Cliff Crone—Someone You Should Know

June 2016 View more

NMAG0616_SYSK_nm Cliff Crone_800pxFrom teaching in a one room school house to becoming superintendent of the fourth largest school district in Illinois, life has been quite an education for 86-year-old Cliff Crone. Born on a Northern Illinois farm during the Great Depression he began his teaching career in Dakota, Illinois. After two years in the Army, he became an elementary school principal. He was assistant superintendent for curriculum in the Freeport School District and earned a Ph.D from Colorado University in 1967. Following this, he moved to Jacksonville as the school superintendent for eight years. He moved to Naperville to serve as the second superintendent of Indian Prairie School District 204 from 1975 to 1986. Crone Middle School in Naperville is named in his honor.

What was it like to teach in a one room school?

I attended that kind of school myself. In those days, we always wanted to get children into a larger school with one grade per teacher. Later, I realized that the multi-grade method was much more valuable because the children would have a preview of what was coming up and a review of what they had just learned. We had thought the one room school was a little backward but it was beneficial educationally. I remember I once taught a cute little girl with blonde hair. When she was dropped off by the bus in the cold on the first day of first grade she said she hated school. By the end of the year, I heard her say when she grew up she wanted to marry the teacher.

I understand you served in the Korean War. How did that impact your career?

Yes, I had 1A status when I was drafted, but the draft board deferred me for an entire term so I could help set up the school where I was working at the time.

What was Naperville School District 204 like when you took over as Superintendent from Thayer J Hill?

There was a job explosion with some splendid homes being built, so schools were a high priority. I think it was just luck that I was there at the right time. We had the cream of the crop of teachers to select from in the district. We had 50 or more people looking for jobs, so we could be highly selective on who we hired. At the time, a lot of parents with children in District 203 actually wanted to move their children out of that district into our district because the high schools had designated smoking rooms for students. We promised we would never do that in District 204.

Being Superintendent carries a lot of responsibility. What was that like?

When something goes wrong it’s always somebody’s fault, but I was treated very well. The secret is always being available and open.

In 1997, a new middle school in Naperville was given your namesake. What did that feel like?

When people ask me that, I always try to be humble, but truthfully I am actually elated. I still get invited to school events about two or three times a year and it’s always a pleasure to stand up as if I were really humble. It’s a thrill.

How do you fill your time these days?

I live with my son and daughter-in-law in Naperville and attend weekly meetings at the Rotary Club of Naperville. (Cliff was president in1985) I’m also involved with my church and meet with friends every Tuesday morning where we try to solve life’s most pressing problems!

Photo by Robyn Sheldon