Married couple Christopher and Stacy Uttecht are principals of Hartington’s two Catholic schools. Christopher leads Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, and Stacy has become the new principal at Holy Trinity School. ANGELA RETHWISCH PHOTOGRAPHY

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Husband and wife duo lead Hartington’s Catholic schools

The principals of Hartington’s two Catholic schools are teaming up to help educate students and form them in the faith.

They are more than Catholic school collaborators, however. They’re husband and wife.

Christopher Uttecht is principal of Cedar Catholic Junior/Senior High School, and Stacy Uttecht has become the new principal at Holy Trinity School.

Since 2018 Christopher had been principal at both schools, a job that was split in two this year. Stacy, formerly principal at St. Mary School in Wayne, took over the pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade school. 

The two bring different personalities, experience and leadership styles to their jobs, they said, but they share the same faith, values and love for Catholic schools.

Christopher, a native of Elgin, and Stacy, of Clearwater, have four children and four grandchildren. They are members of Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington.

As principal of Holy Trinity, Stacy will oversee 177 students. Christopher will lead 170 students in seventh through 12th grade.

They  don’t always agree on professional matters, but they respect each other’s opinions and keep discussions, like the rest of their lives, rooted in faith, Stacy said. They don’t shy away from criticism and often bounce ideas off each other.

Both have worked in great public schools, Stacy said. “But there’s a different culture when Christ is brought into the equation.”

“We have the opportunity to bring Christ into everything we do,” she said. “It’s hard to explain until you actually experience it.”

It involves more than being able to pray during the school day. Instead, it’s a “whole culture built around the faith,” she said.

Stacy began as a teacher in Catholic schools and saw how much the schools focused on the faith. She said she saw how teachers and administrators talked with students about prayer, something that educators could only do well when they themselves were formed in the faith and had a relationship with Jesus.

Incorporating prayer into their personal lives “changes things,” she said. It “really makes a difference in our own daily lives.”

Christopher said he chose to work in Catholic schools because of his wife, hearing about how she and her co-workers could bring the faith into situations for their students, something he couldn’t do as a public school educator.

“Just hearing Stacy talk about things that they did in their school, their habits, being able to pray together as staff, talking about the faith with students and practicing the faith together” convinced him, he said.

At Catholic schools the entire school body can start the day together in prayer, Stacy said. When students are sent to the office, principals can discuss virtues and how their beliefs should shape their choices and behavior.

Being able to worship together at Mass is “a tremendous opportunity,” Christopher said, one that young students might not fully appreciate.

Catholic school educators often make sacrifices in pay and benefits, the Uttechts said, but the faith-filled atmosphere of Catholic schools won them over.

Christopher said Catholic schools do more than educate children.

“When you build strong faith habits, when you increase vocations, it’s not just about educating children,” he said. “It’s strengthening the Catholic Church for the future.”