Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Hayward Richardson

Second Advisor

Dr. Joyce E King

Third Advisor

Dr. Karen Card

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Lisa Martin-Hansen

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Gwen Benson


Joe Louis Clark was the principal of Eastside High School (EHS) located in Paterson, New Jersey from 1982 to 1989. The purpose of this phenomenological case study was to explore Mr. Clark’s leadership style as principal of EHS, and to investigate from the point of view of Mr. Clark’s former students, teachers, and administrators what, if any effect, his leadership style had at EHS, as well as on his students, teachers, and administrators’ lives during and subsequent to their time at EHS. I conducted this investigation by giving voice to my classmates, teachers, administrators and myself. I graduated from EHS during Mr. Clark’s tenure and I am a member of his first graduating class in 1986.

When Mr. Clark arrived as principal, EHS was characterized by large numbers of students living at or below the poverty line, overcrowded classrooms, and outdated resources. Additionally, there were issues such as: high dropout rates, drugs, teenage pregnancy, violence towards students and teachers. In an attempt to raise the students’ Minimum Basic Skills Test scores and eliminate the violence at EHS, Mr. Clark was hired as the principal.

Through face-to-face and telephone semi-structured, open ended in-depth interviews with twenty-two participants, I uncovered personal views of Mr. Clark’s leadership style. Mr. Clark used a leadership style that was characterized by the informants as autocratic, directive, charismatic and caring. The voices of his students, teachers, and administrators speak volumes about the strategies he developed that made an impact on their lives in addition to reforming EHS.