Mike Norris answers community questions during a forum at the Manhattan High School West Campus library Monday. Norris is the first candidate to interview for the MHS principal position. The open forums for the four other candidates continue the rest of the week at 3:15 p.m. at the same location.

Mike Norris said Monday he considers the Manhattan High School principal position a “Super Bowl” job.

Norris, an administrator for the Lawrence School District, was the first of five candidates interviewing this week for the job as the new head principal of MHS. All candidates, including two MHS assistant principals, will participate in a forum with community members, faculty and staff at the end of their interview day in the MHS West Campus library.

About two dozen people attended Monday’s forum with Norris.

Norris said he still works for the district, despite what a letter from the district’s superintendent seemed to imply.

The superintendent sent out a letter saying Norris would no longer be working at Lawrence High School.

Norris explained to attendees Monday that he moved into a new position, helping the district’s transition to PowerSchool, an online student information system. He said the new position gave him more time to see his father in Texas, who experienced some health problems.

Norris said he went into administration after a few years as a teacher because he felt like he was not being coached or mentored any longer. He taught in the Kansas City (Kan.) school district and in Lawrence.

“I felt I had some lousy administrators in my time,” he said.

Norris said he would make a point to observe teachers in the classroom setting and try to give meaningful feedback. While supporting the staff is important to him, he said it can be difficult being a cheerleader during a project like the upcoming bond-related construction the high school will undergo.

“I’ve never been in a building without a bond” (project going on), he said. “Morale is the hardest part. It’s hard walking into the same construction site every day… It can get hard to be that cheerleader every day, because people can get to feeling so defeated.”

He said another challenge will be properly preparing students for their post-secondary lives. Norris called himself an advocate of career and technical training.

“When my furnace breaks, I call the HVAC repairman. I don’t call an English literature teacher,” he said.

While he thinks the classwork should be challenging, he said there are some aspects that fail students who are not four-year college bound.

“There are other ways to measure success,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time convincing students ‘Othello’ is important for their lives, when very few students use ‘Othello’ in their lives.”

Norris said if he gets the job, he hopes to work to add more co-curricular courses, meet with students and staff, and encourage staff professional development. He also said he knows he would be putting “miles in the car” to work at both East and West campuses but wants to build a bond with those in the school. He also said he doesn’t want to come into the school with “sweeping changes” since the school has a good reputation for academics.

“Students will meet the expectations you set for them,” he said. “If you have low (standards), they’ll do it. But if you have high expectations, they’ll achieve it.”