Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Rob Clayton was named the Kentucky 2023 Superintendent of the Year by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA). Clayton has been superintendent since 2013.
Clayton was surprised with the award during the KASA Annual Leadership Institute recently held in Louisville.
“Although I was aware of the nomination, I had no idea an announcement would be made in July as it normally occurs much later in the fall. Members of KASA interrupted our leadership retreat to share the announcement in front of our principals and instructional department directors, which was a really nice touch,” said Clayton. “It was a tremendous honor to share the moment with the very leaders responsible for creating the environment for our students and staff to excel.”
A 1988 graduate of Nelson County High School, Clayton said his positive experiences in public schools were a major factor in his decision to pursue a career in K-12 education.
“The more I reflected on my path while in college, it became rather clear that I wanted to be in a profession with a clear purpose and one that would not feel like a job. I recall a number of individuals reminding me as a kid that if you do something you love, you will never work a day in your life,” he said.
He started his career as assistant basketball coach at Princeton Community High School in Indiana in 1992, before transitioning to Pleasure Ridge Park High School (Jefferson County) in 1993 where he worked as a science teacher, head track and field coach, and assistant football coach until 2000.
He served as head track and field coach at Male High School (Jefferson County) in 2000, before becoming assistant principal of South Oldham Middle School (Oldham County) from 2000 to 2006 and principal from 2006 to 2013.
Under his leadership, WCPS has seen a 25% growth in students, which now number about 18,000 in grades pre-K through 12 representing 103 languages spoken and 89 nationalities.
More than $200 million in capital improvements also have taken place in the district, including the construction of three new elementary schools and major athletic renovations to each of the district’s four high schools.
WCPS was the first district in the Commonwealth to establish a Leader in Me “Lighthouse” school in 2014 when Briarwood Elementary and Natcher Elementary were recognized. As of today, the district has had 10 elementary schools demonstrate the sustainability necessary to achieve Lighthouse status.
In 2015, the district opened its virtual school, Beacon Academy, which became a resource for families who chose not to send their students to school when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. In 2017, WCPS opened the first International High School (GEO) to address the needs of young adult English language learners and opened Kentucky’s first Computer Science Immersion school (Jennings Creek Elementary) in 2018.
However, despite numerous achievements, Clayton’s tenure as superintendent has not come without challenges.
“Attracting, hiring and retaining the highest quality of people to serve our students and family has been the biggest challenge facing WCPS since I became superintendent. The recent pandemic (and negative public education rhetoric in the media) have simply intensified and magnified what we have long recognized for almost a decade,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this challenge will continue to increase without fully funding the actual cost to educate our most vulnerable students. Convincing our legislators to create additional revenue for public schools in Kentucky continues to be the largest frustration of being a superintendent.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the December 2021 tornadoes brought additional challenges, but Clayton said the districts priorities have not changed as an organization and they will continue to channel all efforts toward ensuring safety, achievement and equitable opportunities for students and staff.
He also said he is looking forward to bringing a sense of normalcy to students, families and staff throughout the 2022-2023 school year, as well as observing students perform in the classroom, outside of the classroom and on the athletic field.
“With equitable opportunities being a priority, I take great joy in watching our students showcase their passion and unique skills in a variety of activities. Beyond opening day when we visit students and staff at each of our schools, I always look forward to attending fall activities during and after school in which our students showcase their skills and abilities.”
Clayton holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and teaching from Oakland City University, a master’s in education, Rank I in education and superintendent certification from the University of Louisville, as well as a doctorate in education from Western Kentucky University (WKU).
He and his wife Robin, a registered nurse, have three children, Morgen, Bryce and Sydney, and spend much of their time traveling as a family and boating on Barren River Lake. Morgen is a graduate of WKU’s physical therapy program, Bryce earned his mechanical engineering degree from WKU and is entering his second year of law school at Northern Kentucky University, and Sydney is a sophomore at the University of Kentucky studying speech pathology.