The Arrowhead had the chance to interview Dr. Fineske, the new superintendent of the Ottawa Hills District. We made sure to ask some hard-hitting questions and address the student body’s concerns on gravely important topics such as air conditioning and the possibility of future snow days. The Arrowhead Staff hopes to provide students with a new perspective of the superintendent, not only through the interview, but through the additional visual aids found above.
Is air conditioning one of your priorities?
Dr. Fineske (DF): Yes, it is one of my top priorities for this building. I like to say it a little differently- the community is who we have to ask in order to get the funds to do it. So what I like to say is our Junior/Senior high needs to have better climate control, so we can provide the best 21st-century learning experience for our students. In order to do that, we have to have an environment that is comfortable and productive for learning.
Is this pitch working better than expected?
DF: So far so good! There will be a time where [air conditioning] will be in a future school levy, and in order to get that passed, I have to be able to prove to the community that air conditioning is necessary.
What are some of the biggest challenges that Ottawa Hills is facing right now (other than our egregious lack of air conditioning)?
DF: Other than air conditioning, it is making sure that we have a building that is up to date. I envision spaces that are open, innovative, and provide a learning environment that welcomes kids at all levels whether they need assistance, or want the opportunity to try some new ideas– a place where you could grab a cup of coffee and meet with your friends. Getting the district to think about these out of the box ideas is definitely a priority for me. Ottawa Hills is already extremely successful, but when you are at the top, it’s harder to get better.
Other than physically innovating, what are some ways we need to culturally innovate?
DF: What’s important is understanding each other and engaging in cultural competencies– meaning, realizing that we are a very diverse community. We have to make sure we are accepting of that as well as celebrating it and learning from each other. When students graduate from Ottawa Hills, they will end up in colleges that will all have these same diverse communities. Our job is to prepare you for that experience.
Mental health (and the lack of it), is a problem at Ottawa Hills. Other than promoting OH breathe, what plans does the school have to tackle the issue?
DF: I think we need to make sure students have access to counselors. We have two counselors right now, one of which is filling in for the vice principal position, and that’s it. I think building our counseling staff to better support students is one of the more important things we can do.
What brought you to apply for the superintendent job at Ottawa Hills?
DF: I heard about [the position at Ottawa Hills] and was intrigued by it. I knew they were looking for a leader that wanted to move the district higher as well as wanting someone who would be more of a collaborative leader. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on collaborative leadership and how that impacts an organization. I never thought I would leave Sylvania (Dr. Fineske previously worked as the superintendent of the Sylvania district), but when I came and had some conversations with a few of the Ottawa Hills board members, something told me that Ottawa Hills might be the next thing for me.
What is your why?
DF: Why I do what I do is because I absolutely love to make a difference in the lives of kids. When I was in third grade, I asked my mom if I could run a school in my basement. My mom and dad were both teachers, so I asked them for their extra stickers and worksheets, and set up a school in my basement. I invited all the neighborhood kids over, and we ran school. My school ended up going on four years in a row. That experience made me realize I loved every ounce of running a school. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I knew I wanted to help kids.
Favorite Ottawa Hills Tradition So far?
DF: The coolest thing I’ve seen so far is the senior breakfast. I just thought it was so cool to see everyone eat together, and then all walk into school for the first last time– so powerful.
How do you feel about snow days?
DF: I think they’re important. In Ottawa Hills, snow days work a bit differently than in other districts. I do think there are still safety factors to look at, and if necessary, I’m not afraid to call one. But I will do it selectively.
Ohio State or Michigan?
DF: Absolutely Michigan. Go blue!
Describe Ottawa Hills in one sentence
DF: An all-in community wrapped around the school district that is a leader in the state of Ohio in all things they do.
Best restaurant in town?
DF: The sundown Cantina, out on Centennial road.
DF: Fall. I love cool temperatures, and going to football games. I love wearing a hoodie sweatshirt and shorts– it’s like the most comfortable outfit in the world during fall.
DF: Halloween. I’ve always loved picking out my costume every year, and now with my kids every year, we always talk about what we’re going to wear.
There are two types of people in the world…
DF: Those who love and those who hate. Meaning, I think you look for the good in people and how you can truly love and appreciate something, or you look for the negative, and immediately just hate something before you get to know it.