Joe said it best, something I have personally tried to convey to others, as well as, is also a FACT. The cure for ignorance is education. Patterson Eastside High School in New Jersey. A microcosm of the conflict, turmoil & violence in U.S. schools. That is the best definition to describe the ULTIMATE chaos of Eastside High B.C. (Before Clark) Bedlam reigned. The teaching staff was in a state of terror. The hellishness had been escalating at an alarming rate. (Since the start of the 1978 school year, dope rings, sex rings vandalism & violence.) At this time, Eastside was a disgrace! Joe was asked by the superintendent of schools, Frank Napier, to take over Eastside. Frank thought that Joe was the only one who could make a REAL difference. Joe Clark was too outspoken and too radical for many officials in the Patterson school system. Frank agreed w/ Joe's philosophy and KNEW he/Joe could put this plan into action! At first, Joe declined the offer.He had his own children to think about. With Joe's current position at PS 6, he could manage and not feel he's slighting either the school kids or his own. But Eastside, that was a monster. Eastside High remained a virulent microcosm of all the malignant forces in present day American schools.
At the time when Joe took over, his BIGGEST problem was hoodlums. When Joe was being questioned by the Secretary Of Education, he was TRUTHFULLY answering their questions of his taking back order at Eastside in JUST ONE DAY, but it seemed as though he was being "ostentatious" about his work when he was being STRAIGHTFORWARD & HONEST. They seen that Joe's work was done through thorough management. Joe had visited Eastside a few times toward the end of the 1981-'82 school year before his appointment as principal became public. On his first visit to Eastside, on the afternoon following a conversation w/ Dr. Napier, Joe spent time standing unobtrusively in the school parking lot looking at the school building.
|Eastside High School|
One of the FIRST things Joe did that summer was confer w/ the head of maintenance for the Patterson school system and rented a capable sandblaster. Graffiti goes up, comes off the next day scouring that building clean. Joe was giving the building the appearance of respectability. It was VERY MUCH a matter of image, rebirth & pride. No sense in doing things half-ass. Before the end of June, the Eastside High that was so desolate was/is buzzing w/ the activity of renovation. Trucks were always arriving and dumpster-after-dumpster was filled w/ debris. The building itself was/is to invoke respect, orderliness & decorum. Joe added amenities, because school for all of it's necessary discipline, should never become a place of drugery, added various forms of pop music to be played over loudspeakers. He had had plants placed about the building, a fountain & a penny pond in the main corridor. Joe spent hours establishing numerous new before-and-after school programs and clubs. As of trophies & awards, Joe had them cleaned and put back in a clean display case, and NOT in the office or a dark closet in fear of being stolen, Eastside's glory was back in the glass cabinet. Keeping quiet about your plans is a better tactic than telling your plans and having them ruined and all shot to Hell.
To begin the job at Eastside, Joe assiduously studied the staff and seen he HAD to regroup w/ a WHOLE NEW set. He prefers to work w/ women, believing on the whole women are more likely to see the sense in complete loyalty to him & his program. Not every staff member was new. Joe needed some people who were familiar w/ all of the intricacies of Eastside's administration. One had been Joe's chief assistant at PS 6 and one was as able as any administrator in the system. Another woman was a veteran of Eastside and had distinguished herself as the Head Of the Science Dept. Joe was there every day for anyone in the building or connected w/ the building. NOTHING was to surpass Joe during business hours. The chain of command was to BE IN EFFECT unless a DIRE EMERGENCY. Joe wanted the staff to be accessible. He wanted them out patrolling the halls and at least half as visible as he would be. He promised the staff/teachers that as long as they did the job, he/she would have his FULL SUPPORT.
Joe was tired of the way things were run. At Eastside, they tried it their way for years, AS OF NOW, THAT WAS OVER!! The new rules were to be ENFORCED without exception. By August, Joe was able to mail his staff and teaching corps. the newly drawn up Eastside High School Suspension Policy for the upcoming year. Each student received a copy on the first day of classes, and duplicates were posted throughout the building. Something Joe merited to be discipline were hats. Hats lead to murdered youth because the hat identified them to a particular gang. Others disagreed. Joe was outraged and gave some examples of his meanings. He also informed the teachers of his plan to make them his assistants for in-building security, which surprised and worried them. Joe presented the staff w/ a dress code that was not universally appreciated.The staff didn't quite trust Joe yet. There was usual skepticism & cynicism. The hope for change was gone. Joe was receiving death threats and he KNEW more were to come.
On Joe Clark's first day, bullhorn in hand, he was inwardly excited about his first day as Eastside principal. The school had been CLEANED & SHINED. Teachers were cordial and skeptical. Joe had NO illusions and no honeymoon period. In the past, it was the kids who ran Eastside. They had the power. Within a few minutes, Joe sent the message: Education was about to recommence at Eastside. The staff DID NOT like Joe Clark taking charge. Directing the students where they needed to get to! When the students arrived, they seen a lean man in a suit, standing like a drill sergeant, wielding a bullhorn and looking serious business. What used to look like a stampede was NOW a model of orderliness. For teacher, student & administrator, the tone was set for the rest of the year. A calm, firm tone of order. Teachers, on the whole, were astounded & appreciative. People were going to start to hear different about Eastside High. That first day marked the end of the Eastside High drug market. Joe's program involved making a fortress that drug pushers couldn't penetrate.
Joe began implementing ID cards and made sure the rule was enforced! It still works today! Drug dealers have been permanently shut out from Eastside High. He was about halfway through his first year as Eastside principal. He thought a teacher assembly was in order. Although positive change had been accumulating, it took several weeks for teachers to see the change and a newly established order. A change to slowly show results. Vandalism from different properties ceased. Drugs, alcohol & sexual assaults had disappeared from the school. Disruptive wildness & chaos vanished. For the first time in 20 years, the corridors at Eastside were quiet. Teachers began to unlock and open their doors during class. The staff thought it was prove too onerous a task for Joe and the teachers to make up in the in-building security team. After seeing how things have gone, they were happy with the change.
Bonds w/ the students grew stronger and promised a continuation of growth. With guards in the building, adults (teachers) are again in control of the building. The students are able to respect you now. They can listen to, and learn from someone they respect.
Learning and getting an education is what the great majority of kids want, and they do not mind the discipline it takes to get one. Now the teachers who cherish and value their work can now teach. Don't think they're weren't teachers who challenged Joe. They saw it to their advantage to do all they could to derail Joe's program of reform. The staff was ordered to wear proper attire w/ jackets & ties or dresses and proper suits. He outlawed jeans, sweatpants & sneakers. Teachers who didn't care for the new regulations eventually seen the sense to it. Joe appeared powerless because teachers were tenured and could not be fired. (Keyword being - appeared) Joe offered and advised the teachers to apply for transfers in order to keep the peace and not jeopardize the revival of Eastside. But they refused.
Joe checked the staff's attendance sheets and each of their lesson plans personally. He DEMANDED PERFECTION w/ the lesson plans. Eventually, all of the staff's resilience wore down. Joe was prescribing a dress code because he wanted everyone to project an image of dignity, self-respect & professionalism. (For example: a slovenly, sloppy boy as an example of how NOT to dress. Self-respect permeates every aspect of their lives.) The kids are wanting someone to look up to. if they reject the positive influences, they're more likely to chose the drug dealer in the gold chains. Joe's standing policy regarding insubordination is a "three strikes, you're out". Rarely has he had to go there. Joe demands ALOT from his teachers. It is his duty and his responsibility to the students. He is an organizer and a fair man, came in w/ a plan and turned everything around.
Joe was EVERYWHERE around Eastside. Someone attached a pedometer to him and seen that he covered 22 miles on an average day just walking around the school. In addition to seeing, Joe wanted to be seen. He wanted students/teachers AWARE of Joe Clark and that he was everywhere. In addition to being seen, the principal has to be heard. The bullhorn has been Joe's trademark. He always carries it. It is to magnify the voice of authority. Other principals learned and follow the same technique/tactic.When chaos reigns the hall, he can direct and get order.
Joe waited to make a large impression, one of folklore proportions, if possible, upon the youths and their parents. The message got through for the parents to get serious about the children getting to school and acquiring their educations. When Joe took this job, he KNEW it would be a war and KNEW that the parents, if he could rouse them, were his natural allies.
Joe inherited a student body shot through w/ the diseases of the ghetto and the street, an infected student body in need of a serious purge. He did that by the absolute dismissal of 300 so-called students at Eastside. They were all expurgated. Dismissed and out of there FOREVER! 500 parents were there for Joe because every day, he was there for the children. They didn't know Joe, but they KNEW of the work Joe was doing and the change he was making. In some cases, his reputation garnered support. Joe went against the grain of a decadent liberal policy. For more than a decade, lacking administrators & teachers had been passing untaught kids to the next level. Joe began holding students back, doing it himself personally. He refused to allow a teacher under his tenure to promote an undeserving student.
Joe thought he would receive having to hear it from parents for that, but instead received massive support. They wanted and welcomed REAL education. One of the first things Joe did to reach out to the community was to formally introduce himself and his program at neighborhood churches. If you persist, you will survive. If you work hard and do NOT give up, though the obstacles are many and the road is hard & long, you can advance, you can succeed, your life will have meaning -even joy. Joe continues to tell of the education that is slipping in America and how easy things have worsened as time passes. People use facts & history as a point for a cop-out and just NOT TRY. GREAT leaders from various points on the political spectrum ALL denounced this terrible habit of self-degradation: "Why try? This is the life for us." and more identifying yourself as a stereotype. YOU CAN BE MORE!! The only valid hope is quality education and striving for it without the help of many strong families. At Eastside, Joe sees to it that education means more than just book learning. Eastside is a starting point for rebuilding an inner-city community. It is a battlefield to fight the good fight. In tempering tough discipline w/ benevolence, Joe more than tripled the number of after school clubs, increases & en-lived assemblies covering a whole variety of subjects initiating numerous extracurricular activities. Asking and receiving help from the community.
Parents NEED TO KNOW their community, each other and their school. That's what Joe Clark was doing. Not only was he restoring a school, he was restoring a community. Homes were abuzz with what was happening at Eastside. Joe Clark meant business. Parents seen change w/ kids. They seen what many haven't seen in a generation. Looking neat and being responsible was on the rise. Eastside was becoming the home these kids never had.
|Although movie still, it's a clear description of Joe actually doing this|
It occurred to Joe that this girl's situation was symbolic to ALOT of problems faced by teenagers in the inner city. At Eastside, Joe was their last change before being faced w/ the REAL REALITIES of ACTUAL life. He got involved w/ students lives both personally & professionally. Since he had been at the helm, Eastside has had a vibrant, on-going campaign to keep the kids in school. They drive the message home. One of Joe's innovations was the Virgin's Club, a support group that let teen girls make their own minds. It was a tactful ploy to bring down the rate & population of diseases and teen pregnancy. Joe also had to grapple w/ the proposal for a day care center at the school. After debating it for a few days, Joe was against it. He WAS NOT trying to keep things the same. He was making things change. He was trying to break the chain of early pregnancy. Joe had driven drug sales and drug use, all of it, out of Eastside High. But, Joe is NOT stupid. It's a battle he KEEPS on FIGHTING. He's on CONSTANT vigil pumping the message home.
In the spring of 1983, still within his first year as principal, some concerned parents and Joe spearheaded a drive to institute a uniformed dress code at Eastside High. Joe addressed it best by saying:"They have Calvin Klein jeans on their behinds and nothing in their minds." He meant it to address those students too hung up on their appearence & look, rather than their education. Many more parents added their support, several claiming the expense was more than they could bear. Others cried of the freedom of choice. Joe drew up a crystal clear report and presented it to The Board Of Education. The Board applauded his efforts to implement a dress code until a committee studies the matter more. A parents' committee was formed, studied the question and opted for voluntary uniforms, promising to make outfits available at a set price. All seemed to go well. Until big businesses would be taking from the small ones. September came and Eastside students were in new uniforms. Joe took the opportunity to help institute the trend & dress code. He banned jeans, miniskirts & profusions of jewelry. He was denied! The choice of dress is still in place at Eastside. Throughout the years, they are winning the war. Students got the message. The dress neatly, conservative & casual. A businesslike atmosphere, where education is taken SERIOUSLY!
In late October 1984, Joe's third year at the helm of Eastside, on a Friday after classes, a fight erupted between a black student and a Hispanic student. Joe was standing in the outer office looking over a report when a student burst in and informed Joe of the fight in process. He ran out of the building and over to the fight. Joe pried his way through the on-looking crowd. He seen, stopped in his tracks, stung by the feeling that a bloody race riot was about to erupt. Just a few feet away, another black-Hispanic fight had begun. Joe entered the explosive circle just as squad cars were arriving, while on-lookers were along the street. Joe grabbed ahold of one of the fighters. (The police wouldn't let him handle it alone. Yet, later on, Joe received admonition from the mayor for going outside of his jurisdiction.) Joe took note of all the kids that were present. Several of the youths he recognized as novice members of a cult or a gang that was infiltrating the school since the previous year.
Joe had great respect for the Muslim community. Islam teaches you that you must work for what you desire, and that you do not drain the system. Something Joe is in FULL agreement. The students at Eastside were showing a new manifestation of the same disease that always lurked among the world's dissatisfied. One of gang, The Five Percenters, were so presumptuous as to call themselves gods (the boys) and queens (the girls) and give themselves names.
|inside Eastside High|
Joe was a realist and realized Eastside could lose all that they have gained. How could he properly discipline the wrongdoers if Dr. Napier, under pressure from an angry City Hall and an "I-told-you-so" school board were to waiver his support? There would NOT be any FEAR STALKS EASTSIDE AGAIN headline. Everyone thought Eastside would reign as it once did. Everyone - EXCEPT Joe. The police finally acted. They ordered loiterers to move along and spot-checked various characters. 10 arrests were made for drugs, weapons & more. They were providing the sort of preventative measure the community needed and deeply desired. Joe rallied together a meeting for frightened parents. He wore off gangs & violence within the school. If a fight were to break out, Joe challenged them to fight with him!
Joe seen that the students DID genuinely care for him. The large turnout at the parental meeting came to 300 parents. Joe thought it might be a display of faith in Joe and in Eastside High. He then went over the facts of the Eastside progress. He reminded parents that he COULD NOT do it alone. After the meeting, attendance by students was up 90% where it has stayed. The panic died down as quite as it came. There were no further incidents at Eastside. The police special patrol ceased on that same Friday. The Patterson 5 Percenter craze soon weeded out after these events.
Joe made a VERY IMPORTANT point on 12-9-1987 when he dismissed and permanently suspended 25 students there to waste time. The next day The Board Of Education demanded that they be re-instated at once, due to not following due process. Not only did he NOT follow guidelines, Joe also suspended another 41 procrastinating students. The media came out in force, several of them, stating that Joe Clark had gone too far and was now going to pay for his dictatorial methods. The Board focused on menial subjects instead of focusing on the REAL issues at hand. The president of Patterson Education Association vouched for Joe and seen what he was trying to do. Instead of focusing on the state's credit system of 110 to graduate, some students w/ 4 years of high school had 50-65 credits. But the media focused on "heartless Joe Clark who put out poor kids" or "Joe Clark won't heed his supervisors". Joe answered the Board's ultimatum by permitting 10 of 66 to return, because these 10 made efforts to contact Joe and continue their education.
The Board had NO DESIRE to compromise. They were determined to show Joe who was boss. Joe had to contemplate a middle ground of compromise. He announced to the media he would comply w/ the Board and re-admit the suspended students. But, they would not be permitted back to class. He housed them in the auditorium until they got alternate forms of education. The Board kept focusing on the students' rights to education. They avoided the issue Joe was initiating for the need for alternative education programs - entirely. Dr. Napier wasted NO TIME that Joe Clark wasn't the problem. It was for the lack of alternatives. Joe said he would be willing to compromise if the Board let him. He re-admitted 18 kids to class from the auditorium. That left 48 kids expurgated.
The halls were abuzz at Eastside w/ reporters and rumors. When he wasn't being hounded by media, Joe was finding himself surrounded by hyper kids wanting to know if Joe was continuing as principal. As he walked the halls, continuing support flowed for Joe Clark. It showed Joe that he still had plenty of allies, more than ever, if it was ever necessary to bring community pressure upon the board. Meanwhile, newspapers were trying to get the stories of the re-admitted students. With another 10 in the re-admitted returning, Joe moved all of these students from the auditorium to the library. From there, Joe extended to them the possibility of returning to classes.
Then something unexpected happened. An ABC News team that was part of the media blitz at Eastside, videotaped the doors of an exit chained shut that aired on the evening news. The fire chief and the mayor were BOTH furious. The mayor liked Joe and for what he has done for Eastside and all of Patterson. But he could not allow him to get away again w/ chaining the doors. Joe had that order placed for years, as an efficient way to keep crimes and miscreants out of Eastside. Joe knew it was wrong and knew he was breaking the law. but, Joe DID WHAT HE HAD TO DO ! Joe DID HAVE alternate plans in case of an emergency. A viable contingency plan.
Through a clever ruse of the inspectors, photos were taken of the chained doors in 1986. Joe Clark and the Board were brought to court and fined $1,000 for each of the doors chained. Joe was promised he wouldn't do it again. Now that it did, there was talk of him being charged w/ contempt. Joe petitioned the Board several times for electronically locked doors that could be controlled by a single switch in Joe's office. But, the Board's lack of finances. If OFFICIALS got involved due to the chains on the doors, where were they when Eastside was full of drugs, violence & crime?
Then the following Wednesday, a shock since Joe came to Eastside, a student assaulted a teacher. After that incident, Joe decided to stop trying to compromise w/ the Board Of Education. They had better take their measures against him and Joe would give it right back in their faces. Thanks to the Board's involvement, chaos was slowly reigning again. Since Joe couldn't run Eastside, the way he needed to, he seriously considered resigning his position. Due to his threat of resignation, all of the pent-up excitement from Eastside burst into a huge display of protest & solidarity. The students began at once to organize a protest march on the offices of the Board Of Education. If the Board disregarded these necessities, then the undersigned were prepared to leave Eastside at once. The protest was scheduled for that following Monday morning.
Despite all of the media attention Eastside had received over the past several years, they still work mostly in obscurity. The process of education is always full of obstacles to overcome. And the inner city environments increase the difficulty. At Eastside; they sink, they swim, they rise, they fall; they meet their fate together. One of the initial and most crucial problems Joe and the staff encountered at Eastside was the loss of actual classroom time. Before Joe, very little learning went on. Hours of lollygagging and hallway conversing went on ramp-idly. Joe came in, restored order, and set about putting those lost minutes back in place - learning in the classroom.
If Joe had stopped only at discipline, chaos would still reign in the classroom only to not learn and goof around. EVERY MINUTE TO LEARN AND TEACH IS BEYOND VALUABLE! Joe began initiating that both Mondays & Fridays part of the educational school work. (He meant that in a term because of the laziness or lollygagging occurring on those days due to the past/presence of a weekend.) He would no longer tolerate any teacher, student or administrator taking it easy on those days. They are not running a part-time school. Joe wanted tests and longer homework assignments on Fridays, reports & quizzes on Monday. Every teacher is going to be monitored to ensure FULL usage of those days, or every other day.
After putting plans into action, Eastside had REAL 5 day weeks and FULL 40-minute periods. Teachers were supposed to teach their courses in a cramming rush and fake their classes through an impossible schedule. Not a proper time frame in which to teach their courses. Instead of having two months to have students on prepared subjects, they were given 2 weeks. Homework was treated as an ultimate joke and not as a valuable lesson plan. Joe also resuscitated the term paper and long range project, something that hasn't been assigned in Eastside for 3 years. They now have students taking the SATs. Those scores have inched up since 1982. Eastside graduates are ready/able to snap the ghetto's vicious cycle and become good, productive citizens. Eastside has a computer club, a job seeking club & a forensic club just to name a few. The school newspaper cranks out an issue a month. Once a year, in the spring, Eastside celebrates Career Day. In the fall, Eastside celebrates College Day. Some of these programs Joe rejuvenated, some he inherited and some he invented.
Joe made a way for students to better enrich their young lives, especially for those wanted to better their educations and themselves. The Ghost is Eastside High's emblem. Their school colors are orange & blue. Joe implemented ACTUAL & GENUINE school PRIDE to flow throughout Eastside. Everyone in the school had to know the school song and sing it upon demand or suffer dire consequences. They had to know their alma mater. It was an enlightened tool to use for students learning to memorize. Most importantly, the adult emphasis on the school song fosters SERIOUS pride in the school and all it stands for. Every Wednesday is school colors day. Students were encouraged, not required, to display school colors. Eastside High abounds school spirit. But, it's more than that. It's conducive to education & self-esteem. It's more than rituals & symbols. It's TRADITION, something ALOT of schools are lacking, showing TRUE & GENUINE school pride.
Students of Eastside are proud of the honorable reputation they have earned, and have begun to understand what you do reflects on the community. The simple positivity of education is infectious. Just watch & learn. The focus for these young people had switched from drugs/crime to success through diligent striving. The neighborhoods & Eastside have done a complete 180*. What was once riddled w/ hoodlums is now associated w/ decency and is welcomed throughout the neighborhoods. Schools are wonderment to be accepted and embraced and NOT "something kids feel is to be dealt w/ just to get it over with". A good principal must reach out move the whole community; letting students, parents & businesses know that the school is not just 8:30A-3:00P, but a vital & vibrant part of their lives.
In 1986, an NBC News team was at Eastside, working on Connie Chung's special about Eastside and Joe Clark. (That media story eventually led to the film Lean On Me). One of the NBC production team people congratulated Joe and what he's done and accomplished. It wasn't just your usual 1980s high school story. Considering their environment, Eastside was like a savior. The City Of Paterson has a drug awareness program that now functions in all of it's schools. During school hours, there is at least one designated adult (teacher or administrator) available in the building whom the student goes to at once, The door is always open. The meeting takes TOP PRIORITY. NEVER postponed or delayed.
The discipline of Eastside High is meant, as well as, to teach of your self-discipline. Self-discipline is HOW YOU GET THE JOB DONE! Complete effectively and overcome your obstacles. Joe gives a motivational message every morning. He does not let up, the street is too close at hand and he never lets up. He/Joe Clark is a proven commodity. The kids believe in him and he has their best interest at heart. Providing ANY type of help/assistance to those who need it.
Kids perk up when they see/realize that grown-ups TRULY DO care. They wake up to education and plan their futures.
One of the teachers started a choir. Independent from glee clubs. The choir is for anyone who wants to sing. It has been a marvelous success. Musical assemblies were unthinkable before their reforms, because chaos was too dominant. Now they have weekly musical performances. Joe does NOT want to re-enforce the myth that the only way out of the ghetto is a sexy voice or a good right cross. During the first few years of Joe's administration, he received numerous death threats over the phone and in the mail. He still gets them every once in a while, but at the time, a regular occurrence, thanks to the drug dealers and their associates. Joe even came close to a "bomb threat" brought on by a student trying to pull the wool over Mr. Clark's eyes. What he stood to gain was well worth the risk. In April 1988, Eastside held a carnival fundraiser for extracurricular activities. It proved a GRAND affair. A few officers directed traffic outside the grounds not to keep the peace or make any arrests. NO negative incident or discard whatsoever.
The old Eastside High produced drug addicts, criminals, unwed mothers & welfare cases. Youths lacking direction & skill were put upon Patterson. The new Eastside turns out responsible drug free young citizens ready to contribute to society. Joe Clark's management made it happen. REAL leaders are born. NOT made. Despite growing up in the Newark ghetto, Joe was very fortunate. He made the right choice to climb out of poverty and want but, also make/do good for other people. Before choosing education as a career, Joe seriously considered criminology, because he detested someone else cashing in on another man's money. He talks about his own youth growing up and what made him choose education as his primary choice. A dedicated educator could probably do more to improve the lot of the innocent than a crime fighter. A educator can be instrumental in laying the foundation for decent homes. Joe became an educator. He was meant to be a leader.
On the first day of classes in 1983, an Associated Press reporter covering urban school openings got wind of Eastside to get a few things down. He was very impressed and decided to do a FULL story on Joe & Eastside. The evening news at CBS read the AP wire and made arrangements to interview Joe. He was mentioned on various news programs, even a call from the President Of The United States. By presidential invitation, Joe went to the White House for the first of several visits. A movie producer caught on to the news stories and showed up at Eastside, in order to catch some of Joe's time. Joe's victory led to his being on the cover of Time Magazine. It caused Warner Bros. to stop looking for a major star and soundtrack to carry the "Joe Clark movie". Lean On Me starring the remarkable Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark.
Lean On Me movie trailer