A servant at her Centre

? Susan Beeson is new super at USD 397.

Susan Beeson comes to USD 397 with three years of superintendent experience at USD 505 Chetopa-St. Paul in southeast Kansas. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

Whether ordained by birth order or as an outgrowth of her upbringing, Susan Beeson sees her journey to the superintendent?s role at USD 397-Centre as a natural extension of who she is and wants to be.

?I was the oldest of four children, so I kind of took a leadership role early in life, and I have kind of been driven by passion and love for others,? said Beeson, who was raised in Texas and southwest Oklahoma, and shaped by the positive influence of her grandparents.

?I feel like I?ve grown up as a servant of people, particularly children, and as a strong advocate for education,? she said

Beeson comes to Centre after three years as superintendent at USD 505 Chetopa-St. Paul in southeast Kansas.

Ironically, the girls? basketball teams from the two high schools played each other at state this past March. Beeson said she was cheering for St. Paul at the time, but was already looking into the opening at Centre.

?I was seeking an opportunity to continue to work in a rural setting, advocating for innovative programing and an environment where we?re focused on educational achievement,? she said.

?I guess what draws me here is the opportunity to work in a community school at one location.?

In the Chetopa-St. Paul district, the high schools in the two communities are 43 miles apart.

?The innovative programs, the unity of the school board and the desire to maintain rural education in a rural community really attracts me,? she said of her move to Centre.

Educational path

Beeson?s post-secondary educational and professional paths started a little later than they do for a lot of high school graduates.

?I chose to become a wife and mother early,? she said.

As a nontraditional student living in southeast Kansas, Beeson earned a bachelor?s degree in social work at Pittsburg State University in 1994.

?After working for the Department of Social Ser?vices for the state of Kansas for a number of years, I was affected in such a way by the perpetuation of painful experiences for people,? she said. ?I learned very quickly that I wanted, as a social worker, to see proactive success. But I knew that social services was not that place.

?As I sat in the offices and people were embarrassed and humiliated in the process of entering that agency, I determined that a true way to help people be successful was to educate them.?

Beeson enrolled at the University of Kansas and in 1997 earned her clinical degree in social work with an emphasis in school social work.

Beeson then worked briefly as a school social worker?one of the first in the state?at SEK Interlocal #637, the provider of special education services in the Pittsburg area.

?As I worked with folks and saw the challenges that families deal with in assisting their students who are challenged to get an education, I felt like I wanted to be an advocate for special education students,? she said. ?I also felt that to take those skills and my passion into leadership, that I could make a difference.?

That desire prompted Beeson to pursue a master?s degree in education leadership in PreK-12 school administration at PSU, which she achieved in 2006.

Beeson accepted a PreK-12 principalship at USD 479-Colony Crest in 2008, and completed certification in district leadership through PSU in 2010.

In August 2011, she became assistant director of special education services at Keystone Learning Services, which is based in Ozawkie and serves seven school districts in northeast Kansas.

?I worked with wonderful and inspiring people there,? she said. ?But my husband and I originate from southeast?Kansas, and when a superintendency at Chetopa-St. Paul became available, I was selected.?

New opportunities

Beeson said she is excited by the opportunities she sees at Centre.

?This is a district that is thinking a little bit out of the box, and is doing things to sustain the opportunities for their rural students,? she said. ?That?s really what education needs to be moving forward.?

Recent school-funding issues haven?t tempered her enthusiasm for the job. Beeson said good preparation and planning is a prerequisite for being a superintendent.

?In the financial climate we?re in, it?s really important that we make conservative financial decisions,? she said. ?It?s really important to track our expenditures and to recognize that at any moment, there could be changes in our monies.

?I think strategically, all of our resources should be aligned with our goals and our strategic plan,? she added. ?When the superintendent?s informed and providing that information to the board, then you can make informed decisions and everybody?s on the same page.?

Beeson said her immediate goal is to keep staff morale strong.

?That will be one of those things we?ll always be working on, as well as creating a supportive climate for kids, promoting our school and our programs, and demonstrating that Centre is providing a high-quality education, whether it be for our in-house students, which is super-important to me, or it be virtual students.

?We want to convey to our community and to in part to our students a high-quality education at Centre.?

Beyond the job

Beeson and husband Jim are parents to seven children, the youngest of which graduated from Pittsburg State this spring.

?Each and every one has benefited from public education, and have completed post-secondary programs,? she said. ?As the result of education, our kids have created success in their life and been blessed through education. That is very pleasing to us.?

The couple have made their home in Marion.

?My husband and I are swimming at the aquatic center, so you might see us there at any given time?whether it be 6 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon,? she said.

?One of the reasons we elected to move to Marion was the aquatic center and the opportunity for exercise.?

Beeson describes herself as a social person who welcomes interaction with the people?especially as it pertains to Centre schools.

?I have communicated with our staff and our board, and have given them my contact information to invite folks in,? she said. ?So people are coming in and saying hi. It?s been great. I love to talk to people about the kinds of services we offer at Centre for kids.?

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