After long search, school finds leader

FAIRMONT – After two years of searching, St. Pauls Lutheran School in Fairmont has found a principal, and she was right there with them the whole time.

Elaine Lieder, currently a third-grade teacher at the school, will take over principal duties from her husband, interim principal Charles Lieder, on July 1.

The search began when long-time principal Gerald Bergt announced his retirement two years ago.

At the same time, Charles Lieder was retiring as principal of St. James Lutheran in Northrop. During Bergt’s last year, Charles Lieder worked as a substitute teacher, but as the year passed and no one came forward to be principal, Charles Leider agreed to act as a interim for one year.

Elaine Leider said the school has made job offers to several prospective principals since then, but they ultimately all ended up turning the job down.

She said she didn’t seriously consider taking the job until her husband announced he wasn’t going to do another year as interim principal, and it was time to start looking internally for candidates.

Elaine Lieder has her master’s degree in education and an associates degree in nursing home administration. The combination of degrees qualifies her to take on the principalship.

“I have been teaching for 30 years, and I know how schools work,” she said. “And I have been married (to a principal) for 40 years.”

During that time, she has noticed a shift happening with Lutheran schools, as many teachers who have served smaller schools for many, many years are retiring, and woman are beginning to take more administrative roles.

“First Northrop (St. James Lutheran) got a woman principal, then Martin Luther, now me.” she said. “… Thirty years ago, I don’t know if they would have hired a woman principal.”

As with many Lutheran schools, she will teach part-time with seventh- and eighth-graders, as well as serving as principal. Charles Lieder will provide the other half of the teaching team for that age group.

Elaine Lieder said she is looking forward to the challenge that comes with the job change.

“Every six or seven years, I find a change in duties invigorating,” she said. “I won’t get into a rut that way.”

She said she isn’t planning many changes to the school, although she is mulling over new curriculum and possibly some new activities.

“It is a wonderfully run school,” she said.

The schools are part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, known as LCMS, which tends to be more conservative than other synods.

“We love Fairmont,” Elaine Lieder said, speaking for herself and her husband. “We love Fairmont’s congregation. It is a privilege to be here.”