"My immediate thought was that nobody was going to die on my watch.  I certainly had no plans to die that day, and I didn't  have any plans that any of my students were going to be hurt or injured..." - Cindy Zurchin, Ed.D.

Episode 022: Cindy Zurchin, Ed.D.

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     Dr. Cindy Zurchin is a superintendent (retired), consultant, and life coach.  Cindy started her career in education as a high school teacher for at-risk youth. She gained experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in urban education. She served as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of suburban school districts. Her last assignment was as Superintendent of the Abridge Area School District in Abridge, Pennsylvania.
     Years after her discovery that school culture was the key, Cindy created the first “Whale Done!” school.  She communicated her vision to staff and parents of “catching students doing things right”.  She then led the development of the new
Whale Done! culture, transforming an unruly school into a national model.  Cindy encouraged all stakeholders to employ three principle elements: Build Trust, Accentuate the Positive, and Redirect errors and negative behaviors when they occur.
     During that dramatic school turnaround which Cindy engineered, the overall focus in the classrooms changed from misbehavior to learning. The change happened in the people as they began to focus on all that was good in the children. Trust was built between students and their families.   The story of this real-life school turn-around is captured in a book co-authored by Cindy Zurchin, James Ballard, and Thad Lacinek, called
The Whale Done School.  
     Cindy is an educator and coach who inspires all to push in a new direction to achieve success.  That direction is recognition of what is positive, good and capable in people. Cindy knows that steady application of this simple principle can transform school or office staffs. She has helped create environments where people felt empowered and supported to share and to recognize the best in each other.  
     Cindy holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership from
Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  She has also studied leadership at the Covey Leadership Institute in Utah and taught in Brisbane, Australia.  She attributes many of her lessons in leadership to life coach, Jim Ballard and leadership experts, Ken & Margie Blanchard, of the Ken Blanchard Companies
     Cindy speaks and coaches on how to improve school culture by “creating schools where teachers love to teach, students love to learn and parents are proud.” She uplifts her audiences with her insightful, passionate presentations. She has presented at national and local conferences, institutes, colleges and universities.  FedEx and General Motors have applied her ideas in offices across the United States to increase workplace productivity with great success. Cindy works with the
Blanchard Institute to create strength-based schools.  Cindy lives with her husband and two children in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, where she runs a dance and yoga studio. 

Resources Mentioned


     Getting Started with Mindfulness

     Mindfulness: Present Moment Awareness

Spirituality in Leadership:

     Servant Leadership

     Spiritual Leadership Model

You can reach Cindy on

The District Leader email:  podcast@disrictleader.net

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The Sponsors
This episode is being sponsored by
audible.com, where you get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at www.audibletrial.com/districtleader, byIsagenix, one of America’s leading health and wellness companies, and by Wiredprofiles.com, Education’s Daily Digest.

Additional resources

You can reach Luis Valentino on