Tietje, Schmidt relish new roles at Fairmont Area Schools

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School will see a number of new faculty and staff at the start of the 2019-20 school year. However, two faces won’t be new but familiar.

Fairmont graduates Jake Tietje and Alex Schmidt are stepping into the role of co-principals at the high school.

Tietje and Schmidt will take over from former high school principals Kim Niss and Andy Traetow. Niss is starting a new role as principal of curriculum, instruction and research for grades E-12 while Traetow will move into the role of co-principal at the elementary school with Michelle Rosen.

While this will be Tietje and Schmidt’s first year as principals at the high school, they are not new to the district.

Tietje, a 1997 Fairmont grad, first came back to Fairmont for the 2010-11 school year as an elementary physical education teacher. The following school year ,he served as dean of students and assistant activities director. After a few years, he took a job as grades 7-12 principal at Windom Public Schools, where he has been for the past six years.

Tietje got his undergrad and master’s degrees from Winona State University.

Schmidt, meanwhile, graduated from Fairmont in 2003. In 2013, he returned to take a position as dean of students at the elementary school. He stayed in the position for two years before moving overseas with his family. He served as a middle school principal at Black Forest Academy in Germany for two years. Schmidt has been back with Fairmont since 2017, serving as a Q-comp teacher coach.

While the duo officially begin in their new roles Monday, they have already had a busy summer.

“We were in conversation on a regular basis since April or May; we would talk every week. There’s a lot that needs to be done so the school year is ready to go with as minimal of hiccups as possible,” Schmidt said.

“We’ve been working on moving in and we’re working on master schedules and meeting with the counseling department. It’s been busy,” said Tietje, adding, “One of the top priorities right now is going to be scheduling.”

By the end of July, they hope to have the master schedule set and all of the individual student schedules set. Schmidt said they are thankful that they have all vacancies filled and all new staff lined up. There will be seven new teachers at the high school this year.

“We are giving current staff members an opportunity to meet with us in order to go over ideas they might have or things they want to see tweaked or thoughts they have about current programs that might need to be modified. Just because we’re new to this position, many things could change and we want input from current staff members,” Tietje said.

Tietje and Schmidt will work closely together to oversee things at the high school. While administration has always worked together, this year the positions were restructured and given new titles of co-principal at both the elementary and high school.

“The co-principal idea is that we’re both knowledgeable of everything that’s going on in the building. To simplify things for staff, parents and students, we will have areas that we’ve divided as our primary responsibilities,” Tietje said.

Though Tietje had been working in Windom, his family lives just outside of Sherburn. His wife works in Jackson and his two children, a first-grader and a pre-schooler, will attend Fairmont Area Schools.

Two of Schmidt’s three children, a second-grader and a pre-schooler, also attend Fairmont Schools.

Both Tietje and Schmidt remarked on how fortunate they are to come back and serve at a district from which they graduated. They are likely the first Fairmont graduates to serve as principals at the school.

“It’s a pretty awesome experience. I catch myself walking the halls with a smile on my face. It’s a big job and it will be a lot of work but it’s fun work. I’m really looking forward to being in this position. I think it’s really valuable that Alex and I both came from this district and we know the great traditions that have been in place for Fairmont,” Tietje said.

“For me, exiting this building as a senior in high school, education wasn’t even on my radar to be honest. To come back here in any sort of capacity was not on my list. But it’s wonderful to be back. I’ve worked in a number of schools and Fairmont is an great district. Working together with Jake, we can take it from a really good district to a really great, exceptional district. I think we can get there, we have a lot of amazing staff,” Schmidt said.