‘Beacon of light’: Community mourns unexpected passing of longtime Raines High educator

2020 Image Awards winner Deborah Mosley Norman was guidance counselor at Raines for over 3 decades

Deborah Mosley Norman, who's credited for securing millions of dollars in scholarships for students at Raines High School, passed away Saturday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Deborah Mosley Norman is credited with securing millions of dollars in scholarships for students during her tenure as a guidance counselor at Raines High School.

But as the community mourned her unexpected passing, it wasn’t the millions in scholarship money they were remembering.

It was the moments.

The encouragement, the mentorship, the relationships she established with the students she helped guide into adulthood.

Heartfelt and heartbroken remembrances flooded Norman’s Facebook page Saturday as word spread that the longtime educator had died on Friday.

Norman, the longest-serving guidance counselor in Raines High history, earned recognition as the 2020 DCPS Guidance Counselor of the Year and as the first Education Excellence Award winner at the 2020 Jacksonville Image Awards.

Deborah Mosley Norman speaks during the Jacksonville Image Awards in 2020. (WJXT)

During her Image Awards acceptance speech, Norman thanked all of those who had taken her journey with her.

“The greatest joy for me in education was just doing all that I could so that everybody could be everything that they could,” Norman said.

It was that giving spirit that marked all of her relationships, from classrooms to church pews.

A pillar member of the First Baptist Church of Oakland on the city’s Eastside, Pastor Chris McKee Jr. said Norman was serving others right up until the end -- with a back-to-school giveaway event planned for Saturday at Flossie Brunson Park.

Deborah Mosley Norman was a pillar member of the First Baptist Church of Oakland on the city’s Eastside. (WJXT)

“She pushed us all to excellence. We will miss her dearly,” McKee said. “She’s a shining example of someone who served everywhere she was.”

Norman, a graduate of Matthew W. Gilbert, went on to teach at the school and was nominated by Gilbert’s faculty to receive the “Young Teachers Achievement Award.”

She later spent 35 years educating students at Raines High.

“Mrs. Norman’s guidance was a beacon of light for many students on their paths through high school and post-secondary journey. She was a stalwart champion in the field of public education,” Raines Principal Vincent Hall wrote in a letter announcing her passing.

Norman’s legacy at Raines was later stamped when the guidance suite was dedicated and renamed in her honor.

During that speech, Hall said, Norman thanked God for “letting me serve my purpose in life, for the children at Raines, so that they could be all that they could be.”

In Hall’s letter to the Raines community, he said he was still in shock.

“Today she has gone home, and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. She no longer belongs to us; she belongs to the ages,” Hall wrote. “We mourn her loss and send our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones.”

Among those who loved Norman is Tonette Phelps, a counselor at Raines High who was mentored by Norman.

She says now students at the school call her, “little Mrs. Norman.”

“She made sure that she trained us well that we could take the charge,” Phelps said. “It is going to be a heavy load for me to carry, but I am going to try to do it well to make her proud.”

Tonette Phelps, a counselor at Raines High, was mentored by Deborah Mosley Norman. (WJXT)

Hall said details of Norman’s memorial service would be shared later.

“For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Deborah Mosley Norman lived, a woman who guided us and bent us toward the light,” Hall wrote. “Please keep her family and all Vikings in your thoughts during this very difficult time.”


About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.