Travels from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Linda Cliatt-Wayman's speaking fee starts in range: $25,000 to $30,000
Principal, Linda Cliatt-Wayman turned three of the country’s most dangerous and impoverished schools into successful centers of learning and development. The dedicated educator’s inspirational tale has been featured on TED, ABC’s World News Tonight and a special segment of Nightline with Diane Sawyer. She has been invited nationwide to speak at educational institutions, women’s conferences, and leadership events.
Cliatt-Wayman entered teaching with a first-hand understanding of the myriad challenges her students faced. She had attended an impoverished school herself years before in the district she was now working in. She spent the first 20 years of her career as a special education teacher, helping her students do better by holding them to high standards and treating them as people rather than a procedure.
Within her first hour as principal at a high school in Northern Philadelphia, she heard words from one of her students that would permanently shape her vision as a leader: “Miss, why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school.” Silently agreeing that her students deserved more than the fear and violence driving the school’s chaotic culture, Cliatt-Wayman promptly took action, setting high expectations for students, implementing a “non-negotiable” discipline policy, providing rigorous teacher training, and cleaning the mountains of broken furniture that littered the building. She was not always liked and even frequently threatened; nevertheless, Cliatt-Wayman won her students’ respect. Scores and attendance rates started going up while violence and dropout rates started going down.
Eventually, Cliatt-Wayman took the role of assistant-superintendent in the Philadelphia Public School District, but returned to school halls when she was unable to find a principal that could handle Strawberry Mansion High School, whose frequent rates of assault and arrests statistically made it one of the most dangerous schools in the country. Driven by unconditional love for her students and a belief in their potential, Cliatt-Wayman stepped into the job herself. Within one year the school’s proficiency scores doubled and Strawberry Mansion was removed from Pennsylvania’s list of “persistently dangerous schools.”
Recently, Cliatt-Wayman has started a non-profit that will support underserved students in Philadelphia. Her book Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard: Finding Your Purpose And Putting It To Work details how to turn around a struggling organization and will speak to leaders not just in education, but any industry.
Linda Cliatt-Wayman is a passionate educator with an unwavering belief in the potential of all children. Her leadership as a high school principal in North Philadelphia has been featured by TED, ABC World News Tonight, and Nightline.
Wayman grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, where she experienced firsthand the injustice being perpetrated against poor students in their education. She has dedicated her career and her life to ending that injustice and to helping students succeed in school and beyond.
Wayman earned her BA from Kutztown University and her MA from St. Joseph’s University. She spent 20 years as a special education teacher before becoming a principal of FitzSimons High School in 2003. Wayman led a turnaround of FitzSimons from a school known for low levels of academic achievement and high levels of violence to a safe space focused on learning.
In 2005 she was given the opportunity to open The Young Women’s Leadership School at Rhodes High School. Once again, Wayman led a turnaround at Rhodes. Before she arrived, only 3% of students were proficient in math and 9% were proficient in reading. By holding students and staff alike to high expectations, providing intense professional development to her staff, building a strong leadership team, and always believing in and loving her students, Wayman oversaw the growth of Rhodes so that the majority of students were proficient in math and reading and 94% of seniors were accepted into college.
Wayman spent two years as Assistant Superintendent of High Schools for the School District of Philadelphia, directly overseeing all of the district’s 52 high schools. But when the district decided to merge her two former schools, FitzSimons and Rhodes, with another North Philadelphia High School, Strawberry Mansion, Wayman knew she had to step in to lead the merged school as principal. At Strawberry Mansion, not far from the North Philadelphia neighborhood where she grew up, Wayman and her team are once again proving what is possible for low-income children. Test scores have improved every year since Wayman took over, and the school was removed from the federal Persistently Dangerous Schools list for the first time in five years.
Wayman’s powerful leadership and the success of her students have caused people to take notice. Diane Sawyer and her team spent an entire school year documenting Wayman’s efforts, which were featured on both ABC World News Tonight and Nightline. She was named a KYW Gamechanger and won the 2014 Philadelphia Magazine Trailblazer Award and 2014 Philadelphia Maneto Award.
Wayman has shared her story with audiences across the country. In May 2015, she delivered a TED Talk at TED Women in which she described her loving, fierce leadership for children. Other speaking engagements have included the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the Raytheon Leadership Conference, the Cancer Treatment Center for America Luncheon, and the Exelon Women Luncheon, and the Dallas Bar Association.
Above all, Linda Cliatt-Wayman is driven by her love for her students. She ends her announcements to her students every morning the same way: “Remember, if no one told you they loved you today, remember I do and I always will.”
Former high school principal, Linda Cliatt-Wayman provides a look at how her leadership turned around three poverty crime-ridden schools in Philadelphia. When introducing herself and expectations her first day on the job, she was taken aback when one of the students in the assembly called out, “Miss, why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school.”
“Ashley had expressed what I felt, but was never able to articulate about my own experience when I attended a low-performing school in the same neighborhood many years earlier,” Cliatt- Wayman notes elaborating that from the chains on the doors to the piles of broken furniture, from the mountains of unused resources to the fear that hung over students and teachers alike, the environment they were in was not a school.
Cliatt-Wayman highlights three actionable slogans she led and lived by to ensure that her students would indeed have a dignified education.
1. If you’re going to lead, lead.
2. So what? Now what?
3. If no one told you they loved you today, remember I do and I always will.
“I do not know all the answers, but I do know that those of us who are privileged and have the responsibility of leading a school that serves children in poverty, must truly lead,” she comments. “And when we are faced with truly unbelievable challenges, we must stop and ask ourselves, ‘So what? Now what? What are we going to do about it?’”
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