Mason’s new superintendent is prepared to hit the ground running.
The Enquirer’s Michael D. Clark provided a closer look at Gail Kist-Kline, who replaces acclaimed superintendent Kevin Bright on Aug. 1. He left after 13 years as superintendent to become assistant superintendent at Lakewood Schools near Cleveland.
An avid runner and occasional marathoner, Kist-Kline’s on-the-move style is exactly what Mason school board members were looking for when they hired the former Wyoming Schools’ leader as their new superintendent.
In some ways it’s a high-orbit, lateral move for Kist-Kline among two of Southwest Ohio’s top academic districts.
But in scale, a larger challenge looms for the public school veteran.
She is switching from Wyoming Schools’ student enrollment of 2,000 for the 28-square-mile, still growing Mason school system of 11,000 students – and the largest high school campus of any Greater Cincinnati district.
She will also be the first female superintendent in Mason Schools’ history.
“It’s an exciting opportunity and I don’t have any concerns about it,” says the three-time participant in Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Marathon..
A quick glance at her resume reveals why.
Under her seven years of leadership at Wyoming, the district never earned any academic ranking less than the top category possible under Ohio’s annual grading system. Moreover, the district often finished among the top 10 among Ohio’s 613 in academic performance.
Recognized statewide, Kist-Kline was sought after by the Ohio Department of Education and Buckeye Association of School Administrator’s leadership council to help design state standards for measuring other superintendents.
“Gail Kist-Kline has a reputation among her colleagues of being an intelligent, articulate and inclusive yet decisive leader,” said Tom Ash, director of government relations for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.
“Her voice is reflected in the several policy initiatives we have undertaken over the last three years. Her contributions on the Women in Leadership Committee have been especially important to our organization as we continue our efforts to increase the number of females in leadership positions throughout the education community,” Ash said.
Sheryl Felner, president of the Wyoming Board of Education, praised Kist-Kline for her “innovative leadership” in working with staffers and others to bring changes that “transformed our district to meet the needs of 21st century learners.”
“She built upon our historically outstanding academic and financial results by strategically planned implementation of technology to support instruction, problem-based learning and leadership development. Additionally, we appreciated Dr. Kist-Kline’s strong focus on fiscal discipline while delivering outstanding educational results,” Felner said.
Kist-Kline is the daughter of a former school board member and got the teaching bug young, growing up in College Corner, just north of Oxford, home of Miami University. The proximity to that college continued as she earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees there before achieving her doctorate in educational leadership.
She went on to teach at Miami between stints as an assistant principal at Lakota Schools, a principal at Princeton Schools and principal at St. Joseph Consolidated School in Hamilton. Prior to her stint at Wyoming, she was the curriculum director at Princeton Schools.
Detail-oriented and comfortable using data of all sorts, she impressed Mason school board member Kevin Wise during interviews when she began to quiz Mason Schools Treasurer Richard Gardner, widely considered the dean of Southwest Ohio treasurers.
“When we introduced Gail to Dick Gardner, she actually interviewed him and her questions showed us she has a deep understanding of school finance,” Wise said.
Mason Board of Education President Debbie Delp said “she’s a proven local leader who understands the environment in which we work and she has a network of resources developed through her involvement and leadership of many state-wide initiatives.”
“She engages people in conversations that let them share their ideas and concerns; and listens closely for key messages that can be incorporated into district goals and action plans. Most of all, she embraces our focus on excellence. Student learning is foremost in the work Gail does … a priority that meshes perfectly with our goals for Mason Schools,” Delp said.
Kist-Kline describes her management style as “I lead leaders.”
And at the top of her “to do” list when she begins working Aug. 1 is “to listen and learn.”
“I definitely will spend a lot of time in the schools getting to know the people and residents in the community,” she said.
At a glance: Gail Kist-Kline
Family: Married to Keith Kline, principal of Lakota East High School. Kline was a recent finalist for the recently filled Lakota superintendent’s position. They live in Liberty Township in Butler County and have two grown children.
Hometown: College Corner, north of Oxford.
Education: Undergraduate, graduate and doctorate degrees from Miami University. A former faculty member at the school.
Previous job: Superintendent of Wyoming Schools in Hamilton County for seven years. That district, along with Mason Schools, is among the top 10 academic performers in Ohio.
Hobbies: Runner. She has participated in the Flying Pig Marathon three times.Kist-Kline and husband Keith Kline, Lakota East High School principal, have two daughters in college.
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