More than Just a Principal: A Look Inside the Life of Dr. Chapman
May 13, 2016
Dr. Lawyer H. Chapman has proudly served as East’s principal for the past three years. Whether you like his policies or not, it is abundantly clear that Dr. Chapman loves few things more than his job at East. With his term as principal brusquely coming to an end, Eastside took the opportunity to talk to Chapman more personally. Because when school closes at the end of the day, Chapman is not just a principal; he is a father, a grandfather, a husband, and an individual person with a diverse number of experiences, largely due to the 15 countries he’s traveled to outside of the United States.
Many East students only think of our three-year East principal Dr. Lawyer H. Chapman as just that– a Principal. But despite this thinking, Chapman actually has over 30 years of work experience, in a variety of other areas. Previously, Chapman served as not only a math teacher in Philadelphia, but also as the Assistant Superintendent of the entire Cherry Hill School District.
I tell you, my four years of college were the best of my life. I mean really, I look back on those days and boy if I could do them again, I would do them all over again. They were wonderful years.”
— Dr. Lawyer Chapman
Even those students who do know of Chapman’s work experience prior to being East principal still merely know him as a “scholar.” Students can easily picture him standing in the C-wing intersection after Lunch Break Two or hearing his voice on the announcements saying, “a community of scholars with a lifestyle of respect, kindness, gratitude, and service to others, striving for excellence in all that we do.” Despite this, Chapman is much more than simply a scholar; he is a human being, with real emotions and feelings. This concept of Chapman being more than just a principal is often lost among East students who rarely see Chapman in any other position besides one of authority.
Nonetheless, just like everyone else, Chapman has a past, a present and a future.
Part 2: The Present
From his daily morning announcements, to his sincere hallway conversations, Chapman has reinforced “respect, kindness, and gratitude” to students and faculty. Chapman’s appreciation for East has been seen through his attendance at school performances such as Mr. East and the fall and spring plays. Chapman has recognized award-winning students and clubs at faculty meetings and has spoken repeatedly about his great admiration for East and its many achievements. To the average student, however, the intricacies of Chapman’s everyday life are unseen. Students often forget that outside of the East hallways. Chapman is a husband, a father, an individual that is more than just a principal.
Want to read the transcribed interview?
Click to read Part 2 of Chapman’s interview here.
The reason that I try to give some inspirational text as much as I can is because I believe that we all need to be inspired and motivated.”
— Dr. Lawyer Chapman
Part 3: Reflection and the Future
Chapman has thoroughly enjoyed his time as East’s principal during his three years. Though he was initially saddened by the news of his reassignment, Chapman is now resolutely joyed, as he feels that East is truly “more and more becoming a caring community of scholars.”
“We have one of the lowest rates of suspension in terms of secondary schools in Cherry Hill. I just feel so great when we can make it through a day and everyone looks happy. That’s my greatest moment,” said Chapman. “Scholars from all walks of life, all colors and shapes, and we all for the most part get along with each other. That just brings me so much joy. That’s my joy.”
One memory Chapman will always keep from East is actually from his first moment in the school.
Chapman said, “I was so delighted when I first came here at the reception. The reception was so wonderful to me, I was accepted by everyone and in fact the first two faculty meetings that I had the faculty gave me a standing ovation. So it was how I was welcomed here when I first came that really stands out for me.”
Even after he leaves, Chapman hopes that all East students remember the importance of being a scholar in all that one does.
“I have learned that if you have a message, and you make it very clear, and you repeat it over and over and over again, it will sink it,” said Chapman. “And by my continuing to say and talk about us being a caring community and that we strive for excellence in all that we do, I just feel that that’s happening all around me. If you look around and you see the accomplishments that our scholars are making, it’s fantastic and I will carry that with me wherever I go.”
And though he is departing Cherry Hill East, in the future Chapman plans to uphold a strong presence within the local South Jersey Community. During the 2016-2017 School Year, Chapman will assume the role of ‘Principal on Special Assignment’ at Cherry Hill’s own Alternative High School, Malberg. There he hopes to continue his track record of success through cultivating a community of scholars in the Alternative School Community as well.
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