With the hiring of Martha Ryan-Toye to lead Riverside schools, Elementary School District 96 will welcome its third superintendent in four years. That’s a lot of turnover for a small district that has historically prided itself on high achievement and a cohesive, supportive community.
But the rough patch that really began with the final contract the school board handed to former superintendent Jonathan Lamberson in 2009 — a contract that made Lamberson one of the highest paid school administrators in the state and one of its most expensive pensioners at $260,000+ per year — appears finally to be over.
Ryan-Toye seems to be the real deal, having made her mark as a special education director (historically weak spot in D96) and as director of student services during a 22-year career at River Forest District 90, a similarly high-achieving school district.
She leaves River Forest to a shower of tributes for her work there from fellow administrators, and she’s a proven leader and administrator who has been closely involved in directing changes to curriculum.
Ryan-Toye also doesn’t appear to be looking at her tenure in Riverside as a stepping stone to a larger district. After 22 years in River Forest in director and assistant superintendent capacities, she’s moving into the lead chair and our guess is she’s planning to make her mark in Riverside.
We’re not sure who else the D96 board considered for the top job in Riverside, but we can say that the search team hired by the board — of former D96 superintendent David Bonnette and former Lyons Township High School superintendent Dennis Kelly — used their intimate knowledge of what the district needed in a new leader to select at least one candidate who appears to be a very good fit.
And the school board also deserves credit for identifying that good fit when they saw her.