New superintendent overcomes adversity, seeks connection with community

Superintendent Jason Fine speaks with the Bexley Anti-Racism Project. (Photo by Alexandra Avoli)

At the beginning of each school year, the hallways overflow with new faces. New students and teachers alike are eagerly welcomed into the school community. This year, however, one new face in particular has been in the spotlight of Bexley Schools: Superintendent Jason Fine.

Fine, who was hired last spring, said that he grew up just outside of Dayton in a town called Tipp City. He lived there until he attended Ohio University, where he played football and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. He then returned to school to receive his master’s from Cambridge College and then his doctorate from Miami University in 2020.

He has lived in the Columbus area for the past 22 years, working as both a teacher and a principal in the Hilliard and Upper Arlington school districts. Fine said he currently resides in Upper Arlington with his wife and daughters: Mia, a freshman at Bexley, and Maddie, a senior at Upper Arlington. His family is currently looking to move into Bexley.

The process of securing the superintendent job consisted of three meetings in the spring with the Bexley Board of Education and spending an entire day, from 7:15 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., in the district to meet with students, staff members, families and key stakeholders within the community, Fine said.

“It was a great opportunity to meet a lot of the folks that I was going to be working with,” he said. “It was quite a process, but it’s one that I’m thankful to have gone through.”

Fine explained that he was drawn to the superintendent job because he wanted to be a part of something special.

“I wanted to join a district with a tradition of excellence,” he said. “I was impressed with the district’s work around diversity, equity and inclusion, and through my research I felt the district aligned with many of my core values.”

He explained that his primary goals are to continue to build upon his principles of inclusion by connecting with more community members and continuing to enhance the opportunities available for every student.

“I want to ensure that all students feel seen, heard, valued, loved and safe in Bexley City Schools,” he said.

The welcoming atmosphere of Bexley, Fine said, is unlike anything he has seen before.

“People have been incredibly understanding of my transition and have given me so much grace as we move through this journey, and I have been absolutely blown away by the kindness I have received,” he said.

He added that he has loved watching his daughter Mia join the Bexley community and be welcomed by students and staff members alike.

“The teachers have been incredibly loving and compassionate with her, and the student body has been unbelievable in terms of accepting her and reaching out to her when she is in need because it is not easy being new in any setting,” Fine said.

This community support is part of what makes Bexley so successful, Fine said. He explained that he likes to think of Bexley as being a triangle of success because of the students’ eagerness to learn and support each other, the strength and passion of the staff and the support of families and the community.

“It is rare to have a district that has such a positive trifecta as we have here at Bexley,” he said. “It is what makes us unique and it’s what excites me about being a part of this district.”

Despite the many strengths of Bexley, Fine explained that navigating the coronavirus and keeping the mental and physical health of the students and staff members at the forefront of what he does will be his biggest challenge in the near future.

However, Fine explained, he is no stranger to overcoming challenges.

When he was young, Fine was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder defined by involuntary movements or vocalizations. He said doctors told him he would never be able to go to college or play sports with his condition.

“I’ve taken what they said into everything I do,” he said. “I wanted to overcome it. I wanted to prove them wrong.”

Fine was certainly able to overcome, and he added that he even received administrator of the year honors at Upper Arlington, an honor he said he could have never achieved without the help of those around him.

“There were people that showed up throughout my life that showed up at just the right time for me,” he said. “They saw things in me that I didn’t see at the time. Things that I was ashamed of, they found the positives in and highlighted those for me so that I could see that those limitations were actually some of my strengths.”

He added that he wants to share this message of perseverance with everyone he comes into contact with.

“I try to instill the idea into my own girls and in everything that I do that no one else gets to determine your destiny but you,” he said.