Seton Hall Univ.
William Paterson College
Joe Louis Clark
Many bemoan the American public school classroom as a place where young people cannot learn, where drugs are more prevalent than textbooks, where violence and vandalism make corridors look like war zones. For a myriad of reasons, the sad fact that many American public schools are waging a losing battle to complete their mission of training future generations to lead America.
In September 1982, during the first day of class at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, a student was stabbed. In 1983, things would be different. The school's new principal, Joe Clark, would be the reason why.
A former Army drill instructor, Joe Clark sees education as a mission. He worked while attending high school to support his mother and siblings. He then went on to get his B.A. from William Paterson College and a Master's Degree from Seton Hall University. The feisty and polsyllabic-speaker Clark was made for the helm of Eastside High. After two years of his leadership, the formerly raucous institution was declared a model school by New Jersey's governor. Clark himself was named one of the nation's ten "Principals of Leadership" in 1986.
Clark thwarts those who believe that the learning process is disrupted by tough discipline. Instead of offering sympathy, Clark held high expectations for students, challenging them to develop habits for success and confronting them when they failed to perform. On a single day during his first week at Eastside, Clark expelled 300 students for fighting, vandalism, drug possession, profanity or abusing teachers. He explains, "If there is no discipline, there is anarchy. Good citizenship demands attention to responsibilities as well as rights."
Clark won acclaim for his achievements in a Time cover story, two 60 minutes profiles, ad appearances on television news and talk shows, all over the world. President Reagan named him a model educator and offered him a White House post as policy advisor (Clark turned him down.) Clark was the subject of the Warner Brothers film, "Lean On Me", starring two-time Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark. After seven years as principal of Eastside High, he resigned in 1990 and began speaking on the country's lecture circuit. He is a nominee for the National Association of Campus activities 1996 Speaker of the Year Award.
He began his latest crusade in August 1995, when he was appointed director of Essex County Detention House, a juvenile Detention center in Newark, N.J. He says he accepted this challenging position because he is committed to Newark, where he grew up. " I will stay until I have brought about the change, " Clark says. "I can't think of anything more noble."
Through his book Laying Down The Law, his speeches, and his activities as director of Essex County Detention Center -- Clark shares his strategies and success stories with teachers, school boards, parents, businessmen and students. His message is one of pride in self. He believes that "every day, pride in self and school must be reinforced. Every day, the value of academics must be demonstrated." And every day, Joe Clark demonstrates, through his own shining example, how commitment to youth can make America's future leaders better citizens and better people.