Clayton’s professional life wasn’t art-related, despite the impressive collection she assembled of post–Civil War African American art. Her first job was as a fourth grade teacher in North Philly. She later held a series of positions designing classes in social studies and African American culture, as well as programs for early childhood education. At the end of her career, in 1982, she was appointed superintendent of the entire Philadelphia School District (the first woman or African American to hold that position)—responsible for the education of over 200,000 children.
“The children come first,” Clayton said at the time of her appointment. “They have been the centerpiece of my life and will be the centerpiece of my administration.” Her legacy includes initiating programs to assist impoverished and homeless students, improving sexual education, supporting pregnant students in graduating high school, and attempting to desegregate the school district.