For Ron Traxson, coming to Peabody-Burns this summer as its new superintendent is taking one step forward in his professional career, but also one step closer to his rural, small-town roots.
“My roots are in the rural community,” said Traxson, who currently is principal at Cheney High School, a Class 4A school west of Wichita. “I was raised on a farm and did all the summer farm work. I’m looking forward to that connection.
“I’m looking forward to living in a community like Peabody and working with the individuals there.”
Traxson’s boyhood farm was situated halfway between Coffeyville and Altamont in southeast Kansas. He attended Labette County High School in Altamont before beginning his college work at Kansas State University.
Toward the end of his degree program there, Traxson decided to get an education degree to complement his major in history.
Upon graduation, he accepted his first teaching assignment in Glasgow, a Class 1A district just east of Beloit. He taught social studies for grades seven through 12 and coached all three major sports—football, basketball and track.
“I was head football coach the whole time, got out of basketball the last couple of years to just assist, and then got out of track,” he said. “I coached every sport every year, it seemed like.”
While in Glasgow, Traxson went back to Kansas State to earn his certification for being a building-level principal.
He took his first assignment in that role in 1988, when he became principal for grades seven through 12 as well as being the athletic director and football coach.
“It was a good, positive thing for me” he said. “It was a good way to get the coaching side out, but it was tough as far as playing the role of football coach and building administrator. It was character building.”
After three years, Traxson moved on to Cheney in a similar role as 7-12 principal and athletic director. As the district’s population began to grow, his job was redefined to focus on the high school grades.
While at Cheney, Traxson finished his certification for a superintendent assignment, but put his professional aspirations on hold while his children completed their education in the Cheney system.
“My youngest was born here that first year we arrived,” he said. “So it’s been home for the kids, and it’s been good to be able to stay in one spot for them. It’s been a great system for them to go though, a great community.”
Traxsons’ youngest child, daughter Courtney, is now a sophomore at Kansas State. He and wife Patty have two older sons: Troy, 29, who works for KSU in radio and television, and Cameron, 26, a fifth-grade teacher at Inman.
For their father, the time was right to consider a superintendent position.
“I think it was kind of the way I looked at it when I came out of the classroom,” Traxson said of the aspiration. “I liked the classroom, I liked the coaching. I also liked the idea of being an building administrator to help teachers be good in their own right.
“When I became an administrator, I did it because there were things I felt I would do to help teachers concentrate on the classroom, and I would take care of some of the nonsense that goes on for them.
“I suppose it’s kind of the same thing years later as superintendent,” he added. “I’ve got 30 years in education experience. I’d like to be able to go and do a job that helps a district be better in the educational process and helps teachers.”
Traxson admitted he didn’t pursue the opening at Peabody-Burns when he first heard about it.
“But then the more I thought about it, and the more I looked at it—we drive by it every time we go to Manhattan—there’s been times when it looks like a neat little community. I kept thinking, why not?
“I like the area,” he added. “I spent my first 10 years at the 1A level. When I came to Cheney it was 3A, but I always said it had kind of a 2A mentality. I like the community aspect. I don’t know if, going into a position like this in a large community, would be more impersonal than what I’d want.”
As it turned out, Peabody-Burns was the only place he interviewed.
Ironically, Traxson’s superintendent at Cheney is Tom Alstrom, who was superintendent at Peabody-Burns before going to Cheney.
Traxson said he’s looking forward to starting his new assignment July 1. He feels the fit is a good one.
“I don’t want to assume anything, but one thing that I like as I look over their material, look over their expectations, read through the administrative handbooks of the buildings and talk with the board—we’ve got a lot in common.?If you have rules, you follow them. Be consistent.”
Traxson said the board and community want their schools to be strong and vibrant into the future.
“I suppose one of the priorities (as superintendent) is to go in and assess how we can maintain what we have at Peabody and improve on it,” he said. “It’s all about taking what we’re doing right, and then seeing if there are some things we can do better.
“There’s that phrase, ‘from good to great,’” Traxson added. “I think you always have to look at what you can do better. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it bad; it’s a matter of doing some things better.”
He feels the Peabody-Burns district already has taken steps in that direction.
“What appealed to me about Peabody is that they’re doing a lot of good things. I want to be a part of that.”