Purvis to replace Hillwig as Chambersburg High School principal

June 12, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - This will be a year of transitions for Chambersburg Area Senior High School with a multimillion dollar remodeling project and a change in principals.

Dennis Hillwig is retiring after more than a decade and Barry L. Purvis is moving up from Chambersburg Area Middle School.

The school board Wednesday night approved the appointment of Purvis, 48, as high school principal effective July 1 at a salary of $87,000. Although Purvis has been in charge of the district's sixth- and seventh-graders since 1996, he knows the high school level.


"I had experience teaching in the high school, coaching in the high school and was assistant principal for a year. It's not totally unfamiliar turf," he said Wednesday morning. That experience includes being a graduate of the school and 17 seasons as the girls basketball coach from 1979 to 1996.

After graduation from East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University, Purvis began his career in 1979 as an elementary physical education teacher. He later taught that and health at the high school and directed the district's alternative education program.

In 1989, he became assistant principal at the middle school and was the assistant principal at CASHS the year before he took over at CAMS.

Purvis has a master's degree from Shippensburg (Pa.) University and earned his doctorate from Widener University in May 2002.

In addition to working in a school that will be a construction site through next summer, Purvis said other issues affecting the school have yet to be decided.

"That whole configuration issue is still being debated heavily by the community and the board," he said.

Options include building a separate school nearby for two high school grades, or a four-grade high school at another location.

The future of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, which more than 400 district students attend, also has to be decided. The district wants students to be able to attend a half day throughout the school year, rather than full-time for one semester.

"All this stuff happening at once is exciting," he said. "I'm one of those kind of individuals who doesn't run away from challenges."

Hillwig spent all of his 35-year educational career in the district, almost all of them at the high school.

"I started out as a driver's ed teacher and department head," said Hillwig, a native of Bruin, Pa. He spent two years as assistant principal at Faust Junior High School before being named high school principal in 1992.

"The thing about working with youth is its continuous dynamic of change," Hillwig said. "You can't get trapped at where you were when you graduated high school, or when you graduated college ... because youth just keeps moving on."

Despite all the planning for the remodeling that began this past weekend, Hillwig said he and his staff have kept their focus on the students and programs at the school.

"That's been fun - challenging, but fun," he said.

One of the biggest changes over his career also has been one of the most serious challenges.

"The worst part of the job is working with and seeing the dysfunction in our society," he said. "To see how many of them are trying to make their own decisions in life ... and trying to cope with some pretty serious family issues."

At 55, Hillwig is not sure whether there is a second career waiting for him, but he intends to take his time finding out.

"My plan is to, over a three- or four-year period, decide if I'm going to pursue any other commitments ... other than fishing at the bay," he said.

In another personnel action, CAMS Assistant Principal Timothy Bowers was named principal of the middle school with a salary of $70,000.

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