When the 2005-06 school year begins next fall, there will be a new principal at Central School in Riverside. Dr. Janice Limperis, currently curriculum director for Lake Forest Elementary School District 67 will replace Dariel McGrath, who has been principal at Central since 1997.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to work,” said McGrath, whose career in education has spanned 34 years in suburban Chicago districts. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”

The District 96 board approved Limperis’ appointment at its April 19 meeting. On hand for the announcement was Dr. Jonathan Lamberson, who will take over as the district’s superintendent at the end of the current school year. Lamberson was formerly superintendent at Lake Forest High School District 115, and was familiar with Limperis, who called him a “mentor.”

“Actually, Jon was a mentor to me and others as we were completing our doctoral work,” Limperis said. “He served as an advisor and inspiration helping us stay focused.”

District 96 Superintendent Dr. David Bonnette said that familiarity had no bearing on the hire.

“Janice was not someone Jon wanted to bring down with him,” said Bonnette, who conducted the search jointly with Lamberson. “This is not at all a matter of her being a predetermined candidate. It was fully open. When all was said and done, she was the best candidate.”

Bonnette said that Limperis was someone who could provide leadership for the teaching staff while being able to invite and listen to parent input. She’s also someone, like McGrath, who has a strong background in instructional practices.

“It was a matter of matching what the candidate brings to the table and what the position needs,” Bonnette said. “She’s had quite extensive experience, having taught at the elementary and middle school level, having served as principal at the elementary and middle school levels and as a curriculum coordinator.”

Limperis received her Ph.D. in guided reading in December 2004 from Loyola University. A member of Lamberson’s administrative team from Lake Forest High School was part of her doctoral “cohort” group.

“[What set Limperis apart was] the depth of her experience as a principal and in curriculum development,” Lamberson said. “She also has an MA in [teaching] gifted and talented [students], which adds a different dimension to her background. There’s a significant level of experience she’s able to bring not only to Central, but to the entire district.”

Limperis is finishing her first year as curriculum director in District 67, and spent 18 years as an elementary or middle school principal in both Lake Forest and in Wisconsin. She lives in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., which is just north of the state line, but plans on moving to the Chicago area eventually.

Her salary at Central School will be $96,590. That is a pay cut from her Lake Forest position. As a principal in Lake Forest District 67 in 2003-04, she made $113,800.

Asked why she was seeking to get back to running a school rather than working in the district office, Limperis said, “I completely miss the children. [Being principal] is the best job on the planet.”

District 96’s academic reputation also attracted Limperis.

“I was attracted because of the test scores and opportunities and goals that are set for the children,” she said.”The district looks for excellence.”

Coming to Riverside is also a homecoming of sorts for Limperis, who grew up in Oak Park and graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School.

“It was an opportunity to work with children, with Jon and to come home,” Limperis said.

Limperis was hired after an interview process that included separate face-to-face meetings with school staff, board members and parents. She has already toured the school, and expects to return soon to meet again with staff and parents.

“We asked each of the interviewers to give us a written statement about how they see the person in the position,” Bonnette said. “Janice rated very well with all three groups, and each of those groups has different expectations.”

Limperis’ official first day on the job will be Aug. 15, although she said she’ll be preparing for the upcoming year much sooner.

“I imagine I’ll be there quite a bit before my start date,” Limperis said.