Building Relationships at Parkland
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
AUGUST 5, 2019 – As the Assistant Athletic Director at Parkland, Clayton Richter teaches physical education classes, and organizes and works at games. With football, he also serves as the play-by-play announcer and DJ.
All of that enables him to get to know students as individuals.
He likes that about his job.
“It’s an opportunity to build relationships,” Richter said. “They know you care about them as a person.”
Recently, Richter became a Certified Athletic Administrator through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).
John Sullivan, who is the District Athletic Director for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, speaks highly of Richter.
“Clayton does an exceptional job in his duties as Assistant Athletic Director at Parkland High School,” Sullivan said. “He is hard-working, dedicated and always willing to do whatever necessary for the Parkland athletes and families.”
Richter grew up in Florida.
“Both of my parents were teachers,” he said.
His father, Erich, taught history and drama in high school. His mother, Darlene, taught high school English, and Richter grew up knowing that he, too, wanted to become an educator.
In high school, Richter ran track and played basketball and baseball. In baseball, he could generally be found in left field or covering first base.
“The sport I love the most is probably baseball,” Richter said. “For me, it’s the thinking aspect of the game.”
After starting college in Wisconsin, Richter ended up in Winston-Salem at what was then Piedmont Bible College and is now Piedmont International University.
It’s right across Broad Street from Salem Baptist Church, and Richter met his future wife, Cynthia, when he started going to church there. She was home from college at the time, and, when she returned to college, they kept up by writing letters.
The two married in November 1997, the day after he finished student teaching at Southwest Elementary. At the end of the fall 1997 semester, Richter earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
The Richters have two daughters. Taylor, who is 19, attends Forsyth Technical Community College. In September, she will be taking a mission trip to Spain.
Logan, who is 16, goes to Early College of Forsyth. It’s on the campus of Forsyth Tech, and, through Early College, she takes college courses there.
The Richters live in a neighborhood near Diggs-Latham Elementary. The neighborhood is not far from Parkland, and Richter likes having such strong connections to the area.
When the girls were growing up, Cynthia Richter kept other children in the home during the day. These days, she works for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. About 1½ years ago, she joined her husband at Parkland, where she works in the front office as an administrative assistant.
With their different schedules, the Richters generally drive to school separately, and, with the hectic life that they both lead at Parkland, they may not see each other at all at school some days.
They do what they can, though, to stay connected. If he’s staying late for a game, she might come back to Parkland with supper, and, after he and Athletic Director Linwood Jerald have made sure that everything is taken care of after a football game, he will send her a text letting her know that he is heading home.
On days when schedules permit, the Richters and their daughters eat supper together.
“We’re big on family,” he said.
Assistant Principal Lisa L. Bohrer considers it both a pleasure and an honor to work with Richter.
“Clayton Richter is special is so many ways,” Bohrer said. “He is just one of those people who is just a ‘good person.’ He genuinely wants to do things for students that help them to be successful people in their lives not just good students.”
“He goes above and beyond what is expected of him and was chosen as Teacher of the Year because of all that he does. He instituted at both basketball and football unique ways for our teams to take to the court and the field. He writes the biographies for students for senior night. He is the sponsor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and invited coaches to attend with him to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Dinner help annually.”
“He is an encourager in all senses of the word and knows what to say when you need just that little extra lift when things aren't going the way you want them to. He is a family man who has his priorities in the right order – God first, family, and then everything else. His family is involved in supporting our athletics program and his wife works in the front office of the school as well.”
“They work together as a family and support one another but they also spend time together as a family as often as they can. He is a wonderful example of a husband and father. Clayton Richter is a diamond in the rough. He is ‘that’ person who exemplifies what a ‘great person’ is and it is a pleasure and honor to work with him.”
When Richter came to Parkland in 2011, he taught health classes. These days, he teaches physical education classes, primarily in the weight room.
“I teach mostly juniors and seniors,” he said.
Although, in addition to the three classes he teaches, he has what is officially designated as a planning period, the reality is that, often, the period may be used to take care of necessary details for games. Some days, that means he is out on the field mowing the grass.
Richter likes keeping things organized, and, before each season, he makes schedules of what games he and Jerald will be covering. With some sports, just one of them is there. With football, both of them are there until every other person has gone home.
That can make for a long day. It may be 11 p.m. before he sends the text to his wife saying he is on his way home. Asked how many hours he puts in a week, Richter said that, while he would say 60 hours or so, his wife’s estimate might be higher.
Planning not only helps things go more smoothly with work, it also makes it more straightforward to figure out when everyone in the family can catch up.
The beach is at the top of their list for vacation destinations. They have also been to Pigeon Forge and both Disneyworld and Disneyland.
Richter added announcing games to his responsibilities about five years back. A couple hours before a game one night, he was setting up when he learned that the person who had committed to working as the announcer for the season had backed out.
When he asked the person breaking the news what the back-up plan was, he said, “You’re my back-up plan.”
Although, theoretically, they were going to look for a permanent replacement, a few weeks into the season, it was clear that they had stopping looking.
That was fine with him.
“I do enjoy it,” he said. “It makes for a busy Friday night.”
Especially, given that he also takes care of the music.
Some announcers have a spotter who helps keep track of the action. Richter does not. So, sometimes, he may miss such details as the name of the player making a tackle. Every now and then, a player may ask why he didn’t identify him by name.
When that happens, he tells the player, “It wasn’t on purpose. There’s a lot of action going on.”
Over the years, Richter has made lasting connections with some students. Before coming to Parkland, he taught for 13 years at a charter middle school on Liberty Street – the Downtown Middle School.
Over the years, students from Parkland and the middle school have kept in touch with him, and the Richters have been invited to weddings and graduations.
Watching see young people grow and mature over the years is another one of the satisfactions his life brings.
As a 10-month employee, Richter has the option of working elsewhere during the summer, and he teaches in the summer school program at Forsyth Country Day School.
Richter started participating in the program that led to him becoming a Certified Athletic Administrator about three years ago after Jerald let him know about a day in Raleigh that Jerald thought Richter would find valuable.
He did. He found that the information he learned about such topics as budgets and federal law was useful.
“It gives you a lot of base information,” he said.
He has also found that connections he made that day and, later, at a national conference have served him well. He can ask people who have dealt with situations that may come up at Parkland how they have dealt with them.
A grant he received through The Winston-Salem Foundation allowed him to complete the training necessary to receive his certification.
One day, Richter would like to become an Athletic Director.
If that is not God’s plan for his life, that’s fine, too.
“I am very, very content in the role I am in,” Richter said.