WHS principal ousted after further review of ‘senior prank’ – Coastal Observer


WHS principal ousted after further review of ‘senior prank’

Adam George at the WHS graduation.

An outpouring of community support for Adam George  followed the Georgetown County School District’s announcement this week that he had been removed as principal of Waccamaw High School following further investigation of a “senior prank” in May.

George will be reassigned to a position for which he is “certified and qualified,” Lindsay Anne Thompson, attorney for the school district,  said.

David Hammel, who was principal before George, will start work Monday as the interim principal for the coming year, the district announced Wednesday. He was already due to return to the school as the coach of its inaugural boys volleyball team. He will get to keep the coaching assignment. 

Staff arrived at Waccamaw High on May 22 to find balloons and streamers in the cafeteria and front entrance, silly string sprayed in the front office and cooking oil sprayed on the floor of the gym lobby. The school was cleaned by custodians before the start of classes.

It was later discovered  “Class of 2023” was written in red spray paint on a roof-top HVAC unit.  A review of security video showed students in the press box on Warrior Field and two vehicles driving the track inside the stadium. 

Information released by the district in response to an open records request showed the alarm system at the school was turned off at 6:08 a.m. on May 19 and not reset until 9:35 p.m. on May 22.

Students entered the school through a door in the gym area that had not been closed, according to Thompson, who conducted an investigation into the incident.

One parent said their child saw video showing students drinking and vandalizing classrooms. Thompson said she found no evidence of that.

She also investigated claims that George gave students permission to carry out the prank.

“Mr. George has denied involvement,” she said after reviewing staff emails.

Since then, the district received additional information about the incident. Staff provided an update to the school board at a hastily called executive session last week. The board took no action.

George was put on administrative leave last month when the district renewed its investigation into the incident. Assistant principal Hunter Eddy has been overseeing operations at the school.

This week the district issued a statement saying it “has determined a change in leadership at WHS is needed.”

It didn’t mention George by name.

“In recent weeks, concern has grown as more has been learned about the full impact and disclosure of pertinent information surrounding the incident,” according to the statement. “Additional details provided both publicly and anonymously expanded the focus of Georgetown County School District’s investigation.”

The district did not say what new information was obtained. The Observer filed a request for the information under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

George declined to comment.

The district’s action created a backlash on Facebook, with the majority of comments on the Coastal Observer page in support of George. Many of those who commented questioned why George was punished and not the students. 

Some called for the students to be arrested, while others shamed the parents of the seniors involved.

Two students who drove on the track and two who spray painted the HVAC unit received in-school suspensions served after the end of the school year, according to district records.

School Board Member Patti Hammel, who represents District 1, is the mother of David Hammel and has two grandchildren at Waccamaw High. She is also a retired district administrator.

“This is just a very difficult time,” Hammel said. “From my perspective, I’ve worked with Mr. George and my grandchild has been a student in that school. I have never experienced anything with Mr. George that wasn’t totally professional and of excellence.”

Board Member Scott DuBose, who represents District 2, said he received several emails in support of George.

“I like Adam,” DuBose said. “I’ve never had a bad encounter with Adam. I just think it’s kind of an unfortunate situation.”

George can file a grievance with the school board if he feels the administration’s decision is unfair, Thompson said. He had not done so as of Wednesday, but the school board agenda for July 18 that was published the next day included discussion of both a “recommendation for administrative duty assignment” and an employee grievance. Those discussions are scheduled for a closed executive session. Any action by the board would be taken in public.

 The board could affirm the administration’s decision, overturn the administration’s decision without a hearing, grant a hearing to review the grievance, or make a decision on the grievance based on documents.

If the board decides to allow a grievance hearing, it would likely take place at the meeting on Aug. 1. 

At that time, the board could vote to reinstate George as Waccamaw High principal, but only if that’s what he requested in his grievance.

Earlier this year, the school board removed a clause in district policy that forbids employees from filing a grievance over a lateral transfer without a loss in pay.

George took over as principal before the 2018-19 school year after Hammel took a job in the district office. During his tenure, George led the school through the aftermath of two suicides in a six-week period during the spring of 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic.

After Hammel retired from the district office, he returned to the classroom at Georgetown High to teach science last year.

The district plans to start the search for a permanent replacement in January with a new principal starting work on July 1, 2024.

Update: This story was updated from the print version to include information about David Hammel being named interim principal and about the school board agenda.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to gcsd.k12.sc.us. Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to georgetowncountysc.org. Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to townofpawleysisland.com.   , .