Joseph Clark

"Crazy Joe"

His Story

Principal Joe Clark came into the national spotlight in the late 1980s for his controversial methods of management at Eastside High, an inner-city school in Paterson, New Jersey. Symbolized by his familiar bullhorn and Louisville Slugger baseball bat, which he toted as he patrolled the halls of Eastside, Clark maintained an environment of staunch authoritarian discipline at the school, regularly expelling what he called “parasites”: students who were disruptive, truant, or “hoodlums, thugs and pathological deviants.”

Changing a Generation

Clark moved quickly to devise a new order for Eastside. He reorganized the administrative structure at the school, replaced officials whom he considered “loafers,” and set up a chain-of-command that clearly defined responsibilities and problem-solving channels. He drew up new student policies, including a rigorous suspension system, student photo identification tags, dress code guidelines, and corridor traffic-flow management. The summer before his first term as principal he coordinated a major renovation of the building itself in order to, as he stated inLaying Down the Law, “have it as a powerful and constant ally to my disciplined program for creating and maintaining an atmosphere conducive to learning.” Broken fences, windows, and door locks were repaired, while security patrols were beefed up to monitor school grounds and keep out drug pushers. Throughout, Clark kept the extent of his plans for transforming Eastside quiet; as he recounted in Laying Down the Law, “too often, an administrator kills or weakens a good plan by telegraphing in advance what he is going to do—instead of just doing it.”
Interview with Principal Joe Clark From the movie "Lean on Me" with Morgan Freeman