Building a School that Rocks


“We are constantly encouraging our students and our teachers to push barriers in our building and to ask, 'Why not?”'

           – Dr. Lee Clinton Buddy, Jr.


Dr. Lee Buddy Jr. is a rock star.

In his tenure as of Principal of Wade Park School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, he has managed to transform the culture of a failing elementary school and confound expectations, changing the lives of his students and creating a community of successful learners.

With all the adverse media coverage on education, we rarely hear about the real heroes. People who have the courage and wisdom to change the system from within. When Buddy came to Wade Park School, only three percent of his third graders were reading at grade level. By every measurable data point, the school was failing its students. And not by a little. The reputation of the school was so bad that substitute teachers wouldn’t even teach there. Suspensions were rampant, and first graders were getting into fights daily.

Buddy had a belief. And he shared this belief with his staff. Nothing was impossible. When he came in 2015, the school had no computers for the students. The office computers were antiquated and insufficient. He was told there was no money. Buddy reached out to community partners, local businesses and churches. Problem solved.

Buddy knew that unless he changed the culture among the staff and students, nothing would change. His culture change was accomplished through four pillars: academics, creating student leaders, creating multitiered systems of support and rebranding.

In less than four years, Buddy created a strong sense of pride in place, with staff and students eager to come to school every day. Wade Park became an amazing place to learn and grow. Enrollment grew from 290 to more than 450, with several grades capped because they were at capacity.

This video, captured at The Learning Counsel’s 2018 National Gathering in Houston, is a literal roadmap for school turnaround and improvement for every principal and superintendent in the country. You’ll hear Dr. Lee Buddy Jr. share exactly how he and his staff, with the help of some very bright students, transformed his school from one of Cleveland’s most challenged learning environments to one of the city’s best.

Though successful as a teacher in Miami Dade and assistant principal in Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, Buddy ultimately came north to light up the education arena, recasting lives and proving an old adage in the process: Cleveland Rocks!

Click the video below for your roadmap to school turnaround.


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At the Learning Counsel’s Digital Transition Discussion events, there’s a lot to take in. At our one-day events, one of the highlights is the Panel Discussions where area professionals discuss key experiences.