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New superintendent adapts to new role

Staff writer

Ronald Traxson has learned a lot in 31 years as an educator, including the past 21 years as Cheney High School principal.

He’s learned when to adapt and change. He knows when to take a hands-on approach with a teacher or student, and he also knows when to step back and let his teachers do their jobs. One of his greatest joys was having a formerly rambunctious student at Cheney come back to school and thank Traxson for the guidance during his youth. The student is now excelling in the U.S. Army.

Traxson plans to apply these lessons to his new job as USD 398 superintendent. He went to the board of education meeting Monday, even though he will not enter the position until this summer. He wants to immerse himself in the process as much as he can.

Traxson is planning a hands off approach for USD 398, at least at first. The first employees he will meet with on his first day will be the building administrators of Peabody–Burns. He said his mission will be to gauge the ambitions of the administrators and direct them to accomplishing their own goals. Traxson’s informal goal is to do what the district does well, better.

“It’s the person in the trenches,” Traxson said of administrators. “Sometimes it’s to help them see more potential.”

How Traxson will define better will fall under different measuring sticks. With changes in education, especially the specific nature of some professions, districts are tasked with preparing a variety of students for jobs that may not even exist yet.

“What a school provides for students goes beyond test grades; you can’t say you’re successful because students get high test scores,” Traxson said. “It’s about the quality of the individual.”

The change for the 2012-13 school year for Traxson will be one of the largest he has faced in his career. For the last 31 years, Traxson has been an everyday fixture in the lives of students. He will now be removed from a consistent scholastic environment.

“One reason Peabody-Burns appealed to me is I can insert myself when I want,” Traxson said.

A new fixture in Traxson’s life will be the USD 398 budget. With the shrinking state of school finances in Kansas, he knows there will be tough decisions on the horizon.

“That might be one thing that will be the most frustrating,” Traxson said. “It’s a very reactionary place to be.”

One aspect of the new position Traxson is looking forward to is being a part of the community. He grew up on a farm in southeast Kansas and said he can talk the talk with farmers.

“The two professions that are a way of life: one is education and one is farming,” Traxson said.

Traxson is a family man. Part of the reason he accepted the position in USD 398 was to be closer to children Tyler, 29, who works at Kansas State University, Cameron, 26, who is a fifth-grade teacher in Inman, and Courtney who attends KSU and plays for the Wildcats volleyball team. Traxson and his wife Patty will be on the road often heading to KSU for games.

Traxson has been married to Patty for 31 years. They enjoy long motorcycle rides across country and fixing up things around their house. Traxson said he is more of a big shed kind of guy than the type to long for a large house.

He said he has waited to take a superintendent position until his children were all the way out of high school. He said he is doing this for himselfAnd he wants to do it his way.

While change has been prevalent in education, some things will not change for Traxson. He said he will aim for fairness in the superintendent position, not equality. He is going to stick by his ideals and the decision making of his staff even under the embers of criticism from parents and community members.

“You set out expectations, you stick to your guns, you consistently uphold what you establish, and a lot of questions are answered,” Traxson said.

Last modified March 15, 2012

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