A familiar face will greet Summerville High School students transferring to Dorchester District 2's new high school next year.

Karen Radcliffe, who has served as a Summerville assistant principal for more than 10 years, has been appointed as Ashley Ridge's first principal.

She will spend the next several months preparing the high school on S.C. Highway 165 in Summerville for opening day. The district's third high school will open with 850 to 900 ninth- and 10th-grade students and add one grade per year until the 2010-11 school year. The school will have space for 1,800 students.

Radcliffe said she's excited to merge students from Summerville and Fort Dorchester high schools into one school community.

"They are two great high schools, and I get to pull students and teachers from both of them," Radcliffe said. "It's exciting. How many people get the opportunity to open a new high school?"

Dorchester District 2 conducted a regional search to fill the principal position, and seven candidates were interviewed by a committee of administrators, teachers and parents. In the end, the committee opted for Radcliffe's local experience and deep roots in the community.

Radcliffe, a 1985 graduate of Summerville High, has spent her entire career in Dorchester District 2, working as a science teacher at Summerville and Fort Dorchester before a promotion to assistant principal.

Superintendent Joe Pye said he's confident that Radcliffe will help Ashley Ridge become "a school of excellence."

Radcliffe said she hopes her background proves to parents that she has a "vested interest" in the district's schools. She said she knows some families with strong ties to Summerville and Fort Dorchester are worried about leaving for an unknown school, and she wants them to be comfortable with Ashley Ridge. "The key is getting this community excited and getting over the trepidation," she said.

Radcliffe plans to hold a parent night for the families of incoming ninth-grade students at the end of January. She wants all incoming students to help decide on the school's mascot and plans to have them vote on options in the coming months.