Deirdre Cline is now in her sixth year as superintendent of Wyoming County Schools. She became the first female schools superintendent in the county in 2016.

Facing a global pandemic, deep personnel cuts early in her new position, along with other issues during those first five years has been anything but easy.

Cline, however, rolled up her sleeves, assembled a resourceful, hard-working team and maneuvered the unique challenges as well as the routine business.

She has diligently worked her way up through the ranks, beginning as a classroom teacher more than three decades ago. In the meantime, she’s worked as an assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent.

Her mother, Judith Dalton Bradford Morgan, was a teacher and her father, Gerald Ray Bradford, was killed in a car accident before Cline was a year old.

She has been married to Dennis Cline, a graduate of Baileysville High, for 29 years and they make their home in Clearfork. They have one son, Brandon.

A graduate of Oceana High School, Cline holds a bachelor’s degree in education (English and business) from Concord College (now Concord University) and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marshall University College of Graduate Studies.

The Wyoming County Report: You have faced some very serious challenges since you’ve become superintendent. What has been the most challenging?

The Covid pandemic has been the most challenging issue that we have faced as a school system. We have worked in a chronic, hyper state of planning and change going on two years.

The teamwork, which has always been a huge part of our school system, strengthened and carried us through these challenging and uncertain times. The dedication and determination that our employees showed during the remote instruction, feeding children, maintaining safe and clean environments, and helping children adapt to new protocols when we returned last January was amazing to watch!

We will continue to do whatever we can to help our children be safe and happy while they are learning.

The second most challenging issue of my time as superintendent was during the spring of my first year, when we had to terminate and transfer a large number of personnel.

This action was very necessary due to the budget situation that we faced and the amount of personnel that we were carrying beyond the state funding, which is based on our enrollment.

We had to make these cuts to personnel. This process was just horrible as a superintendent and much, much worse for the impacted employees; but, it was my duty and responsibility to the whole school system.

The grace and dignity of the employees, as we met with every single one who was impacted, was unbelievable. School people are the most gracious, understanding, and team-oriented folks imaginable. I’m happy to say that everyone who was terminated or transferred is now a part of our team again.

WCR: Do you see things easing up a bit in the near future?

I sure hope that Covid becomes a thing of the past or at least a situation, such as the flu, that is much more manageable. Our communities and our country have suffered too long with this sickness and the mitigations involved.

We remain hopeful that, with vaccinations and scientific advancements, things will get better.

Our children need to be in school and we need our children in our buildings.

One thing that our Covid experience has reinforced is that there is no replacement for a child’s experience within the school and the learning and relationships that come with the school family. There is no substitute for face-to-face learning.

WCR: In your own words, how did you get to where you are?

Every position that I’ve held as a school person has brought me growth and understanding. I was a classroom teacher for 15 years, a high school assistant principal for four years, a middle school principal for seven years, and an assistant superintendent for three years.

Each of these roles gave me perspective that helped me move forward.

Additionally, I have worked hard to do the very best I could throughout my career. Work ethic has always been important to me and I have invested my energy and time in each of my positions.

Although, I honestly never dreamed of becoming superintendent, I have always been goal- and plan-oriented. Most importantly, I really have always put what is best for the children I’ve worked with at the front of my work.

As a classroom teacher, I tried to give the students I taught the best skill sets and positive classroom environment that I knew to give them.

As a school-level administrator, I worked to create a school tone and climate that promoted happiness and learning among the students and staff.

As a central office administrator, I work to facilitate the school system so that employees have all needed resources and children are happy while they are learning.

I suppose hard work, with an eye always focused on children, is how I became superintendent.

WCR: Do you think it’s more difficult for a female to become a superintendent?

I think, historically, women have had to work extremely hard to attain leadership roles – in all regards. History shows us this fact. I have never allowed any stereotype or label to define me or my work.

Our board of education was and continues to be very progressive and they work together to put the needs of children first.

The board does not seem to care about gender. The board wants what is best for our system. I am just pleased that they saw me as having the skills and nature necessary to be superintendent.

WCR: What challenges do you see ahead for schools in general?

The social and emotional challenges for our children continue to grow. Many of our children face a myriad of challenges and some have faced trauma early in life.

School systems are a microcosm of the larger issues of society or our communities, so these issues naturally present in the schools.

School systems have to balance high quality instruction with high quality social and emotional support for students. I see this dynamic only increasing.

WCR: What do you think your role will be in these challenges?

My role in the balancing of quality instruction with quality support services for children is to facilitate whatever is needed. If there are strategies that help teachers improve the quality of instruction, we want to facilitate that knowledge base and practice for teachers.

If there are programs or methods of providing better quality social and emotional support for children, we want to facilitate the skills and time that will allow learning and practice of these methods.

Whatever we can do to help children learn and be happy AND to help teachers and staff be more efficient and effective, that is what we must do.

My role in this process is to build teams at the central office and the schools who are open and willing to do whatever it takes to have the best services in place as we work to educate children.

WCR: What do you believe are the attributes of a successful leader? How do you incorporate these attributes in your own job?

There is no perfect formula or method for successful leadership. Styles of leadership vary from leader to leader.

As superintendent, my style involves cultivating relationships, listening, transparency, and standing firm – no matter what – in my commitment to the children of Wyoming County.

Positive relationships are the cornerstone of our school system – among employees, with families, and, of course, with children.

People must feel invested, both personally and professionally, in their schools and children and families must know that they are cared about at the school.

I try to overtly facilitate and model successful relationships. As superintendent, I work to be accessible and an attentive listener. Remaining connected to all stakeholders of our school system is important to me and to our schools.

Transparency is vital in my role as superintendent. Remaining open and transparent builds a genuine sense of confidence with employees, families, and the public. I want to tell stakeholders the truth, even if it is not what they want to hear, regardless of outcome for myself. Citizens deserve transparency.

As I have had to make several decisions, especially about personnel, that I could not speak at all about or offer any understanding to the public, standing firm in my commitment to do what is right for children has sustained me, personally and professionally.

As the superintendent, I am steadfast in my charge to serve children, whether my decision is public or even publicly understood.

Often, as a person, I want to shout the realities of a situation to the top of my lungs, but I cannot do that. So, I hold my tongue and remain committed to the best interest of our children. This mission-oriented quality is challenging, but vital to my leadership style.

WCR: Anything you want to add?

The board of education and everyone within Wyoming County Schools is grateful for the consistent support we receive from our communities and families. Our school system is stronger because of the citizens of Wyoming County, and we will serve the needs of our children the very best we can.

Wyoming County is a very special place, where education has always been an important feature of our culture and our school system is more impactful because of this collective mindset. In Wyoming County, children matter!

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