District Administration November 2017 - 12

OnTopic

Linda Cliatt-Wayman

I lost a number of teachers in the first
two or three weeks of school. They
knew they couldn't do it.
How did you get buy-in from students and parents?
The kids at Strawberry Mansion High
School didn't realize that a school is
supposed to prepare you for life. To
them, it had become a place to hang
out and have fun.
And, because of the neighborhood,
there were many kids afraid to go to
school at all, and that was another
reason I chose to go. I wanted them to
know that if I'm going to send you in
there, then I'm going to go with you.
They were my kids. And many parents
said, "You left your job to come here?
Okay, Mrs. Wayman, if you're here, I
think things will be OK."
I've seen photos of classrooms that
were literally piled high with trash
and broken desks and chairs. How
long did the turnaround take?
It actually happened the first year. We
did a lot of prep in the summer before
going in. We worked around the clock
to beautify the school. It was full of
trash. No wonder when kids walked
in, they didn't see it as a school. That
took the entire summer.
Then we revised the school budget
to get more teachers and support staff.
We rebuilt the entire school day schedule to add a variety of start and end
times, remediation, honors courses,
extracurricular activities and counseling. Our best invention was to devise
a schoolwide discipline program titled
"Non-negotiables." It was a behavior
system designed to promote positive
behavior at all times.
When people walked into the
building in September, they already
knew something was different. They
said, "Wow, what happened to this
12 November 2017

Many kids were afraid to go to school at all. I
wanted them to know that if I'm going to send
you in there, then I'm going to go with you.
place?" That's how destructive it was
prior to us getting in. With all these
little changes, people automatically
knew, "Something's going to happen
here, because this feels different."
What advice do you have for district
leaders and principals who face similar problems and just don't know
where to turn?
I would start with my original slogan:
"If you're going to lead, lead." That's
the problem we have with many school
leaders. They are not able to articulate
what they want for their school. They
are not mission-driven. If they have a
solid mission they want to accomplish
when they walk into a school, then
very little should get them off course.
Many leaders I've had the pleasure
of working with really didn't realize
that it was their job to lead the school.
They would always defer to the district, and I'd say, "Wait a minute. The
district gave you mandates, but the
day-to-day operation of this school
falls on you and you must be prepared
to do that."
So, first, they have to own their
mission. They have to figure out what
needs to be done with that building,
before articulating it to their team.
Before it became a shared vision, it
was my vision. I had to work hard to
get them to see it my way and then it
became our vision. That's when change
happens.

This might be a delicate subject, but
I'm curious how your legacy lives on
since you left.
Well, it's funny you say that, because
I worry about that a lot, too. What I
want people to remember is that the
school would not exist if it was not
for what we did, because they were
going to close Strawberry Mansion,
too. I fought vigorously to keep that
school open. I started a football team
that hadn't been there in 50 years. I
got kids to understand and hope and
believe in education again. That's what
I want people to remember about me.
So many things shouldn't be left
to a principal to change so drastically
without bringing the kids along with
them. I tell them that's the problem
they're going to have with Strawberry
Mansion very soon.
As a matter of fact, school has just
started and they're already having
problems, because the kids have become used to certain systems, systems
that the new leaders don't care to follow. And that's OK if you bring the
kids along with you and explain how
the system is going to change from
one to another. But to just change
things to change, it's throwing the kids
into a tizzy. They're very confused at
this moment. It's going to be interesting to watch. DA
Tim Goral is senior editor.
District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration November 2017

District Administration November 2017 - Cover1
District Administration November 2017 - Cover2
District Administration November 2017 - 1
District Administration November 2017 - 2
District Administration November 2017 - 3
District Administration November 2017 - 4
District Administration November 2017 - 5
District Administration November 2017 - 6
District Administration November 2017 - 7
District Administration November 2017 - 8
District Administration November 2017 - 9
District Administration November 2017 - 10
District Administration November 2017 - 11
District Administration November 2017 - 12
District Administration November 2017 - 13
District Administration November 2017 - 14
District Administration November 2017 - 15
District Administration November 2017 - 16
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District Administration November 2017 - Cover3
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