department give plenty of thought about this schedule. We had to think about how we can become more student-centered and more aware of what we are preparing the girls for.”
The Middle School students will be placed into cohorts because of their age, Frazier said. “We are trying to keep the class sizes to around 10 to 12, with overflow spaces,” she said. “We might have a class of 16 to 18 seventh- and eighth-graders.”
In the Lower School, students will stay in their same cohorts as well. Cohorts limit contact between student groups, and allow for contact tracing if there is an outbreak.
Scholar-athlete in her own right
Athletics was one of Frazier’s passions during her high school days. She captained Branford’s undefeated basketball team, which captured the CIAC Class L state championship in 1983, and was the leading scorer on the school’s field hockey team for three seasons.
The valedictorian of Branford’s Class of 1983, Frazier was inducted into the Branford Sports Hall of Fame, joining her grandmother and aunt, both of whom received the honor.
A mother of two sons and a daughter, Frazier is especially excited to begin her new role at Sacred Heart Greenwich.
“One of the joys of being a teacher and head of school is you get to be a student every day,” she said. “The common theme whether I was in the Washington, D.C., area, or London was what a privilege it is to watch the students grow. It’s a privilege to be able to do something with people that makes a difference.”
Sacred Heart Greenwich is one of more than 20 schools across the U.S. in the Sacred Heart community.
“We are lucky that we have a network of schools that help us share perspectives,” she said. “There are some really wonderful resources that we share. We are blessed to have that richness.”