It appears likely that it will take more than one person to replace Jonathan Lamberson when the superintendent of Riverside Elementary School District 96 retires next year.
With Lamberson and Central School Principal Janice Limperis both retiring next year, school board members see an opportunity to replace them and perhaps hire an additional administrator with the money that they are currently spending on those two salaries.
“We’re going to be looking at those things because you’ve got a retiring principal who’s at the higher end of the pay scale and you’ve got a superintendent who’s making quite a bit of money, so we have some options that we’re going to be exploring,” said Mary Ellen Meindl, president of the District 96 Board of Education. “Jon’s at the end of his career and he’s making a lot of money. Our next superintendent will not be making that amount of money. If you’re talking about spending new dollars, we’re not interested in spending new dollars but we’re talking about rearranging things.”
Lamberson is earning a base salary of $288,207.46 this year and the district contributes $32,879.28 on his behalf to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS). Limperis, who also serves as the district’s director of district learning systems, has a base salary this year of $136,684.03, receives an administrative stipend of $6,283.20, and the district makes a $16,309.99 contribution to the TRS on her behalf.
Meindl noted that Lamberson and Limperis perform multiple roles for the district.
“Currently Dr. Lamberson serves as our superintendent, HR manager and business manager and Janice Limperis serves as the principal of the largest elementary school and the director of learning and teaching,” Meindl said.
In November the school board will begin interviewing candidates for superintendent. Depending on the skill set of the person ultimately hired, Meindl said, the district could also hire a business manager, full or part time, or an instructional leader.
“We’d be hiring an extra person but not spending extra dollars because our principal is well paid, the superintendent is well paid and you can get three people for less than the cost of the two that are there,” Meindl said.
However school board Vice President Art Perry said he believes it is too early to say whether the board will hire an additional administrator.
“I’m not opposed to that specifically, but I think we first need to hire a superintendent and once we have a real good feel for that person’s strengths, that will help us move forward with deciding how the other administrative level staff will look,” Perry said. “I want all options to be on the table. I don’t want any options taken off the table at this point because I think we want to make the best decision for the district.”
Thursday night, consultants from the district’s search firm presented the board with a draft of their superintendent leadership profile which they developed after meeting with various groups of stakeholders in the district. The profile sketches out the talents and qualities the district would like the new superintendent to possess.
The consultants said the people they talked with expressed a wide range of opinions about what they want in a new superintendent, but certain themes emerged.
“Someone who is definitely a good listener and good communicator,” said consultant Hank Gmitro of the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. “There were a number of comments about being visible in the schools and the classrooms.”
Teachers in the district are looking for an instructional leader and someone who is accessible and fosters a professional climate of trust and respect, the consultants said.
“The teachers particularly desire the new superintendent to be accessible,” said consultant JoAnn Desmond.
“I think the staff would like to have a more engaged role.”
Lamberson has a reputation as a numbers wiz but is someone who is a distant figure to most teachers, parents and students. He rarely appears in classrooms – far less than his predecessor David Bonnette.
The district’s current headquarters at the former Mater Christi School in North Riverside, just outside district boundaries, contributes to the distance teachers and parents feel from Lamberson as he handles his heavy workload.
“When that person is doing three jobs, they cannot be more visible,” Meindl said. “There is only so much you can expect from one person.”
Some school board members seem to agree with teachers that the district needs a leader whose primary background and focus is on instruction rather than finance.
“What we learned last night is that there is a demand for somebody with instructional leadership,” said board member Jennifer Leimberer. “I think my personal preference is probably instructional leadership because there seems to be a need and a demand.”
Perry said he is also leaning in that direction although he said much depends on the skills of the candidates.
“I’m really confident and happy with our financial situation,” Perry said. “Is that a priority? Of course, but maybe not the highest. I think we have the luxury of maybe putting educational leadership as a somewhat higher priority.”
In November, the consultants will present 5-6 semifinalists for the school board to interview. So far 36 people have applied for the position Gmitro said.
The consultants have also targeted some possible candidates.
“We have about a dozen people that we have started recruiting,” Gmitro said. “Six have given an indication that they are interested.”
Experience as a superintendent was not a high priority among stakeholders. Meindl said the board is not interested in hiring someone near the end of their career, and it is very possible that the new superintendent will not have served as a superintendent before.