On her first day as a principal in a North Philadelphia school, Linda Cliatt-Wayman was determined to lay down the law and set clear expectations. She called her students into the auditorium and told them how things would go at that school. But one voice interrupted her. “Miss,” called out a girl named Ashley, “why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school.” The question resonated with her, says Cliatt-Wayman. After 20 years of teaching in the same impoverished North Philly schools where she’d gotten her own education, Ashley had gotten straight to the heart of what she’d never quite been able to articulate.
A decade later, Cliatt-Wayman came to Strawberry Mansion High School — a low-performing school classified as “persistently dangerous,” where she was the fourth principal in…
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