Summerville High principal moving north

Summerville High School Principal Buddy Chapel said the controversy over his hunting trophies had nothing to do with why he is leaving the Lowcountry and returning to Pennsylvania.

The controversial principal of Summerville High School is leaving his post at the end of the school year to return to Pennsylvania, where he may once again be able to display the African animal trophies that created a ruckus in Flowertown.

“That is not a player in why I’m leaving,” said Buddy Chapel on Thursday. “I chose to take those out of the office myself. It has nothing to do with this.”

On Wednesday, Chapel was offered a job as head of Pennsylvania’s Chambersburg Area Senior High School, where, according to sources, he’ll work alongside an assistant principal who is also an avid hunter with animal heads on display in his office.

“I’ve been offered a job in Pennsylvania that I just can’t turn down,” Chapel said. “It’s one of those things where they came looking for me and made me an offer I just can’t refuse.”

Dorchester School District 2 spokeswoman Pat Raynor said Chapel has not yet resigned.

“We don’t know that he’s leaving,” Raynor said. “We know he’s been approached but he told me that he and his wife love it here and he’s made no definite decision.” She expects to hear from him today.

Chapel, a retired Marine, moved last year to Summerville from Pennsylvania, where he spent several years in schools in Allentown. Chambersburg is about 130 miles from Allentown and 30 miles from Gettysburg, where Chapel’s recently widowed sister lives.

“I love this school and I love this community, but sometimes you have to do what’s in the best interest of your family, even though my heart is here at Summerville High School,” he said.

With about 2,500 students in grades 9 through 12, the Chambersburg school is slightly smaller than Summerville. Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said about 75 percent of the faculty has been hired in the last six years.

“They are looking for direction and we are hoping he’s the right piece of the puzzle,” he said.

After a search that started in September, the Chambersburg Area school board voted 9-0 Wednesday to approve Chapel as principal, a job Padasak called the second-most important in the district, behind his own.

“The high school principalship in our district is a very high profile job,” he said. “It’s important that the person who leads it represents the district well. It’s the face of the community.”

Chambersburg faces some of the same challenges that Summerville did, Padasak said.

“The number one issue we have is hundreds of children not engaged in high school, and we believe Mr. Chapel has the potential to get our children engaged,” he said. “We measure engagement by the absentee rate, by their tardiness, etc., and there is just a lack of general school spirit. I believe you have to have all that before you can have success academically.”

In Summerville, one of Chapel’s goals was improving school spirit. In September, the school bused its entire student body to Memorial Stadium for a giant pep rally.

Chapel also stirred up the community when he suspended several dozen students in February for violating the district’s dress code. Chambersburg recently passed a comprehensive dress code banning denim and hooded sweatshirts starting in 2013-14, Padasak said.

“(Chapel) had a lot of obstacles to overcome (in Summerville): The fact that he was a Yankee, a military guy and didn’t know the culture and all those things, but he came in and hit the ground running and I think what he did there was pretty good.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.