Meet Linda Cliatt Wayman: The Principal of Strawberry Mansion High School Who Changed it All

“If I’m going to push my students toward their dream and purpose in life, I have to get to know who they are"
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Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, is not always an agreed upon statement. In fact, some would be willing to testify completely against it, and to be honest, how could you blame them.

The urban streets of Philadelphia are filled with talented, creative, knowledgeable and gifted students, however, amongst many other issues, the resources for the youth to platform and showcase their talents, simply are not there. Not every child has the motivation, belief, faith or encouragement that they can be whatever it is their hearts desire. All it takes is for one person to say, “I believe in you”.

Linda Cliatt- Wayman, the principal of Strawberry Mansion, pioneered a way to change the behavior, status and reputation of a school that was recognized as one of United States most dangerous schools. Fights in the school broke out daily, students sold and used drugs on school grounds, and people who did not attend the school leisurely walked the hallways to also get into mischievous acts. As seen in the footage below, with all of the police, security guards, metal detectors and 94 cameras, one would think they were entering a maximum security prison. Before accepting the position, there had been 49 violent incidents the previous year, but Principal Wayman knew the challenges she was taking on.

Linda Cliatt Wayman was no stranger to the danger she was immersing herself into. She had grown up on the poor side of North Philadelphia, where she had firsthand experience of the struggles students faced on the day to day basis at home and against the world at large. Wayman at a young age decided to dedicate her career to fighting and ending injustice in the education realm and helping low income students exceed beyond the expected cap. 

She received her Bachelors from Kutztown University and her Masters from St. Joseph's University. After 20 years of being a classroom teacher, she became the principal in 2003 at Fitz Simon High School and later served as assistant superintendent for all high schools in Philadelphia. With her years and experience in the school district, Ms. Linda was well versed and knowledgeable of the academic and personal struggles students faced. On that notion, she had every tool to help her reach the hearts of damaged students. 

Wayman knew very well that this was not going to be an easy journey, but she had faith that she could restore a light in these children that had been dimmed, a piece of hope that had been lost and a voice that believed in them. Wayman deconstructed the school and emplaced many rules as a means to build it back up. In an interview conducted by CBS, Wayman said, “the first thing I know I had to do was to come up with a plan of action to get them off the ‘persistently dangerous list”. Wayman first enforced that all doors to the outside had to stay closed, hoodies and coats were not permitted, drugs were never allowed to be used or sold during school, and students had to be in a designated area at all times. That was just the basics. The biggest weapon Wayman used to deflect all odds, was love. Wayman said, “I worked to build trust with them so they know if they have a problem, they have someone to go to. I tell them everyone has a God-given talent and can be successful, and I now see kids believing that life could be better.” Linda Cliatt Waymn became a parent, a counselor, motivational speaker, conflict resolution expert and overall a human that showed them love and care.

After being noted as the one of Pennsylvania’s persistently dangerous schools, when Wayman took the throne at Strawberry Mansion High School, for the first time in six years, they were no longer noted as such.