Michael Dorst said Wednesday in his bid to become Manhattan High School’s next principal that he wants to see the creation of a faculty handbook and plans for accountability of staff and students in the next few years.
Dorst, 47, was the third of five candidates interviewing for the job. All candidates spend the day interviewing with district administrators and end the day answering community questions in a forum in the MHS West Campus library.
Dorst has been in education for 24 years and is in his 11th year at MHS, where he serves as the 10th grade assistant principal. He is one of two internal candidates vying for the position.
During the hour, he addressed concerns from community members that students aren’t spending enough time in class, and facilitating cultural changes when the two high schools come together after the West Campus expands with construction.
He said he’s excited to have all the students, faculty and staff under one roof because it’s one less building students have to be in.
“Our students in the district are in constant transition after sixth grade, so I like that we’ll have sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th,” he said. He said the biggest thing the district will lose with the change will be the culture developed at the ninth-grade center.
Dorst said he’s unsure exactly what he would do to help improve faculty and staff connections when the two groups combine, but he has high hopes.
“You can hope it happens, and you can’t just bring everyone together at the ribbon cutting,” he said. “There’s going to be some sharing, some conflict and hopefully some conflict resolution.”
He said at a previous job, working as an administrator at Pomona High School (now West Franklin High School), staff members did bonding activities when the Williamsburg and Pomona high schools merged. However, Dorst said it would be harder with a much bigger staff at MHS.
He also acknowledged his concerns about the schools coming together.
“We have to make it not they’re ‘coming up,’ but that we’re coming together,” he said. “But we can’t absolutely combine. We have nine full sections of ceramics right now, but one place to teach it. Same with lab spaces. We have to look at the space we’re getting and ask hard questions about where we’re going to put these 1,775-plus kids.”
Dorst said while the ceramics classes may be full, there are a lot of classes that are underutilized, especially when seniors have abbreviated schedules during second semester.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to light a fire and enroll in classes they’re interested in,” he said. “We offer college-level courses and classes that prepare students for life and college. But we can’t force it or it won’t be meaningful. It may be an opportunity to expand and offer what the students want to take.”
Dorst said getting information out to the students would be important to him, so making the course catalog clearer for enrollment time, and putting together the school’s first faculty handbook so people can have the information at the tip of their fingers would be priorities if he got the job.