Doug Bullinger got his first look at the empty halls of Chanhassen High School July 10. Just beautiful he thought, one of two finalists on campus for the principal position.
What he found over video conferencing calls throughout the day with different stakeholders, and a visit to the District Education Center, was even better.
“The high school is beautiful, but what I found were the people were even better,” Bullinger said.
Bullinger, who led Hopkins High School the last four years, was officially announced as the new principal at Chanhassen High School on July 14. He replaces Dick Ungar, who retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Among five candidates interviewed in the first round via video call July 7, Bullinger was one of two finalists brought back for a second interview three days later.
Between interviews, he reached out to Ungar, a candid 30-minute conversation giving Bullinger a sense of what to expect, and what is needed going forward.
“Talking with him was certainly on my to-do list. I did my homework, looked up what I could find, but I knew there was no one better to give me the inside scoop into the happenings inside the building. What’s working, what needs for the future may look like. His take on the school. He was so gracious, so great. You can tell he loves the school. He gave me enough so I didn’t feel like I went into the final interview blind,” Bullinger said.
Bullinger, who grew up in Maple Grove, and attended Osseo High School, where he met his wife, has two children, soon-to-be 13 and 10.
Prior to Hopkins High School, Bullinger was the Continuous Improvement coordinator at Mounds View Public Schools, where he also served as associate principal of Curriculum and Instruction. He started his career as a high school chemistry and physics teacher, working in both the Osseo and Edina school districts.
Bullinger has also served as an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas, Hamline University, and St. Catherine University.
He received his bachelor of science in chemistry, his master’s in education, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
After trying to make the best connection possible in the first round of video interviews, being in the Chanhassen building, versus a guest room at his house, made a difference when he was talking to the different stakeholder groups.
“What I heard from the groups is really establishing who we are. Chanhassen is still what we call an infant school. What makes Chanhassen, Chanhassen. My focus the last four years at Hopkins was about creating that community within the school. That investment in student culture. I really hope that is what drew people to me,” Bullinger said. “I know we have a lot of amazing teachers, a lot of amazing educational leaders, and I’m looking forward to working with all of these great educators.”
Bullinger said when the 2019-20 school year ended, he had no plans of leaving Hopkins, but after finding out about the Chanhassen position, he weighed the option and eventually checked the box, applying for the job.
And now that he’s the new principal at Chanhassen High School, he’s happy he did.
“There was still some part of me that was nervous (for the second interview). Meeting stakeholders over a computer, instead of in person. But when we got down to talking shop, I felt so comfortable. There was this great energy among the groups. I just loved talking and hearing from the kids. That’s why we’re here. The kids,” he said.
Bullinger’s first day on the job is July 27. The Minnesota Department of Education is expected to release guidelines on what schools should do come September with the beginning of the school year.
Whatever is decided, Bullinger is ready for new connections.