RISD holds reception honoring Principal Clayton

by Cristin Parker

Rusk Intermediate School Principal Carlene Clayton was feted Thursday, May 17, for her long service to the Rusk school district.

Clayton is retiring June 30, after more than four decades of service to the Rusk school district.

Clayton’s family members and friends, neighbors, RISD school board members, district administration and both current and former staff members and students attended the come-and-go event, held at the Intermediate School library.

“She’s done a great job for many years,” Rusk High School Assistant Principal Jason Wilson said during the event. “I’ve been here for 20 years and she’s been here longer than that. She’s touched a lot of kids’ lives during her years here and she will definitely, definitely, definitely be missed.”

Clayton worked in education for 47 years -- three years at Tyler ISD and 44 years at RISD. At Rusk, she taught all grade levels of junior high school English/Language Arts and special education.

“My focus was to always strive to insure all students were successful and develop a positive self-esteem,” Clayton said of her career. “I tried to help students discover their strengths and empower them to use those strengths to accomplish their goals. Treating students with kindness was always a priority!”

She served as Rusk Junior High school administration for a total 12 years -- six as assistant principal of Rusk Junior High and six as principal of the campus. She’s retiring after 11 years as the Rusk Intermediate School campus principal.

“Each year brought new and rewarding challenges,” Clayton said. “I have had a rich and rewarding experience.”

Her daughter, Ashely Clayton Oliver, expressed her appreciation for all who came to wish her mother well on Thursday.

“It was a very special moment when (Clayton’s former students) saw her,” Oliver said via a private Facebook message to the Cherokeean Herald. “Many were crying and expressing their deep concern for her. It was so sweet.”

Clayton was also honored by Rusk alumni of all ages and other friends and neighbors with a special lap around the downtown square in Rusk, to kick off the annual Who Let the Dogs Out marathon held during Rusk’s annual Fair on the Square event. The lap was held to show support for Clayton, who is currently battling pancreatic cancer.

Clayton led the group, which stretched the entire courthouse block, around the square at an upbeat pace.

“I never knew, until I became a teacher myself, just how blessed we were to have such awesome teachers like Mrs. Clayton when we were in school,” New Summerfield ISD teacher and Rusk class of 1995 alum Mandy Beamer said as she made the lap with numerous others. “We love her and are praying for her!”