Posted 5/27/14 (Tue)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Jay Diede moved to Watford City for an Assistant Principal position with Watford City High School in 1985, the same year the new high school building opened.
After four years as Assistant Principal and 25 years as Watford City High School Principal, Jay Diede is retiring.
“When you get to the place that I’m at, with the number of years that I have worked here, the decision to retire is a really difficult one,” states Diede.
Diede has been struggling with the decision of whether or not to retire for the past three years.
“I took it down to the wire the last two years, waiting until the last minute to sign my contract,” Diede states. “But I just was not ready to retire.”
This year, however, was different. The combination of timing and school growth caused Diede to inform the school board in November that this would be his last year as Watford City High School Principal.
“I feel that it is the right time, with the building of the new school facility, for me to step down and let someone else take over,” states Diede. “There are a lot of decisions that will need to be made. And those decisions need to be made by someone who will be here for the long haul.”
As Diede’s last days as high school principal are coming to a close, he states that he is amazed at all that has transpired.
“I moved into the new school building my first year as Assistant Principal, and here we are about to build a new high school building,” states Diede.
When he moved to Watford City in 1985 to become Watford City High School’s Assistant Principal, the city’s post-boom, downward slope was just beginning.
“The schools were crowded and we had more kids than we knew what to do with,” states Diede. “Then, four years later, when I became Principal, the bust was in full swing.”
Diede states that he has seen the school suffer post-boom financial issues that forced teacher layoffs and school closings.
“When people are losing their jobs, those are hard times,” Diede states.
And it was roughly five or six years ago that the possibility of putting all grades, K-12, in the current high school building was discussed, because the population was declining so much. Such is no longer the case, however, for McKenzie County Public School District No. 1.
“I have been here long enough to see both the highs and the lows,” states Diede. “And it is ironic that I am in a boom season once again. This time to end my career.”
Through the ups and downs, Diede carries memories of sporting activities and state championships, of dinner theaters that once were held and how great they used to be. And of the people he has worked with and the students that frequented his school’s hallways.
“This is in a sense all I’ve known since I was a first grader,” states Diede. “I have spent 55 years being in school all day and it gets to be like family. And the people who work here and the kids that attend here, they just become part of that family.”
Diede states that he has seen many students graduate during his time as principal and move on to do good things, big things and amazing things.
“I am just proud to have been part of that,” states Diede.
Also, as part of the National Principal’s Board, Diede states that he was proud to represent North Dakota among principals from other parts of the country.
“You could always tell that they knew what we had here and that they were a little jealous of it,” states Diede. “Being the principal of Watford City High School has been a part of my life and my identity for such a long time. It will be hard to give it up going forward.”
Diede states that the job of high school principal is a commitment. And, in a sense, it was his life. Now that he has chosen to open the door to a new path, he looks forward to having more time for hunting and fishing and spending time at the lake with his granddaughter, who likes to hunt and fish with him.
For the person who becomes the next Watford City High School Principal, Diede states that one of their biggest challenges will be maintaining the school’s identity in the midst of so much growth.
“The bigger the school gets, it will be hard to keep the school as it has always been. And it will be hard to maintain its tradition, which has been the tradition of Watford City - to be the best in everything,” states Diede. “It will be hard to keep that small school identity that creates a family feeling and works hard to make the kids feel a part of that family.”
But whoever takes over, Diede hopes they will be able to continue in that tradition, and he wishes them the best moving forward.
His wife, Sheree, is currently a third grade teacher at Watford City Elementary School. She has been a teacher for 38 years, and according to Diede, has no plans to quit yet.