LIMA — In 1981, Omer Schroeder walked through the doors at Perry Local School District for the first time.
Still a little “green,” he was only two years into his career as an educator. Schroeder and his wife, Diane, were new parents and excited about what impact his new job would have on their new family.
“If there were anything I could tell that young man, it would be, ‘Enjoy every moment of this career, remember every face, hold close every happy memory,’” Schroeder said. “’It will go fast.’”
After 38 years of educating young students, 36 of those years at Perry, Schroeder will walk out those same doors he entered. He officially announced Monday his plans to retire. His last day officially will be July 31. During his time at Perry, he was a head football coach, teacher, dean of students, principal, among many other titles. The last 10 years, he was superintendent.
“This community, this outstanding staff and our dedicated principals, have made 36 years of my life the most enjoyable and treasured times I have ever had,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder had a hard time coming up with the words to say goodbye to a school district that he has grown to love. He said many in the district were with him when he lost his wife, Diane, six years ago.
An excerpt from his letter to the staff reads:
“At the center of what it means to be a member of the Perry community, lies the togetherness and love that is, again, not experienced everywhere. In joy you have been with me. During the deepest of my sorrows, after losing my dear Diane, you were there for me. I couldn’t ask for more, such a rewarding career.”
Schroeder said he had a great career with no regrets.
“The only bad thing that ever happened to me was when my wife died,” Schroeder said. “Other than that, I have had a wonderful life.”
Schroeder has seen the district grow astronomically during his tenure. Because of open enrollment, the district now houses twice as many students as what reside in the district. Schroeder said one of the proudest moments of his career was in the 2009-10 school year, when Perry was first declared an “excellent” school district.
“Perry has always been able to attract students because it is a nice, safe little farm school,” Schroeder said. “That is what is popular right now. It is a public school with a private school flair.”
Schroeder said he viewed his time at Perry as much more than a career.
“Its a love story,” Schroeder said. “Its a 36-year love story. I had a few opportunities to leave, but I could never pull myself away.”
Schroeder said the family atmosphere made it hard to leave.
“Thank you for giving me a wonderful career, putting food on my table and making the choice to leave so hard,” Schroeder wrote. “It has been an absolute joy to serve you. To the community, our wonderful students, the teachers and outstanding principals, Nick [Weingart] and Kelly [Schooler], you will always be part of my life and remembered in my prayers. Thank you for the wonderful memories.”
Schroeder said he plans on using some of his new free time to do some traveling or lend more attention to the 700 acres of land that he farms.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.