While its still unclear just who will finally be named principal for L.J. Hauser Junior High School in Riverside at the next school board meeting on May 16, District 96 Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson announced last week that it won’t be the school’s interim principal, Victoria DeVylder.

DeVylder, who has served as the interim principal at the junior high since January, will return full time to serve as the principal of Hollywood School in Brookfield, where she has been for the past six years.

According to a letter sent to parents of students at Hauser Junior High on April 25, there are two finalists for the top job there, including a curriculum coordinator for a northwest suburban school district who has 12 years of administrative experience on the middle school/junior high level and a school improvement coordinator in the Chicago Public School system.

“Regardless of the decision that gets made, it’s going to be the best decision for the kids at Hauser,” DeVylder said. “That was part of the intent that caused me to throw my hat into the ring. I did it with a sense of a mission of trying to serve the kids in the district.”

According to Lamberson, the two finalists were whittled down from a total of 39 applicants, including DeVyler, who was named as one of seven finalist for the job.

In the end, five candidates were interviewed by four teams. Parents and staff served on three of the teams; students comprised the fourth. Later school administrators, using feedback from those sessions, settled on the two finalists.

“What we do need moving forward is to have the best person at the helm who really understands middle school kids and working with them and understanding programs,” Lamberson said. “We made sure all of the issues of mine and the other principals were on the table.”

DeVylder will serve out the rest of the school year as both principal at Hollywood School and interim principal at Hauser Junior High, where she has been actively involved in teacher evaluation.

Lamberson, in the letter sent to parents and in a separate interview, praised DeVylder’s work since January.

“I asked her to do an extraordinary thing, and she did a great, outstanding job without question,” Lamberson said. “She developed a real respect and appreciation for the potential at Hauser.”

On the other hand, he acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy for DeVylder, who replaced Hauser’s former principal, Joel Benton, after Benton resigned amid circumstances the district’s leaders have not completely explained.

At a recent school board meeting, parents from Hollywood School expressed frustration that their school was without a full-time leader and said they felt left out of the loop with respect to the district’s future plans at the school.

Lamberson also confirmed that staff at Hauser Junior High had gathered signatures on a petition that suggested Lamberson had already anointed DeVylder as Hauser’s new leader.

“They were concerned it was a done deal and that a decision had already been made,” Lamberson said.

DeVylder responded to concerns of the last few weeks by saying the transition at Hauser has been hard on all staff members there.

“I don’t think it was purposeful,” she said. “There were so many things people had to deal with in the transition. It was unfortunate, but I try not to take offense to it.”

Mr. B back as consultant

Lamberson also announced in his April 25 letter to parents that Butch Berwanger, who is retiring at the end of the school year as the guidance counselor at Hauser Junior High, will be back in 2006-07 on a part-time basis to sponsor both the SMART Club and PRIDE and lead the sixth-grade trip.

“He wanted to have a role and we want to make sure someone can come alongside him next year, so they can be trained and learn from Butch,” Lamberson said.