There will be new principals next year at Central School and Ames School in Riverside with the retirement of Central School Principal Janice Limperis and the resignation of Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi.

On April 26 eight candidates for the positions were interviewed by a committee made up of incoming District 96 Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, one parent from Ames School, one Central School parent, two teachers from each school, one District 96 principal and an office staff employee.

“We interviewed on [April 26] and look forward to finalizing a decision soon,” Sharma-Lewis said in an email.

Sharma-Lewis said that she hopes to recommend her two picks to the school board for approval at the board’s May 21 meeting. Two of eight candidates are District 96 employees, Sharma-Lewis said. She did not identify which current employees were interviewed.

The new principals are expected to receive one-year contracts, as the district is moving away from multi-year contracts for all administrators other than the superintendent. The only District 96 administrator currently under contract for next year is Sharma-Lewis. She has a three-year contract and officially begins work in District 96 on July 1.

On March 28 the school board voted not to renew the multi-year contracts for all
other administrators.

“Our goal is to enter into one year contracts with the administrators,” said former school board President Mary Ellen Meindl.

The move seems designed to give Sharma-Lewis maximum flexibility as she takes control of District 96 and to make it easier for her to replace administrators if she decides to make changes after her first year on the job. In many school districts, all administrators other than the superintendent have only one-year contracts.

Negotiations are ongoing with the current administrators on new one-year deals. Administrators who did not have their current contracts not renewed in March include Leslie Berman, the principal at L.J. Hauser Junior High School; Robert Chleboun, the principal at Blythe Park School; Mindy Keller, the principal at Hollywood School; Mary Polk, the district’s director of special education and assessment; and Vern Bettis, the district’s director of technology.

However, all are expected to return to their current jobs next year, albeit with one-year contracts.

But some are concerned that administrators, who are currently without contracts for next year, could look around for other opportunities and find jobs elsewhere and leave the district.

Mary Lang Judy, a parent of a Hauser seventh-grader, says that current administrators were caught off guard by the formal non-renewal of their contracts. She is concerned about losing experienced administrators during a time of transition.

“I think the way it was done, even if it was only procedural, it left a lot of people wondering whether or not they were going to be in the district come July 1,” Lang Judy said. “They were very surprised by it. I don’t think we should be putting trusted professionals who have been working in the district for some time in that position. I don’t think they should be caught off guard. I think we should keep whatever stability we can.”

Board member Michael O’Brien told Lang Judy during an April 16 question-and-answer period that he expects all other principals and administrators other than Lamberson, Limperis and Lieggi to stay on the job at District 96.

“It’s our hope that the other administrators will return,” O’Brien said.

School board member Art Perry said that negotiations are currently underway with current administrators.

“We’re looking for a way forward that’s working mutually for all the administrators, for the district, for the board, for everybody,” Perry said.

All principal positions in District 96 will be made 12-month positions next year. Currently District 96 principals have 10-month contracts.

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