Board taps Cooper to take over for retiring Kist-Kline

Nathalie Schickendantz | Staff Writer

The phrase ‘right man at the right time’ rang true at the monthly school board meeting as board members appointed a new superintendent.

After 30 years in public education Superintendent Dr. Gail Kist-Kline is retiring. For seven of those 30, Kist-Kline dedicated her time to the Mason community in hopes of encouraging student leadership. Kist-Kline said this push made finding a new superintendent in Chief Innovation Officer Jonathan Cooper possible.

“One of the things (for which) I’m most proud of us is growing leadership capacity among not just the adults but trying to grow leadership among our students as well as putting programs in place that will allow that,” Kist-Kline said. “I’m happy that we grew leadership capacity so that the next superintendent  was right here in our district.”

Reflecting on her tenure as superintendent, Kist-Kline said she can see the improvements she has helped bring to the district but views Cooper as the best person to continue to push Mason down the path of innovation.

“When you’re trying to move a district forward, you look at what you have accomplished, and you question are you the right person to continue that work or is there someone that might be ready to take it to the next level,” Kist-Kline said. “Personally, I feel like I’ve done what I can do to move Mason forward by bringing some innovative practices and some unique experiences for students. Now it’s time to pass that baton to the next person. ”

On December 14 at the monthly school board meeting, Cooper was officially tapped to take over the position of superintendent effective July of 2018. Cooper grew up in a family devoted to the education system, both of his parents being teachers. Cooper went on to become a teacher in the Centerville City Schools District and then a principal at Kettering. He was then hired by Kist-Kline as the Chief Innovation Officer for Mason City Schools.

School Board President Matthew Steele said choosing Cooper as the new superintendent was an easy decision. Cooper has been shadowing and performing under mentor Kist-Kline, helping him to develop into an even stronger leader. Steele said he and the remainder of the board believe Cooper has the qualities necessary to be a dedicated leader to a large district.

“There’s an energy that surrounds Jonathan wherever he goes, so I’m looking forward to that orbit of energy expanding across our district in a way that’s even deeper than it is in his role right now,” Steele said. “More importantly, I’m looking forward to him developing even deeper relationships here in the district and in the community sitting in the seat of superintendent because it’s clear that he’s a relationship person and that’s just going to take us to even bigger heights.”

Three years ago, Cooper filmed a segment predicting the growth Mason would see after more heavily incorporating technology into a student’s school experience. Having made noticeable strides towards this goal, Cooper has turned his eyes towards a new vision for the district, one that values diversity in the community.

“We’ve got that eco-system built; now we can focus on mindset,” Cooper said. “Looking forward, as of now, I’m really focused on diversity plus cultural intelligence and how that leads to innovation. I’m thinking of the diversity of thought, diversity of experiences, and cultures brought to make it better.”