St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge gets new principal _lowres

Photo provided by St. Joseph's Academy -- Michele Lambert is he new principal of St. Joseph's Academy.

A former director of a middle school in Tampa, Florida, who has spent the past two years as an educational consultant has been named the next principal of one of Baton Rouge’s most prestigious schools, the all-girls St. Joseph’s Academy.

Michele Lambert will replace Linda Fryoux Harvison, who will retire at the end of the academic year after 11 years running the Catholic high school.

St. Joseph President Jan Breen said Lambert brings to the academy “a strong vision for the future.”

“She constantly seeks new pedagogical methods, new ideas for curriculum and new brain research to help ensure students are prepared for college as well as the workplace of the future,” Breen said in the Thursday announcement of the hire.

The school hired the Dallas-based search firm The Education Group.

Mindy Averitt, a spokeswoman for the school, said a six-member selection committee interviewed three finalists but Breen made the final call to hire Lambert.

Lambert spent 14 years, from 1999 to 2013, as middle school director at St. John’s Episcopal Parish Day School in Tampa.

In December 2012, St. John’s informed parents that Lambert’s contract for the 2013-14 school year would not be renewed, according to newspaper reports. It was unclear why the school made the decision.

Averitt said members of the school’s selection committee examined that decision, talking to “a number of individuals familiar with all aspects of the situation.”

“As the circumstances unfolded, it became clear that Dr. Lambert was involved in a difficult situation and that her decision-making process was rooted in her strong convictions,” Averitt said. “She was aware that a possible consequence of her actions was nonrenewal of her contract but stood firm in her decision to serve the best interests of those involved.”

Averitt said Lambert’s departure from the Florida school had no impact on her “credentials, qualifications or ability to lead the St. Joseph’s Academy school community.”

Lambert said Thursday night that she wasn’t going to discuss the specifics of what happened at the Florida school because it involved children and “it was a delicate situation.”

“It’s easy to have integrity when times are easy, but it’s hard to have it when times are tough,” Lambert said. “Unfortunately, society does not always reward integrity.”

After leaving St. John’s, Lambert founded Spot2Succeed, a firm that specializes in identifying learning styles and creating effective tools to bridge learning gaps. She is part of an international group at Johns Hopkins University writing middle and high school curricula for an international virtual school.

“I am beyond ecstatic about joining the SJA family,” Lambert said Thursday night. “I eagerly await sharing my passion for 21st-century learning for women with the students and faculty of the academy.”

Lambert is the second lay principal in the 147-year history of St. Joseph’s Academy. Harvison was the first when she took over as principal in 2004.

“(Lambert) has a desire to continue the fostering of relationships across the academy community,” Harvison said. “As a student of and educator/administrator with Catholic schools, Michele understands that our mission drives our work, and I know she will embrace the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph.”

Originally from New Orleans, where she was the valedictorian of her graduating class at Mercy Academy, Lambert is a 1991 graduate of LSU. She holds a master’s degree from the University of South Florida and a doctorate from the University of Toledo.