Naylor to retire after 23 years at Rockridge

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Clayton Naylor

Clayton Naylor has spent his life building relationships. He says the people he’s met while working in education have been the highlight of his career. “One of the reasons I love this business is you run across these (extraordinary) people every day.”

After 35 years as an educator, he still questions whether or not he has been an educational leader, or whether he has just been a manager. State requirements and reports seem to be taking up more and more of his time, he said.

At the end of this school year, Naylor will be leaving the district after serving there in various principal jobs, the most recent as Rockridge High School principal.

He spent three years at Andalusia Elementary as the principal, starting in 1986. “I had been a principal in Iowa before that,” he said. In 1989 he replaced Dick Stoltz as the junior high principal and in 2000, he became the high school principal.

He graduated from college in 1973 with an elementary education degree and taught fifth grade in Charles City, Iowa for seven years.

He said he met his wife there, while teaching. “Back then I had a lot of hobbies, including the theatre and sports. My wife was called to be a health consultant for the Area Education Agency in Cedar Falls,” he said.

He looked at that job change as a sign and took a year off to further his education. He received has master’s degree in administration in 1981. “I was able to do it in a year,” he said.

He enjoyed being a graduate student and even got to help professors as a graduate assistant. “I think I gained probably 10 times more valuable insight from that than from any of the courses I took from the professors,” he said.

His first job as a principal was in Morovia, Iowa in 1981.

He recalls his first act as principal. When he arrived there was an old-fashioned time clock in his office, with a mechanical bell that rang about every five minutes. “My first official act was to eliminate all school bells, except for the start and end of the day and for recess,” he said.

He reasoned that there was no good purpose for all the bells, since the classes were all self-contained.

“I encouraged teachers to build relationships with students. To de-emphasize grades and test scores, to promote the love of learning and to dress up their rooms and have a little fun instead of being a stuffy old school.”

That could possibly be the philosophy that has guided him throughout his career as an administrator.

He has nothing but praise for the teachers and staff he has worked with through the years. “You have the salt of the earth willing to work six-and-a-half hours a day and nobody else wants to do it,” he said.

To argue that point, he pointed to the State of Illinois’ attempt to bring chemists and engineers into the schools. “The state said chemists and engineers should have the opportunity to teach in the schools without having to get teaching certification.”

They thought we would have people breaking down the doors but that didn’t happen.

Nearly everyone on staff at Rockridge High School was hired by Naylor. “They’re young and enthused,” he said. “I’m really pleased with the staff that I have.”

He says his responsibility has been to find the right people to fill positions and present those candidates to the board.

“I’ve tried to create an environment here that people want to come to.”

His method to accomplish this is “to treat people kindly, speak positively. How you’re treated is very important,” he says.

“If you do it right, you get some really good people.”

He points to over-regulation as one of the headaches all school administrators face. “Jim Broadway, publisher of the watchdog newsletter, recently noted the tremendous number of un-funded laws and administrative rules that require specific instruction and use of resources at the local level.”

Naylor recently spoke at the Milan noon Rotary Club luncheon, about how schools have changed during his tenure. Here is part of what he said:

“Besides teaching the 3Rs, school code also requires schools to address good nutrition, CPR, first aid, drug, alcohol, tobacco prevention, civic responsibility, sex education, bicycle safety, pedestrian safety, bus safety, daily physical education, consumer education, AIDS prevention, driver training, principles of free enterprise, vocational training, economic awareness, holocaust history, black history, women’s history, specialized instruction for the hard of hearing, the blind, the neurologically impaired (special education) in the least restrictive environment. Also schools are required to teach gifted students, do vision testing, pre-school testing, enforce and or give childhood inoculations, provide pregnancy counseling, instill morals, ethics and values while avoiding any mention of religion, search for and exclude all items defined as weapons, dispense surplus milk and other commodities through breakfast, lunch and dinner programs, perform job placement, provide transportation to regular attendance and special education attendance centers, follow due process to the letter, provide computer literacy, eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment for students and staff, prohibit all smoking on school grounds, provide suicide counseling, maintain birth certification and age certification, close schools for selected ethnic and national holidays, remove asbestos, lead and pesticides including giving notice to the community, comply with civil rights and regulations, detect and report child abuse, eradicate head lice, scabies and other diseases and report as necessary, involve parents in the creation and review of student discipline policies, teach non-English speaking students, etc., etc.

Naylor says that education has been good to him and he would not trade a minute of the 35 years he’s been in education. “I’ve been blessed my entire career with wonderful kids, parents and colleagues.”

He is also a husband to Jackie and father to two children, Peter and Gwendolyn. He said he met his wife “through the theatre” and has that on his long list of things he may get back into. “That would be one thing I would look at when I retire,” he said.

He also plans to go back to the land, too.

“Two years ago we bought some acreage in the woods. When we first got married we rented a farmhouse. It’s going full circle,” he said.

He plans to try growing his own food, do more bicycling, more motorcycling, more woodworking, more tennis and more racquetball. “There’s hardly any limit.”

“I’m really looking forward to having some control over my time,” he added.