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RFHS principal leaves mark on the future

After a career that spans four decades River Falls High School Principal Elaine Baumann, is set to retire June 30. While she won't miss the early morning fire calls and paperwork, she will miss her colleagues and the feeling of being productive.

After 40 years educating the next generation, River Falls High School principal, Elaine Baumann, is set to retire June 30.

Baumann said she's seen it become increasingly harder to do things she wants to do and keep up with the demands of work.

RFHS Principal for the last 11 years (2002-2013), Baumann said that she's thought about retirement for a while and found herself wishing she could do "this and that."

Baumann said that she did not want to wait to retire until her health was poor and she couldn't do the things she wanted to do.

The 62-year old River Falls native started her teaching career in 1973, in Stewartville, Minn., after graduating from RFHS in 1969 and UW-River Falls in 1973.

Baumann worked there until a 1975 move to Lafayette, Ind., so husband, Larry Baumann, could attend Purdue University.

After working as a research assistant at the vet med library, teaching music lessons and teaching in the Lafayette Catholic schools, the family moved to Eau Claire in 1978.

During that time she taught in the Augusta school district. After a move to the Twin Cities, Baumann taught for nine years in the South St. Paul school district.

In 1988, her husband started working at UWRF and the family moved to River Falls.

During her first and second years in the River Falls School District, Baumann taught both middle school and high school band. In the next three years, she concentrated on middle school band.

In 1993, Baumann took over as the middle school assistant principal and in 1998 she became the middle school principal.

After an "administrative reassignment" that happened in March 2002, Baumann was sent from the middle school to the high school.

As part of the reassignment, Baumann was made principal, while the current high school principal Sharon Kabes was "reassigned" to Greenwood Elementary.

A lawsuit ensued and in April 2002 and Kabes was moved back to the high school to co-principal with Baumann until June 2002.

Baumann said that for her it was not a contentious situation and that she had a good relationship with Kabes. She added the issue with the school district was beyond their control and both concentrated on being professional.

Baumann said she and Kabes worked smoothly because they decided on clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

"It made the staff confident seeing us talk and laugh together," said Baumann. "It set a good tone for the school."

At the end of the school year, Baumann became principal -- a job she has held since.

In that time, relationships have developed and Baumann said that leaving the staff and friends will be the hardest part of her departure.

Baumann was quick to add that she will not miss the 3 a.m. fire calls that would require her to get out of bed and walk through the entire school to make sure all was OK.

Baumann also cited the relentlessness of issues and paperwork as things she will not miss.

For the band director that never planned to pursue the administrative side of education, doing what's best for the kids is the mark she hopes to leave.

During her tenure as high school principal, Baumann said she worked to invite the community into the school. She cited the career fair and financial literacy day as a few of the programs she hopes continue.

As she reminisced about the students who've come to her through the years, a few tears bubbled to the surface.

"Good memories, good kids," she added. "I cherish that I could help the students."

Baumann said many times she's been downtown River Falls and seen her former students. She said they tell her about their lives and show off their kids and say that they appreciated the interest in their lives.

Said Baumann: "As teachers we are making an impact on a future we will not see."

She added that students won't necessarily remember a doctor's name but will remember names of teachers. She said that sometimes educators forget what a profound effect they have on the future.

Baumann, whose alarm clock will stay in the off position for a few months, would like to stay in education but has no immediate plans to do so.

Baumann's husband will not be retiring, so the family plans to stay in River Falls.

To keep busy in the coming months Baumann said she will be taking on the role of president of the Rotary Club of River Falls, join AAUW, and travel -- a trip to eastern Europe is planned.

Taking over as high school principal will be current high school assistant principal, Kit Luedtke.

Baumann said that Luedtke will bring youth and energy to the new position, along with tech savviness. She said that he has good relationships will the students, staff and community, and that it will be an "easy transition."

Nick Been, who comes from the St. Croix Central school district, will take over as the assistant principal.

See the June 13 print edition of the Journal for the complete article.

Jillian Dexheimer

Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.