BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR more than 40 years, Audrae Frater was a reassuring presence at Albert Town High School, providing administrative support for several principals and ensuring continuity as leadership changed hands at the institution.
For Frater, the rural Trelawny school was her home away from home where she worked long hours as senior secretary serving its students, teachers and community as a whole.
For those who have experienced her excellent service, it is gratifying that she was one of four regional winners in Kingston Bookshop's inaugural Educational Support Staff Achievement (ESSA) awards last May.
Frater feels a sense of pride at receiving the award after so many years at Albert Town.
"After working for so long at one place, it feels good to be one of only four persons recognised with this award. I believe Kingston Bookshop is guided by God in establishing this award to recognise us," she told the Jamaica Observer.
Frater, who resides in the community and whose husband Karl taught at Albert Town High for years before he retired as vice-principal, said it is a pleasure to serve the people from her home district.
"I am from this area and I feel good to serve my own people. If nobody else wants to assist them, I take the lead and make them feel welcome so they have come to expect that kind of service from me," she said.
As secretary, Frater is responsible for the correspondence that comes into the office, which includes recommendations from past students.
Never one to complain about the work involved, Frater's days typically start at nine in the morning and go up until 7:00 pm.
"It's been a little hard, especially since we have the shift system, but I tend to stay late in order to finish up things," she added.
The school's principal, Wentworth Gabbidon, is very happy about the establishment of the ESSA awards, a national competition which highlights and honours outstanding support employees in the education system, such as clerks, bursars, librarians, ancillary staff, secretaries, canteen operators, grounds men, nurses, and traffic wardens.
He is also thrilled that his secretary is among the first recipients.
"I am very pleased that Mrs Frater received this award and I am pleased that Kingston Bookshop decided to sponsor this award because most times in education all the focus is on the teachers. Many times we forget about the administrative and ancillary staff without whom the school cannot operate," he said.
Gabbidon is particularly impressed by the attention Frater pays to her work, and the care she displays in catering to the needs of each individual who visits the principal's office.
"Mrs Frater is someone on whom you can depend. She is the kind of person who you don't worry about getting the job done once you have given it to her. Five principals, plus those who acted as principal in between, have served the school and she has been here for all of us," he noted.
Being from the community, Frater has been able to provide important information about past students who come to the school for documents on a regular basis.
"For example, when past students who were before my time come for recommendations, I would just speak to Mrs Frater about it, she takes their information, does the letter for them and gives it to me for signing. I just read and sign," Gabbidon explained.
Meanwhile, Frater -- who has worked at Albert Town High since 1970 — will proceed on retirement next year.
Ever the professional, she kept the interview with Career & Education tight as she had work to do.
"Please excuse me, but there are a number of people waiting on me right now," she said.