Tracy Maring has returned to her hometown to serve as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at USD 413. She brings with her 26 years of educational experience. This is her first year in a district-level administrative position.
Maring is a graduate of Chanute High School who did not originally intend to be an educator.
“I went to college later in life,” she said. “I actually worked in juvenile mental health for quite a while and working there, discovered I really liked working with kids.”
That led to a career change that began with getting her Bachelor’s degree in education at Ottawa University. She started out teaching at the elementary level, beginning in fourth and fifth grades, but decided that she enjoyed the middle school age group and went on to teach eighth grade math.
Her principal at the middle school was the one who encouraged her to get her administration credentials.
“It really wasn’t on my radar,” she said. “But I did get my Master’s in administration from KU (University of Kansas) and I got a job as soon as I graduated in a K-12 school in Williamsburg.”
She moved on to be the principal of Olathe’s Indian Trail Junior High before going to Olathe Northwest High as an assistant principal and then to Olathe East. In her 15 years in the Olathe district, she also returned to school herself.
“In the Olathe district, there is a common culture of going back to school,” she said. “I have actually finished all of my doctoral work except the dissertation.”
Comparing the large 6A school to district to the smaller 4A at USD 413, Maring said that there are differences and similarities.
“Kids are kids are kids,” she said. “Teacher pedagogy and knowledge of teaching is no different here than it is in Olathe. We had great teachers in Olathe and we have great teachers here.”
A major difference for Maring is the amount of time it takes to implement change in the district.
“A larger district has a lot of layers of directors, coordinators, and building support,” she said. “In a smaller district, you take a lot of those layers out of the picture, and you can get things done much quicker.”
Maring said that like in any job, she has been learning the culture of the district, with its different processes and programs.
“Right now, my number one goal is to come in and listen,” she said. “Chanute has some fantastic programs and processes in place. I’m not coming in to change something that is already fabulous. My goal is always what’s best for students and what we can improve and enhance.”
The decision to apply for the position did not come easily for Maring. Not having daily interaction with the students really gave her pause.
“I had to do a lot of soul searching about if this was really what I wanted to do; the kids keep you young,” she said. “In my career, I have never been one to dread going to work – I got to go to school.”
She researched the district, consulted her mentors, and spent a lot of time in prayer and worry before applying for the position. Another benefit of coming home was the chance to be closer to her two daughters and six grandchildren in Chanute.
“Family is the ultimate to me,” she said.
Maring loves a challenge. She believes that her new role will allow her to thrive, citing a major goal and challenge to be a nationally-known school district.
“I want to be a model school district for everyone else,” she said.
There are a lot of components to reaching that goal, but Maring believes it is achievable through collaboration in the educational community and working with science to ensure every practice in the district is the best for all students.
“We have to take all the kids to the next level, not just some,” she said.
“All means all. I’m not talking about some kids. We want all kids to have a chance to be successful at the post-secondary level, whether that is college, or a career or technical school.”
She believes that individual plans of study for students throughout their education will be a key component in that readiness. Expanding upon last year’s career cruising software, the district will be implementing a new software program called Xello that assesses students and offers them career and college profiles as well as skill-building lessons and planning tools.
“We want kids thinking about their future,” she said. “We want kids to have that spark and dream that they can do whatever it is they desire after school and be prepared to do it.”