Strength from Adversity
The transformation of Fernway from tragedy to triumph was not a simple process. The fire hit during a period of
transition. Mayor David Weiss was early in his first term. The interim district superintendent at the time, Stephen
Wilkins, had been in his position for just 10 days, the fire arriving on his birthday and the day of his first school
board meeting. Only weeks earlier, Fernway parent Dana Howard had assumed the role as the school’s Parent
Teacher Organization president. Glasner, then the executive director of curriculum and instruction, was charged with
relocating Fernway’s 315 students; he had been in his position for less than two weeks.
Dave Boyer, the director of operations, had been on the job six working days and had not had an opportunity to
even visit Fernway or meet Hayward and the school’s custodial crew.
Boyer, a tough Gulf War veteran with years of experience in the operations and management side of public
education, has seen a lot, including two fires when he worked for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school
district. The Fernway fire, he says, was another kettle of fish.
“The process was a real challenge,” he says. “In the end, we were able to save some money in some places and
put money where it benefited our students. We were on budget and on time. I was glad to be a part of it. Fernway
represents the kind of school we want all our students to have.”
After the fire struck, the District conducted a long search of alternate sites before deciding that it could better
integrate Fernway students into its existing schools. Fernway kindergartners attended Onaway Elementary School,
first-graders went to Boulevard Elementary School, and second- through fourth-graders were taught at Woodbury
Elementary School. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out the transportation puzzle, especially since the
majority of Fernway students walked to school.
The ad hoc enrollment plan worked. In fact, parents say their children were enriched by the experience of
meeting children from other schools, riding in a school bus, and eating in a lunchroom.
Hayward says the flexibility and tenacity of his staff, his students, and their parents – as well as the hospitality of
his fellow principals at Woodbury, Onaway, and Boulevard – made the two-years-in-limbo a success. “I can’t thank
them enough,” he says of the principals. “Our two years in those three schools have made us stronger.”
46 FALL 2020 | WWW.SHAKER.LIFE