Updated: Feb 14, 2022
In an ideal world, all students are given equal opportunities to succeed. All have access to cutting-edge resources, knowledgeable educators who are passionate about their craft, and spaces for learning that are conducive to developing community movers and shakers. A quick glance at any facet of our education system lets the observer know that we have sorely missed the mark.
While the system often leaves much to be desired, there are individuals who are working tirelessly to ensure that their schools and students, though disadvantaged, have opportunities to succeed. One such individual is Linda Cliatt-Wayman. After working as district assistant superintendent, she volunteered to be principal of one of the most violent schools in the country, Strawberry Mansion High. If conclusions were to be drawn based on the name, one would probably think the place was welcoming, bright, and bubbly. However, Strawberry Mansion High and the community after which it is named, were anything but.
The school building was built in Philadelphia to house 1800 students. Most if not all students were minorities classified as poor, and its history of violence was daunting. The school was underfunded, neglected, and penalized by local, state, and federal officials for years leaving fragile students as casualties of political wars.
Like famed principal Joe Clark, Linda Cliatt-Wayman led with firm discipline and tough love. She endured threats to her life, unsupportive officials, and what seemed like a hopeless assignment. There are many young adults today who herald Cliatt-Wayman as the savior they desperately needed.
In his compelling, classic entitled, The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson wrote, “Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better.” I would dare say that this was how Cliatt-Wayman approached her work at Strawberry Mansion. Where many saw black and brown bodies that would amount to nothing, she dared to encourage students to dream and hope beyond the limits of their context. A healthy dose of love, infused with several heaps of hope, will always make a difference. She fiercely led by the mantra, “Leaders make the impossible possible.” Linda Cliatt-Wayman led students and faculty with compassion, stern counsel, and a message that has touched the hearts of many. She was often heard saying, “If nobody told you they loved you today, you remember I do and I always will.” Mrs. Linda Cliatt-Wayman, we salute you for the difference that you made, and continue to make, in the lives of students and educators.