Big changes are occurring to St. Jude Thaddeus, from the demolition of the old rectory building to the city of Havre’s possible upcoming relinquishment of the alley that bisects the campus, but one of the big personal changes facing the students and faculty returning this month is one of leadership.
Carol Ortman, a 21-year St. Jude veteran, has ended her six-year tenure as the principal of St. Jude Thaddeus School.
Ortman said she was considering taking a sabbatical when the decision to retire came as a surprise.
“I like to think it’s the voice of God, ” Ortman said. “And far be it from me to ignore that little voice of God. ”
She began her education career in Whitefish, teaching in public schools for a few years.
When Ortman and her husband, Montana State University-Northern professor John Snider, moved to Havre more than 20 years ago, she said she came to St. Jude to pick up a few substitute teaching gigs.
After taking several opportunities offered in the first few months, Ortman was placed in charge of the school’s day-care program.
One year later, Ortman was teaching pre-school, a position she held for 14 years, until she was unexpectedly asked to be the principal.
“I would have been in pre-school until I died, ” Ortman said. “I was so happy there. ”
While the position was not her goal, it was an extension of what she said was the main difference she noticed between public and Catholic education.
“When you are a Catholic teacher, your job is a vocation, a calling, ” Ortman said. “I felt called to be a part of this community.
“I can’t think of anything that’s been more fulfilling. ”
That community is what Ortman said she’ll miss most, the wide birth-to-death St. Jude’s family of students, faculty, alumni, parishioners, clergy and community supporters that helped her and her family both professionally and personally since they moved here.
Ortman said she now looks forward to completing a few master’s degrees she is working on, spending more time with her daughter, who is graduating in a few years, and playing more piano, beyond the Mass-playing she’s done for the past few years.
She’ll still be around and involved for a while. She said she and her family will probably be in Havre for the next seven or eight years of Snider’s career.
In her place this year, Jim Magera, former Havre High School teacher who retired this spring after 31 years, will be the new principal.