Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh posthumously honors legendary educator, Joe Clark, with a Key to the City. Clark presided as principal of Paterson’s Eastside High School from 1982-1989. During his term as principal, he received accolades from President Reagan and his administration. Clark died on Dec. 29, 2020 in Florida.

The ceremony took place at on May 20 at Paterson City Hall and was attended by Clark’s family. He left behind his wife, Gloria, children, Joetta, Hazel, and JJ, and grandchildren, Talitha, Jorell, and Hazel.

“Whenever I go away from our community and tell people that I am from Paterson, they tell me that Joe Clark made our city famous,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said. “Joe Clark put Paterson on the map. He was a pillar of the community.”

First serving as a Paterson grade school teacher and the Director of Camps and Playgrounds in Essex County, Clark soon found his calling in administration as Principal of PS 6 Grammar School. Under Clark’s command, the once failing school was transformed into the “Miracle of Carroll Street.”

He greeted the challenges presented to him following his appointment as the principal of crime and drug-ridden Eastside High School with eager optimism. In one day, he expelled 300 students for fighting, vandalism, abusing teachers, and drug possession and lifted the expectations of those that remained, continually challenging them to perform better. Roaming the hallways with a bullhorn and a baseball bat, Clark’s unorthodox methods won him both admirers and critics nationwide. Steadfast in his approach, Clark explained that the bat was not a weapon but a symbol of choice: a student could either strike out or hit a home run.

Clark’s expereince was featured in the 1989 film “Lean on Me” where he was played by Morgan Freeman.

After he retired from Eastside in 1989, Clark worked for six years as the Director of Essex County Detention House, a juvenile detention center in Newark.

“My father had a tough exterior but he also had a heart of compassion,” his daughter Joetta Clark Diggs said. “His goal was to prepare students to step out into and experience a bigger world than Paterson.”

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