- For Linda Cliatt-Wayman, it took high expectations and intense professional development to turn-around two low-performing and violent Philadelphia high schools into safe learning environments, Tim Goral writes in District Administration.
- Using the slogan “If you’re going to lead, lead,” Wayman reveals in an interview how she managed to bring team members on board who shared her vision for the schools and had to release other staff members and teachers who did not want to adapt to the new realities.
- Wayman said change happened first to the appearance of the building as staff members focused on beautifying the school to set the stage for learning. Then she brought in more teachers, support teams, programs and a new discipline system designed to promote positive behavior called “non-negotiables.”
Two important lessons emerge from this inspiring interview: First, turning around a school means creating high expectations for students and staff, however unpopular this approach might be and secondly, effective leaders with a clear vision can make a difference.
In an earlier interview in 2015, Wayman discussed the strategies that were being implemented at that time at Strawberry Mansion High School, where only 68% of students attended school regularly, 100% lived in poverty, 39% had special needs and only 1% had consistent parental engagement. However, Wayman took a no-excuse approach to improving education. “Eliminating excuses at every turn became my primary responsibility,” Wayman said.
Though Wayman’s approach is only one of many effective leadership styles, it is clear that work such as this requires commitment, a clear vision, and the ability to inspire support. With these tools in hand, however, change is possible. In a Public Impact study released in 2008, the authors of “School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success” state that visionary leadership is one of the most important elements of school turnaround success:
“Evidence collected over the last 30 years suggests that effective school leaders significantly influence student learning and other aspects of school performance. Documented experience also indicates that individual leaders in failing organizations in various sectors, including education, can effect rapid, dramatic improvements," the authors write. "School turnaround is possible, but it takes a broader, concerted effort with daring leadership at the helm and persistent, achievement-oriented collaboration among staff. That is the stuff of which rapid, bad-to-great turnarounds across sectors are made.”