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Clayton jets to respect in leading James Clemens’ population

Dr. Brian and Karen Clayton both work for Madison City Schools. Their sons are Battle, a rising freshman at James Clemens High School, and Landers, who will enter seventh grade at Liberty Middle School. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo, JFD Photography & Design)
Dr. Brian and Karen Clayton both work for Madison City Schools. Their sons are Battle, a rising freshman at James Clemens High School, and Landers, who will enter seventh grade at Liberty Middle School. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo, JFD Photography & Design)

MADISON – On the James Clemens High School campus, Principal Dr. Brian Clayton usually is seen wearing his signature bow tie. Always, he wears a broad smile, symbolic of a man who truly enjoys his life’s work.

Madison Board of Education placed Clayton in the position of James Clemens principal in June 2012. Expectations ran high for the opening of Madison’s new high school, and Clayton weathered the pressure with polish as he and his staff established protocols and procedures.

As a new high school’s first principal, Clayton faced a professional and personal challenge of “developing the culture of the school that was based on leadership and learning. We had to make sure that all stakeholders were on the same page.”

“When you have zero traditions, you have to start somewhere. We had to build what the atmosphere was going to be like at school, as well as all other venues,” Clayton said.

His career in education has involved Alabama schools solely. Clayton started at Greensboro West High School as math teacher for grades 7-12 and assistant football coach for five years. He then worked as assistant principal, head girls’ basketball coach and math teacher at Hale County High School in Moundville for six years.

For one year, Clayton was principal at Thomasville High School and then four years as principal of Tuscaloosa and Rock Quarry middle schools. In 2011, Clayton joined Madison City Schools as principal of Liberty Middle School.

While at Liberty, Clayton earned state recognition for the instructor partner program and promoted the internationally acclaimed, student-produced “I Am Human” video. “We were selected as a Blue Ribbon School at Liberty in 2012,” he said.

Among accomplishments in James Clemens’ brief history, Clayton prioritized the 10 career academies, 26 advanced-placement courses, 14 sports’ offerings, theatre program and band options. “We have also been a part of the Instructional Partner Pilot for the first three years of the school,” Clayton said. “We have developed a counselor program that secured $20 million for our seniors with 57 percent with a scholarship.”

Clayton takes much pride in James Clemens’ Class of 2015. Twenty-five percent of seniors scored 30 or above on the American College Test (ACT). “Additionally, we’ve been working on placing a jet in front of the school” as a community-wide project with students taking the lead.

“The biggest needs in the state are school funding and equal access to technology,” Clayton said. “Students need a supportive infrastructure between family, community and school and high quality teachers. Teachers need a supportive administration and the resources to teach … whether that be money or equipment.”

From his years in school, Clayton best remembers Ms. Obie Lee. “She was inspirational. When you were in her class, she made you feel there was nothing you couldn’t do. She taught us from the fifth to the twelfth grade, so we felt empowered for a long time.”

At the University of Alabama, Clayton earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary math. He also earned education specialist and doctorate degrees in administration in Tuscaloosa. He received the Walter Kimbrough Scholarship from the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals.

He is a native of Eutaw, and his wife Karen Clayton grew up in Phil Campbell. She works as a counselor at Liberty. Their sons are Battle, a rising freshman at James Clemens, and Landers, who will enter seventh grade at Liberty.

The Claytons enjoy camping in different sites across the Southeast — “from the mountains to the beach. We also enjoy watching Alabama football and attending events of James Clemens. I enjoy reading professionally and recreationally,” he said.

The Claytons are members at First Presbyterian Church in Huntsville. Karen serves as a deacon.

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