Bauer Offers Job to N.J. Principal
Joe Clark, the Paterson, N.J., high-school principal who has been catapulted into the national arena in the aftermath of a dispute with the local school board over his management style and tactics, was scheduled to meet White House officials in Washington late last week to discuss a job offer with the Office of Policy Development.
Gary Bauer, assistant to the President for domestic-policy development, said he had invited Mr. Clark to Washington to "talk about the possibility" of filling one of several positions open in the department.
But Mr. Bauer said he would be surprised if Mr. Clark, who was also facing pending charges of insubordination by the Paterson Board of Education, would "leave the school for a desk job."
The Paterson board has been deliberating whether to file charges drawn up against Mr. Clark for expelling 66 students without due process. Mr. Clark, who has been praised by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett as a model urban-school principal, said he "expurgated" the students for having failing grades and not earning enough school credit.
New Jersey law states that no student may be discharged from school for any amount of time without a hearing. The board of education has reinstated the students. The 20 or so who returned to school are in an in-school tutorial program.
A Savior to Some
Mr. Clark has been described as the savior of the mostly black and Hispanic school, which six years ago was known for its problems with drugs and violence. A charismatic figure who roams the school halls with a bullhorn and a baseball bat to threaten suspected drug dealers, the principal has received national attention for ridding the school of its criminal element.
Academic improvements have also been reported. In 1982, less than 40 percent of the freshmen could pass a basic reading test and less than 57 percent a basic math test. By 1985, more than 66 percent passed the basic reading and more than 88 percent the math test.
In his first year, 1982, Mr. Clark discharged 300 of the 3,000 students then at Eastside High School. Peter A. Tirri, president of the Paterson Education Association, said the students 18 and older were asked by Mr. Clark to "sign themselves out."
Those 18 and younger were called in with their parents by Mr. Clark, who asked the parents to sign the students out.
The nine-member school board, which had hired Mr. Clark to turn the school around, did not object. The current school board--the first established by election--charged that the 66 expelled this year by Mr. Clark were allowed no hearings or meetings involving their parents.
At school-board meetings, Mr. Clark had often protested the lack of alternative schools for problem children. Paterson does not have an alternative-school program, but Robert Rosenberg, general counsel for the school board, said funding to set up an alternative school is being considered.
The board voted earlier this month to draw up charges of insubordination, which, if filed, would bring the case before the state commissioner of education and could cost Mr. Clark his job.
'Friends Who Support Him'
Mr. Bauer said he hoped the school board would "come to its senses" and not fire Mr. Clark. But if it does, he added, "a job could be available for him as soon as tomorrow."
"This Administration wants Joe Clark to know he has friends who support him," said Mr. Bauer. "Joe is an example of an inner-city hero, the kind that get no credit. We feel that we need to pay more attention to these kinds of heroes."
Mr. Bauer said the Office of Policy Development, which counsels the President on a variety of domestic-policy matters, needs someone like Mr. Clark who would be a "great adviser on issues related to children and the inner city--social issues."
He said Mr. Clark was "moved" by the offer and accepted the invitation to Washington. Mr. Clark last week would not comment on his decision, but reportedly was considering it.
Early in the week, a New Jersey Superior Court judge dropped criminal charges filed against Mr. Clark by city fire officials. Mr. Clark had refused to submit to demands that he keep the school fire doors unlocked during the day in accordance with city laws. He had chained the doors shut, he said, to keep out intruders.
Mr. Clark agreed to keep the doors unlocked and the case was dismissed. However, Mr. Rosenberg, the school board's lawyer, said fire officials will check up on Mr. Clark to make sure he is in compliance.
Vol. 07, Issue 17