Michael Dorst has been an assistant principal at Manhattan High School for five years. Even so several co-workers treated him like a stranger Thursday, exchanging formal introductions and asking scripted questions.
Dorst was the sixth and final candidate going through an interview process designed to select the next principal at Manhattan High School. Whoever is selected will replace Terry McCarty, whose December resignation is effective the end of the school year.
The other candidates for the job are Dustin Dick, assistant principal at Highland Park High School; Angie Messer, assistant principal at Junction City Middle School; Greg Hoyt, principal at Eisenhower Middle School; Shelly Swayne, principal at Solomon High School; and David Holloway, assistant principal at Manhattan High School.
As Dorst did Thursday, each candidate went through a day’s worth of interviews with members of a screening panel as well as district officials and high school personnel during which they hoped to come across as a quality choice for principal.
Supt. Bob Shannon, a member of the screening panel whose job it will be to recommend a choice to the school board, said the interview times had to be extended compared to interviews for principals at other schools. That, he said, was due to “the size of the building (which each candidate toured) and the people associated with the process,” including some students.
That meant the interview process didn’t just involve answering questions from the interview team, which consisted of district personnel, MHS officials and MHS parents.
It became an all-day process from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. as each candidate toured East and West campus, met with McCarty and department heads, ate lunch with the MHS Student Council, and answered questions from MHS stakeholders after school.
Shannon said the goal was to provide an opportunity for everybody to give input. “Before we started the interviews, we gave considerable thought to having an inclusive process,” he said.
During the meet-and-greet sessions after school, each candidate had a chance to answer questions such as how they would deal with the two- campus dynamic at MHS, and what he or she thought the role of a principal should be with students, staff and the community.
Kate Moore, a gifted facilitator at MHS, attended the meet-and-greet session for Dorst Thursday. She said the ideas of strong management and communication skills go “hand-in-hand.”
“If you’re a good communicator and have strong management skills, you can handle the worst of it,” she said.
Moore added that a principal should also be flexible and open to alternative ideas for student teaching. “When you have 1,600 kids, to suggest everybody should do the same thing for everything they do is a fallacy,” she said.
As a superintendent, Shannon had a list of things that a principal needed to have an ability to do.
“We’re looking for a principal that has exceptional skills in leadership, establishing a positive building climate for students and staff, strong business managerial skills, and good written and oral communication skills,” he said.
Shannon said a debriefing process was being held Friday to get information from the different groups who talked to the candidates. The interview team was also to meet Friday.
Shannon said the plan is to present a recommenation to the board at its meeting March 6.