From public school educator to private school educator – Yvonne C. Reed-Clayton, podcastED

There’s no doubt parents are exercising school choice in growing numbers. But teachers and principals, too, are increasingly taking their talents to classrooms beyond traditional public schools.

Yvonne C. Reed-Clayton, 73, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was ahead of the curve.

In 1996, she retired after 34 years as a teacher and administrator in the Pinellas County school system, one of the biggest in the nation. Days later, she became head of a new private school, and two years after that, founded her own.

The reason was simple, she told redefinED. She wanted to help struggling students, particularly black males. And in a private, religious school, she had access to tools – Bible lessons and “prayer corners” among them – that weren’t available in public school.

“If a child was doing something, I’d say, ‘Remember this Bible lesson we had? If Jesus came here right now, do you think he would be happy with you?’ “ Reed-Clayton said in the podcast interview attached below. She continued: “I’m receiving a lot of children in my private school, coming from public school, who were discipline problems. But after I got them, they weren’t. They changed.”

Reed-Clayton’s no-frills school in the economically depressed Midtown area is highly regarded, with a reputation for especially good results in reading instruction and parental engagement. Last year, 61 of 85 students used tax-credit scholarships available to low-income families; 11 used McKay scholarships for students with disabilities.

This week, Reed-Clayton is retiring for a second and final time. To mark the occasion, more than a hundred parents, teachers, former students and community leaders will honor the diminutive, beloved “Ms. Reed” with a party befitting someone who was in the vanguard of the most sweeping educational changes of the past 50 years.

After attending segregated schools in St. Petersburg and Greenville, Fla. (where blind phenom Ray Charles was a playmate), Reed-Clayton was among the first black teachers in Pinellas to teach in desegregated public schools. Even now, as a school choice pioneer, she continues to count herself as a supporter of public schools.

“We have to do what fits for the parent and the child,” she said. “If it’s public school, go to public school. If it’s private school, do that.”

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at

One Comment

God Bless You Aunt Yvonne, “Well done Servant”. I thank you for what you imparted in my son Darius Sapp and all of the other students that you came in contact with. Darius was Spot Lighted by StepUpForStudents last year. I want to thank everyone who help make it possible for students like my son and other students to attend a Private Christian School of their CHOICE. Darius is currently attending a Private Christian School where he loves it and the Administration/Teachers love him. I had to remove him from the past school due to variuos disagreements. Parents, do what you know is best for your child or children. Under no circumstances allow others to tell you what to do with your child. God has given you charge over your off-spring until they become adults. Thank you again Auntie and StepUpForStudents!!!!!!!

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