Firm Offers Scholarships If Clark Stays
One champion of Joe Clark, the Paterson, N.J., high-school principal who made national news this month, has offered to underscore his support with money.
Jack Berdy, the founder and chief executive officer of On-Line Software International Inc. in Fort Lee, N.J., last week announced that his company was offering $1 million in scholarships over the next 10 years to Eastside High School students who enroll in college to pursue computer-related studies.
The scholarships, which would be set up in the form of a trust fund for the students, would only be given on the condition that Mr. Clark was not dismissed as principal of the mostly minority high school as a result of his current dispute with the Paterson Board of Education.
Mr. Clark faces charges by the board that he illegally expelled 66 students. The board drew up charges of insubordination against Mr. Clark earlier this month, but its lawyers did not follow the correct procedure and the board is in the process of drawing them up again.
The scholarship offer does not require the approval of the board, but some say it is an effort to influence its decision to press charges against Mr. Clark.
"It is unconscionable," said Peter Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association. "It is educational blackmail. If the kids at Eastside are worth $1 million, they should be worth $1 million whether Joe Clark is there or not."
Mr. Berdy said the scholarships were not offered as a "bribe," but as support for Mr. Clark.
"We just don't want to see Joe Clark dismissed over this current controversy," he said. "It's not to say that the board can never fire him for any other reason in the future. We think Mr. Clark has done a terrific job at that school. He wants to bring about three priorities: order, pride, and academic studies, and he's two-thirds of the way there."
But Howard Sorkin, president of On-Line, said, "We do hope that we can act as a catalyst to end this current controversy over Mr. Clark."
Mr. Berdy said he became aware of the needs of Eastside High School students when he read news accounts of Mr. Clark, who has been portrayed as a tough-talking principal who carries a bullhorn and a baseball bat through school hallways to enforce his strict rules.
Mr. Berdy said $100,000 will be distributed annually among academically superior students who plan to study computer-related fields at the college of their choice.
The scholarship fund was announced officially during a school assembly meeting in Eastside's auditorium last week. Mr. Berdy said Mr. Clark was "jubilant and8gleefully welcomed the offer" before an equally jubilant crowd of an estimated 2,000 students.
Frank Napier, chairman of the school board, and Judy Moran, its president, would not return a reporter's phone calls on the subject last week, but Ms. Moran earlier told a local reporter that if Mr. Berdy "cared about the youngsters at Eastside, he certainly would leave that gift open to the fair use of how the board sees fit to implement programs."
Declines White House Offer
Mr. Clark last week declined a job offer from the White House Office of Policy Development. President Reachief domestic-policy adviser, Gary Bauer, said Mr. Clark would serve as an "unpaid adviser" on educational matters.
Also last week, Mr. Clark took rhetorical aim at two members of the Paterson Board of Education who are black. He called the two board members, Elease Evans and Marion Mitchell, "despicable beings worthy of the guillotine" because they voted earlier this month to draw up the charges of insubordination against him.
Mr. Mitchell was one of seven who voted to discipline Mr. Clark; Ms. Evans abstained.
Of Frank Acevedo, the only board member who voted against any sanction, Mr. Clark said: "The only person who stuck by me was a mere Puerto Rican."
The remarks were made in response to a memo from the city's mayor, Frank Graves, who urged Mr. Clark to end the dispute with the board. A spokesman for Mayor Graves said a second letter was sent to Mr. Clark and school-board members later last week, asking again for a cease fire.
In his speech at the assembly to announce the scholarship fund, Mr. Clark said he would end his verbal attacks on board members and try to work out a peaceful solution.
The school board last week ordered that donations to a legal-defense fund for Mr. Clark, collected by two Eastside vice principals from teachers at the school, be returned. The board said it was against school policy to ask teachers to contribute to such a fund during school hours and on school property.