By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — Fairborn students headed back to school Wednesday, but it was not Mark North’s first rodeo — just his first as the superintendent of Fairborn City Schools.
And he doesn’t see it being his last, either.
“I’m excited about working with the staff, getting to know the kids, becoming familiar with, and building relationships with, families and our businesses and the various groups that make up Fairborn, and becoming a part of the community,” North said.
Thirty years of his life have been dedicated to education; 20 of which as a superintendent, most recently serving for more than 10 years as the leader of Lebanon City Schools. But before that, he was a student at the University of Akron, where he earned his license to teach K-12 special education and 7-12 health classes. Initially, he intended to graduate and be a science teacher. However, he feels that he was called to serve elsewhere.
As he worked toward his degree, he worked at the county jail as a paramedic. When school was not in session during the summer season, he served as a firefighter. And at one point, he took a job that called him to work with economically disadvantaged and special-needs youth, in which he would teach them job skills. It was a turning point for him.
“I remember one summer, we spent at the fairgrounds and did a lot of repairing stalls and barns, building fences, things like that. Part of the day, we also worked with the kids in the program on how to write a resume and fill out applications,” North said. ” … After that summer, working with students — many socioeconomically disadvantaged, special needs or both — I thought ‘this is where I can really help and make a difference.’ So when I went back to college, I changed my major from science to special needs.”
Fast forward to his interview as a candidate to serve as the superintendent of Lebanon City Schools — North didn’t see himself staying in that position forever. Instead, he said he would leave the district in better shape than how he found it. Ten and a half years later, he felt that he fulfilled that promise and that it was time to listen and move to the next spot where he was called.
“When the opportunity to apply for this job came up, I felt that it was a calling. God told me ‘this is where you need to be and this is where you need to serve,’” he said, as he started to smile. “There’s been a couple times in my life where I’ve listened.”
And so far, so good. The Norths moved to the community earlier in the summer season, and he said Fairborn has treated them well. His daughters, a seventh grader and sophomore, have become involved with sports and extracurricular activities, while he and his wife have come to recognize a sense of community. While watching his girls practice for upcoming sporting events, North said he saw smiles on their faces that were brighter than before.
“We love it here,” North said. “My wife and I have talked and we both feel that it’s the right fit for us as a family.”
He appreciates the community pride — the small businesses and involvement he observes from city officials.
“Everyone is a very important member to an important team,” North said. “Staff members, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, aides, business owners, private citizens, our students, everyone’s an important member to this important team and this important team is Fairborn City Schools.”