BEACHWOOD, Ohio — One by one, dozens of parents, students and former theatre students made their way into Beachwood’s City Council meeting Monday evening. They were singing and holding signs that said ‘Save our summer,’ ‘Bring Back Jill,’ and ‘Don’t Cancel Summer.’
They were marching to show their disdain against the city’s decision to cancel Beachwood Theatre Camp, a summer camp that would’ve begun in June.
“The community is upset at how this happened,” said Beachwood mom, Lindsay Walker. “It was really shocking that in the middle of April we just got an email, it was a really harsh, brash communication that just said camp is canceled.”
She said not only are the 53 families who were enrolled heartbroken but past and present families are upset over the city’s firing of longtime director and founder of the camp, Jill Koslin-Freireich.
“What I would love to see the city do, is to reinstate camp and her as a director,” she said. “Whatever the personnel issues are, that’s understandable, but this could’ve been handled in such a better different way. They should’ve done it after camp was done this season.”
The Beachwood community services director, Derek Schroeder, spoke to parents before the public comment portion of the meeting. He said, in part, that he would never cut funds for the arts and he has been a fierce supporter of the arts.
He said the decision had to be made because there weren’t enough counselors who applied for the camp, there was not the proper paperwork filled out on time, and when it comes to Koslin-Freireich, it was a personnel issue that cannot be discussed publicly.
“Decisions that I have made is to maintain a more cohesive team,” he told parents. “We only had three camp counselors fill out an application and were hired.”
He said paperwork may seem small to some people, but it’s an important step when it comes to safely work with children.
“In my world, in the legal world, paperwork is important. Applications are essential. It’s how we conduct business, especially when children are involved and background checks and drug screens must be performed.”
But parents said the cancellation was far too last minute.
“When there are red flags and there are things the community needs to understand, we would’ve liked to know about it beforehand because the alternatives being offered now such as the sports camp and Bison camp are not viable alternatives,” said one parent to council members. “They do not offer the before and aftercare that working parents rely so much on.”
A freshman at Beachwood High School also spoke to city leaders Monday night.
“I have always felt that Beachwood never offered enough creative outlets for the students,” she said. “This camp is my second home and the people associated with this camp are my second family. I am distraught that this was taken away from me, from the campers, from the fellow master students, from the counselors and from Jill”
Another former Beachwood Theatre Camp student said the camp should be reinstated because in the end, it’s hurting the kids.
“You are taking that away from children. The ability to get up there and have a moment to themselves, to feel important and to shine when so much has been taken away from them these past two years,” she said.
Ultimately, the city stood by its decision.
Jill Konslin-Freireich did not attend Monday’s meeting but told News 5 in a statement:
“This is true all about the students and their families. I feel terrible the way that this was handled and how they were let down. I am hoping Beachwood Theatre camp can resume as planned for these 53 families and all differences can be put aside. The show must go on.”