By all accounts, Gibbs High in St. Petersburg is a mess.
Basic human civility is an oxymoron. Teacher morale is in free-fall. Vandalism is an extra-curricular activity. Serious students are hostage to an educational meltdown. All of which is a reminder that a new, $58-million facility is a guarantee of nothing.
Pinellas School Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has stepped in by assigning some top administrators to help out the (34-year-old, first-year) principal, transferring the worst of the worst students to alternative schools and dispatching maintenance crews to clean up the trashing.
Better late than never, of course.
But here’s another idea. Send in a real gladiator; start all over; and take back the school. Take it back from thugs, Neanderthals and assorted misfits who have been allowed to dictate an agenda of academic and disciplinary travesty.
SOS to Joe Clark.
Clark is the former principal of the once notorious Eastside High School in Patterson, NJ. His autocratic, “tough love” approach in the 1980s turned Eastside into a New Jersey “model school” within two years. And, yes, he earned his share of enemies: punk students and teachers uncomfortable with confrontation. Also resulted in a movie: “Lean on Me,” starring Morgan Freeman as Clark.
Also warranted a classic comment from then-President Ronald Reagan, which should serve as practical advice for Superintendent Wilcox. “Sometimes you need Mr. Chips,” noted President Reagan, “and sometimes you need Dirty Harry.”