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 LEFT: Kathy Clayton, who celebrated her last day as a secretary in the Clintondale Community Schools  district on Dec. 21, is pictured as a Clintondale High student in the late ’60s or early ’70s. RIGHT: Clayton, of Macomb Township, spent 50 years in the district.

LEFT: Kathy Clayton, who celebrated her last day as a secretary in the Clintondale Community Schools district on Dec. 21, is pictured as a Clintondale High student in the late ’60s or early ’70s. RIGHT: Clayton, of Macomb Township, spent 50 years in the district.

Photos provided by Clintondale Community Schools

Secretary reminisces on 50-year journey at Clintondale

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published January 4, 2019

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — As the phrase “Dragon pride” reverberates through the hallways of Clintondale Community Schools, it’s difficult to find someone who exemplified that lifestyle more than Kathy Clayton.

Clayton, of Macomb Township, worked her last day as a Clintondale High School secretary on Dec. 21.

“Kathy has dedicated her career to serving Clintondale students, families and staff, demonstrating what ‘Dragon pride’ is all about,” said Clintondale Superintendent Greg Green in a press release. “Clintondale is more than a school district. It’s a community, and Kathy exemplifies this every day. We wish her all the best as she embarks on this new phase of her life.”

But for Clayton, the saga goes back a while. Actually, it’s a story 50 years in the making.

In the fall of 1968, she stepped through the doors of the high school as a freshman. Her name then was Kathy Caras. She had been part of the Dragon family since entering the district in sixth grade.

Those were different times, she recalled. The family atmosphere was more unique.

“There was definitely more families, because you grew up in an era where there were definitely more children in families,” she said. “As you grew up, the families moved out and the children left.”

When she was a junior at Clintondale High, she worked co-op and maintained the school switchboard for a couple of hours per day after school.

She had originally aspired to work in a bank after high school, and the opportunity was there with a position in Detroit. However, her dreams weren’t met with open arms by her parents.

“Being 18 years of age and driving to the city didn’t go over well with the parents, for sure,” she remembered.

Instead, after graduation in 1972, she took a position to work the switchboard that following summer. She spent an entire summer getting acclimated, leading to filling in the same role at the middle school when one of the secretaries became ill.

That secretary died from her illness, prompting the school to offer Clayton the job.

After working in the middle school, Parker Elementary was eventually built and grade levels were rearranged. She lost her position, but quickly found a new one within the administration building — where she spent six years, prior to moving to the high school in 1983.

She worked for the school’s athletic director at the time, later moving to the secretary position within the assistant principal’s office in 1990. She stayed there until her final day.

Her decision to retire occurred sort of spontaneously, she admitted. A retirement date set in December made sense to her because of the winter weather and difficulty driving.

Her husband has been wanting to travel with her for a while, tackling bucket list destinations like Key West and New York City. As she put it, “The time was right for me.”

A lot has surely changed in her decades within the district.

“Years ago, the students, because of the family orientation, you knew the families,” she said. “You either went to school with the parents — it was a real tight bond. Now, because of the open concept and school of choice, you’re not getting the students you once knew as the child you went to school with, or the grandchild of someone you went to school with. The tightness of the community is different today than back in the day.”

It’s not a bad thing, she said, because change is just a part of life.

“Life changes, areas change, people move on and you don’t have the same bond as you once had,” she said. “The kids are all great. I have no regrets.”

She still remembers when technology became a fierce component in school settings. The early ’90s brought computer programs and file systems that continued to become more accelerated and multifaceted. She eventually went from using floppy disks to using Google Docs.

“It was a challenge, but a good challenge,” she said. “You keep learning, and that’s a good thing.”

She joked the day before her last, saying that when she awoke that final Friday, it would be the final time she would have to start her day at 3 a.m.

“I’m really gonna miss the students,” she said. “I do love ’em. You have your good days and bad days, but they’re always there for me, do anything I ask them to, never argue. I’ll miss the staff, been here at least 20 years with some of them.”

As the slogan goes, “Once a Dragon, always a Dragon.”