Op-Ed: Hopkins should hire a principal that represents the student body’s diversity
July 17, 2020
On July 14, Mr. Doug Bullinger, principal, announced in a community-wide email that he will resign from HHS and accept the position of principal at Chanhassen.
After a confusing, difficult last few months of the 2019-2020 school year, there was already unease going into summer about what the next semester will bring. Mr. Bullinger’s email only contributed to further uncertainty for students, teachers, and staff.
Although this has left students and parents with much to discuss, it can also be seen as a positive.
This presents HHS with an opportunity to choose a candidate that represents the school well and has experience in the district. The instability throughout the past few months is important, too, when looking at the qualities needed by the future principal, enduring and diligent.
A white male as principal doesn’t represent the HHS student body. With a 41 percent total minority enrollment, it is foolish for our community to be led by a person who doesn’t exhibit one of the main values of HHS — the diversity of its students.
According to the Minnesota Department of Education and data collected in Fall 2019, 34.19 percent of the 1,588 students enrolled were approved for free and reduced-price school meals. A principal who understands the needs of students and attempts to make HHS feel like a community for everyone is necessary for the future, and until then it’s important to wait for the right candidate.
“I’m also excited about the future for Hopkins High School. Students- you are in good hands with Ms. [Kelly] Tennison [associate principal] as the interim and with District leadership in full support,” Mr. Bullinger wrote.
The email from Mr. Bullinger was followed by another on July 16 from Ms. Tennison, which detailed the interview process for the new school principal.
“We are hoping to have 3 or 4 juniors or seniors on the principal hiring committee as we believe that your perspective is very important,” Ms. Tennison wrote.
This was sent out in conjunction with an email to parents.
“As such, we are hoping for 3-5 parents or caregivers to serve on our selection recommendation committee,” read the email co-authored by Dr. Nik Lightfoot, Assistant Superintendent; Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed, Superintendent; and Stephanie Herrera, Director of Principal Leadership.
This opportunity for students and parents to have input in the new HHS principal is important. It is equally important, however, that those students and caregivers who serve on the committee represent the racial and socioeconomic make-up of the district.
In Lightfoot’s email, there was a survey where staff, parents or guardians, community members, and students can voice their ideas and opinions on the values and strengths of HHS. Including a google form in this decision is important, and if people take just a few minutes to respond, it should allow HHS to decide on the candidate that best fits the role of principal.
So far, there has been little information regarding what the district will do for the 2020-2021 school year amidst a second coronavirus wave. In the email sent on July 16, there was little information communicated about coronavirus.
“Please know that there are many people (staff, students, and leaders) who have been working very hard to make plans for the fall. Once we have more information and directives from the state, communication will be high as we put our ideas into action plans,” Ms. Tennison wrote.
As the school year approaches, there is still a significant amount that’s unknown.
The announcement of Mr. Bullinger leaving was a situation none of us expected that came at an unprecedented and difficult time. We will need an experienced, caring principal that displays the diversity of our school to lead HHS through the tumultuous upcoming school year.
The trust that the new principal builds while navigating the unique challenges coronavirus presents will and should endure long past our present moment, and the new principal should be selected with longevity and their future with the district in mind.
Students remember Mr. Bullinger as a person who connected with the community, whether it was through the “finger guns,” participating in spirit weeks, or listening in the hallways for students’ thoughts and opinions. He will be missed, and we wish him the best of luck at Chanhassen.
Right now, we need to use this as an opportunity to come together as a community and put a qualified candidate in the position of new principal at HHS.