About three months ago Jonathan Lamberson, the superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96, traveled to Minnesota to interview for a job as a superintendent of a suburban Twin Cities school district.
Lamberson was one of three finalists for the job as superintendent of West Saint Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan School Independent District 197, a district of about 4,400 students. The district included a high school, two middle schools and five elementary schools.
Lamberson, who has one year remaining on a lucrative contract with District 96, did not get the Minnesota job as that school board decided to hire Nancy Allen-Mastro, an assistant superintendent with the Bloomington, Minn., public schools.
Lamberson said that he was not actively searching for another job, but became interested in the Minnesota position when a search firm contacted him about the position.
“I was honored to be invited and recruited by a search firm, but I’m really happy to be able to finish in District 96,” Lamberson said. “It was just an opportunity that I could see being a good fit. I have not been looking for or planning to do anything other than finishing the contract that the board and I agreed to.”
Lamberson said that he was interested in the Minnesota job because he has young grandchildren living in the Twin Cities area.
“Our daughter and granddaughters live in the Twin Cities,” Lamberson said. “Our granddaughters have been lobbying heavily for us to be able to be closer. We’re very family orientated and we would love to be closer to our kids and grandkids especially, especially during this time of their lives.”
Lamberson said that he is not looking for another job and intends to finish out his final year at District 96. His contract expires on Nov. 1, 2013, but he could leave on July 1, 2013 when his replacement is expected to begin.
“I will finish my contract with District 96,” Lamberson said.
As July dawns next week, Lamberson’s his base pay will increase to $288,207.46 annually and District 96 will also make a payment of nearly $39,000 on Lamberson’s behalf to the Illinois Teacher Retirement System. For the 2011-12 fiscal year Lamberson made $277,122.56 in base salary and the district contributed $31,614.69 on his behalf to the TRS.
Lamberson’s contract with District 96 states that he is not to seek other employment during the length of the contract without prior written consent of the board. According to Lamberson’s contract, he is obligated to pay the district $30,000 in if he takes another job before his contract expires.
Lamberson said he had not applied for any other jobs other than the Minnesota position.
In March, Lamberson informed District 96 school board President Mary Ellen Meindl that he was interviewing for the Minnesota position and Meindl informed the rest of the school board.
“He told me he had an opportunity he was looking at,” Meindl said. “I was disappointed. I’m a realist and people are going to do what they’re going to do, and I appreciate the fact that he let me know so that I could put in place a plan so that if something happened, things were moving on with our school district.”
Meindl said that if Lamberson had left this summer, the board probably would have looked to hire an interim superintendent for one year as the school board is just beginning the search process to hire Lamberson’s successor.
“We would have explored all options,” Meindl said.
District 96 school board Vice President Art Perry said that he was not bothered by Lamberson’s interest in another job.
“My feeling is that he’s absolutely free to do what’s best for him,” Perry said. “You can’t expect someone not to follow up on opportunities as they come up. That’s my personal feeling. It’s what I would expect in my own job.”
If Lamberson had left for a new job this summer, it would have put the district in a difficult spot since it is currently doing major renovation work at L.J. Hauser Junior High School, Central School and Ames School.
“That would have been incredibly stressful,” said school board member Jennifer Leimberer. “To take on one of the biggest capital campaigns this district has seen in 50 years without a superintendent was scary.”
Lamberson, 57, said that he may want to continue to work as a superintendent after he leaves District 96 next year.
“If it presents itself I certainly would be happy to look at it, but there are other options as well that we’re exploring,” Lamberson said.