“It’s good the way it turned out”: Donat Ledergerber has been head of the Education and Sport department for a year
Donat Ledergerber was the right hand of former government councilor Heidi Hanselmann for five years. Then he surprisingly had to vacate his post. He describes his new position in Wil as a “return to his roots”.
When Donat Ledergerber found out in spring 2020 that he was losing his position as Secretary General of the St.Gallen Health Department, he felt like he was in the wrong movie. He says: “It was pretty bizarre. First came the corona wave, then the change of government and then I had to vacate my office within two weeks. » His life slowed down from 200 km/h to 0 km/h. For five years he was the right hand of former government councilor Heidi Hanselmann (SP), navigating the canton with her through the beginnings of the corona crisis. 14-hour working days were more normal than the exception.
Then Bruno Damann (Die Mitte) took over the health department and brought his own general secretary with him. For Ledergerber, the end came out of nowhere. He says:
“In St.Gallen, such an approach is rather unusual, I did not expect it at all.”
Although Damann not only alienated him, the former SP cantonal councilor, but the entire Social Democratic Party in St.Gallen, that didn’t change anything: Ledergerber had to go.
It’s been almost two years now. At the time, Ledergerber told this newspaper: Actually, he would have liked to have stayed Secretary General. Today he says: “It’s good the way it came.” He has been the head of the Wil education and sports department for a year. “Now,” he says, “I’m back to my roots.”
Raised in Wil
His roots are in the city of Wil. Ledergerber lives with his partner in Engelburg, they bought a house there a few years ago. But he grew up in the abbot town. When Ledergerber looks out of his office in Wil, he can almost see the playground at the Kirchplatz primary school. The school where he once went to school. According to the new head of the education department, it was a happy time for him.
His roots, however, are also in education, or more precisely: in school. Ledergerber once trained as a secondary teacher at the University of Education in St.Gallen. For 25 years he was a teacher at the Lerchenfeld upper school in Kirchberg, the last eight years of which he was headmaster. He says:
“The school is close and important to me.”
Ledergerber describes the fact that he worked in the St.Gallen health department for five years as an “excursion”.
And how did this trip come about? Ledergerber says: “I was a teacher for 25 years, that’s a long time. I just wanted a new challenge.” When he heard that Heidi Hanselmann was looking for a new general secretary, he saw his chance and applied.
As a military observer in Lebanon
Headmaster, Kirchberg municipal councilor, cantonal councillor, president of the cantonal council, general secretary of the health department, head of the Wiler sports and education department – it seems like there are several highlights in Ledergerber’s biography. The best year of Ledergerber’s career was one far away from school and politics. One that dates back twenty years: Shortly after the turn of the millennium, the social democrat, who rose to the rank of major in the military, carried out a military mission abroad for the UN. He traveled to Lebanon and Syria as a military observer, overseeing peace in the Middle East. A bit of pathos speaks out of him when Ledergerber says:
“It was a privilege for me to work at the focal point of world politics.”
Ledergerber’s path thus took him from school to the Middle East, to politics, to the office in his hometown. Sometimes this path was rocky. In the summer of 2020, after leaving the health department, he didn’t know what to do next:
“It was just a bit much.”
Another setback occurred during this time: Ledergerber ran for the presidency of the school board in Gaiserwald. His opponent won the race.
The start in Wil shortly afterwards was a jump in at the deep end. Not because of Corona, the virus, according to Ledergerber, they had a good grip on the Wiler schools and in the administration. But together with Ledergerber, the top boss, the city councilor Jigme Shitsetsang, also started anew in the education and sports department. Ledergerber says: “It was a challenge.” And the team, he says, probably had to get used to his “new management style”.
Now that Ledergerber is sitting at the round conference table in his office, he seems to have arrived. He wears a beige suit and brown health finches and talks about his vision for the future of the schools in Wil: “The daily structures need to be expanded, maybe even a day school and more modern forms of learning such as self-directed learning. We have to move on from there.” He would also like to promote classroom planning and digitization in the classroom. Basically, he emphasizes, the schools in Wil are in good shape.
He has ten years to implement his visions, Ledergerber is now 55. But does he want to stay in this position for the rest of his professional life? He says: “Actually, it’s a bit difficult for me to say that I’ll stay in this role until I retire.” And adds after a moment’s hesitation: the chances are good. After all, he only wanted to stay at the school in Kirchberg for three years. And then it became 25.