Copley-Fairlawn School Board members concede it will be a challenge transitioning from the loss of Julie Schafer, who was considered among the board’s most-respected and outspoken members.
Schafer, sworn in as Akron Municipal Court judge on Dec. 31, resigned from the board Jan 16. Newcomer Paul Cevasco was appointed to replace her at a special meeting Jan. 18.
Board officials said this is going to be an interesting change of pace. Many admired her willingness to get to the heart of an issue. Board President Sue Emich said Schafer was often the one who kept in touch with state and local officials.
“She really kept the rest of the board informed on the cutting trends in education,” Emich said.
To Emich, Schafer was also a role model. When Emich joined the board nine years ago she said it was Schafer who showed her the ropes.
“Julie really took me under her wing,” Emich said. “She taught me what it was like to be a board member.”
Emich said Schafer taught her two critical lessons: always think of the kids and keep an eye on the money.
Board member Kenneth Calderone said Schafer had another skill set that set her apart from the other members—her work with children’s issues.
“Much of her practice involved, adoption, foster parenting, and custody matters,” said Calderone, who is also a lawyer. “Not only was she a natural maternal parent and had practical experience with kids, she also had a legal background of working with children."
While the board prides itself on working as a team, Emich said Schafer added an element to the board that isn’t easily replaced. With her departure, the board will have to find new tactics to handle Schafer’s responsibilities.
“The rest of us really have to step up to the plate and take over,” Emich said.
Schafer won a place on the bench after winning the November election. Before that she spent 14 years on the Copley-Fairlawn Board of Education.
According to Emich, Schafer was an influential member of the board as well.
“She was very passionate about what she did and I think that bled over onto the rest of the board members.”
Schafer also has Calderone’s respect in the way she handled conflict.
The Copley-Fairlawn school district has not been without its challenges, including the controversial 2011 incident involving Kelley Williams-Bolar, who was convicted of falsifying records to have her children attend school within the district. In the same year, Michael E. Hance killed two Copley students during a shooting spree.
“When rough times come you need people with strong character,” Calderone said. “Without question Julie was definitely one, if not, the key person on the board that helped keep the community confident in the school district.”
Gaining the community’s trust now lies on the shoulders of Cevasco, who is finishing up Schafer’s term, which ends December 2015.
Out of all the applicants for the position the board agreed he met the requirements they were looking for. Cevasco, who has lived in Copley for 21 years, was the perfect candidate.
“He’s an excellent fit with the rest of us,” said Calderone. “And we think he can step in and do the job without any learning curve at all.”
Calderone said Cevasco’s experience and a steady relationship with the district gave him an advantage.
“The thing that distinguished Paul was that he has worked in the school system,” Calderone said. “He has even worked as a consultant to other school systems.”