Sunday, May 3, 2009
Family of famed NJ school principal Joe Clark makes history with sweep at Olympic trials
Sydney-bound sisters Joetta Clark Diggs (l), Hazel Clark and sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark secured their Olympic spots with a spectacular performance at the recent Olympic qualifying trials in Sacramento, CA With the sister act is coach and relative J.J Clark (c) and family patriarch Joe Clark, the bat-wielding principal who inspired the movie Lean On Me.Team Clark will be heading to the Sydney Games as the first family to capture all three U.S. spots in an Olympic track event.
The three Clark sisters, Joetta Clark Diggs, Hazel Clark and Jearl Miles-Clark, swept the women's 800 meters at the recent U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Sacramento, CA.
The family patriarch is Joe Clark, whose tight rein as principal of Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ, inspired the 1989 movie Lean On Me, starring Morgan Freeman.
Running in her first trials, 22-- year-old Hazel Clark, the youngest member of the talented trio, took first place with a winning time of 1 minute, 58.97 seconds. Her sister-in-law, Jearl Miles-Clark, 33, finished second in 1:59.12 But the most dramatic finish came from Hazel's older sister, Joetta Clark Diggs. Coming from the back of the pack in the final lap, Joetta, 37, caught and just edged Meredith Rainey-Valmon for a third-place photo finish in 1:59.49, just 0.01 ahead of Rainev-Valmon.
"I didn't get started the way I wanted, but I stayed confident," said Joetta. "But I saw my chances going and I had worked too hard not to get there. I ran that last 100 like my life depended on it. I kept digging."
The three sisters are coached by J.J. Clark, Miles-Clark's husband and the brother of Hazel and Joetta. After the race, sister-in-law Jearl collapsed from exertion and was helped off the track.
"I kept saying it's not that hot, we live in Florida," Jearl said. "I didn't stay hydrated and toward the end of the race my legs were shot, depleted."
At the bell lap, Hazel still held a slight lead over Rainey-Valmon and Miles-Clark as the group began putting distance on the rest of the field. Down the stretch, Hazel Clark held off Miles-Clark, who finished fast for second.
It was left to the elder Clark to complete the day. She did, running from the extreme rear through 500 meters and just passing Rainey-Valmon in a photo finish. "I kind of felt I outleaned her," Joetta said. "I wasn't sure if I had got her. Then I saw it on the scoreboard and knew we did it. Now I look forward to making history with my family."
Joetta has spent the past 21 years ranked among the top 10 800 runners. This was her sixth and final Olympic trials. She will retire after her fourth Olympic appearance, the same number as Jearl.
"It would have been hard if I didn't make it," Joetta said. "It was something the family really wanted to do. I would have let them down, but I did my best. This is my last race in this country, it was a great final race."
Jearl established an American record last year with a 1:56.40 and was an Olympic gold medalist in the 1,600 relay in 1996. She qualified second in this year's trials in the 400.
Hazel, the baby of the group, is a four-time NCAA champion (three indoor titles) who competed at her first trials and will make her Olympic debut.
"I wanted this real bad, I said a prayer for all of us before the race," Hazel said. "But I felt they would come through."
Discussing the successful showing by the Clark women at the Olympic trials, their father, Joe Clark, recalled the standards he set for his daughters when they began to run track:
"I never let my kids run sprints," he told USA Today. "They had to get away from the stereotypical thing that Blacks can't run distances. I've found that distance running most consistently produces disciplined people
Joe Clark criticized for putting New Jersey youth inmates in shackles
Jet; Chicago; Oct 21, 1996; Anonymous;
Joe Clark, the celebrated, toughlove principal who was the inspiration for the movie Lean on Me, is under fire for his extreme disciplinary tactics.
Local, state and federal officials had not determined at JET press time if they would discipline Clark, now director of the Essex County Youth Detention Facility in Newark, NJ, for putting teenagers in handcuffs and leg irons as punishment.
The boys, ages 17 and 18, were shackled for two days after several violent episodes in which they hurled excrement at guards, Clark said.
"I made them accountable for their diabolical behavior," Clark said. "They were not abused; they were not beaten; they were simply handled in a manner commensurate with their unacceptable behavior."
Since their punishment the boys have been model inmates, and Clark said he would not hesitate to use the shackles again.
Officials criticized Clark's actions, which they say are illegal. State correctional practices for juvenile detention facilities forbid use of shackles except in extreme situations or for transporting inmates, said Wendi Patella, spokeswoman for the Department of Youth and Family Services. Even then, they should be only used for 15 minutes at a time.
However, officials also said Clark, who was hired in August 1995, deserves credit for helping to clean up the center, which was in shambles in the early 1990s and still remains overcrowded.
'Lean On Me' principal Joe Clark tackles new role as director of Newark youth detention center
Jet; Chicago; Sep 4, 1995; Anonymous;
Joe Clark, the tough-as-nails educator who inspired the movie Lean On Me (JET, Mar. 6, 1989), has taken on a new challenge as the new director of the Essex County Youth House in Newark.
Clark has brought the same flamboyant style and no-nonsense approach to the detention center that bought him to national prominence at Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ.
Recruiting volunteers to work with the delinquents at the overcrowded institution, teaching and restoring order at the institution are Clark's top priorities.
Clark's first rule of thumb, however, is that he must be addressed by the youth in a respectful fashion.
"It's important that when you speak to me, you say, 'Director Clark, sir.'" He refuses to answer any youth who does not address him properly.
The New York Times recently reported when one boy asked, "Director Clark sir, why can't we watch TV?" Clark said in his straightforward style, "Because you're here." He added, "You are going to spend your time cleaning, mopping, studying, getting an education. We're going to transmogrify your souls, so when you go into your communities you will say, 'We are not going back again because Director Joe Clark is there and the man does not play.' That will be a message to the community."
'Lean on Me' Joe Clark to Leave Eastside High
Jet; Chicago; Apr 10, 1989; Anonymous;
Principal Joe Clark has decided to leave Eastside High School in Paterson NJ to take a 6-month sabbatical.