Eau Claire school district officials who hired a new North High School principal hope he will be an advocate for that school’s students.

The Eau Claire school district tapped Cale Bushman after faculty, support staff and parent representatives said they want a vocal leader to fill the high school principal vacancy, schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck said.

“All three (categories) told us they wanted a strong leader who would be a very vocal advocate for North,” Hardebeck said. “Of the people we interviewed, certainly Mr. Bushman was the applicant who came to the forefront of those areas.”

He replaces former North principal David Valk, who retired after 12 years as principal and 30 years in the district. Bushman joins three other new principals in the district this year: Jake Donze at Robbins Elementary School, Luke Stordahl at Northwoods Elementary School and Heidi Neumannkneeland at Putnam Heights Elementary School.

District officials picked Bushman out of 39 applicants after two months of interviewing and deliberating, Hardebeck said.

Bushman comes to the district after eight years as assistant principal at Wausau West High School, which he described as a “sister school” to North due to their similar size and demographic makeup. According to the Wisconsin Information System for Education, Wausau West had 1,347 students last academic year, compared with 1,361 at North.

On the first day of school Tuesday, Bushman said he’s first setting his sights on getting to know the North community.

“Something that’s really important to me is that I’m visible and approachable from the community standpoint,” he said. “I really want to get to know the kids, the staff, and ingrain myself in the community.”

In the long run, he said he wants the school to be better each year than it is today. He said an important part of being a successful school is strong relationships within the building, including students, staff and parents.

Since beginning his duties on July 2, Bushman said he’s been happy with the level of commitment from staff to students at the high school. He cited an informal staff survey that demonstrated his point.

“Overwhelmingly the staff said we pride ourselves on the students, that they really matter to our staff,” Bushman said of the survey results. “That’s exciting to me. I’m glad to be a part of it.”

After 12 years as principal, Valk relayed a similar message about his peers at North. 

Points of pride for Valk over the years include growing Advanced Placement course offerings at the school and developing the HOPE — Husky Opportunities Promoting Education — alternative education program, which Valk said he established with help from assistant principal Lucas Barth.

“I trusted that the staff would embrace and support (the new principal),” Valk said. “I think it’s a great place to be with a lot of dedicated and caring professionals who work hard on behalf of kids. It was just a privilege to be the principal there.”

Contact: 715-830-5828, lauren.french@ecpc.com, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter