Hawken School is thrilled to announce its expansion westward into Cleveland in a 2-phase process, with Phase I representing a merger with Birchwood School and Phase II focusing on the development of an early childhood center in Gordon Square. Bringing both Birchwood and Gordon Square into the Hawken family helps us achieve some of our most important long term goals including supporting our business model, positioning us to withstand demographic changes and shifts in market demand, introducing Hawken to new communities and making a Hawken education accessible to a broader population.

Introducing Birchwood School of Hawken

After over a year of careful consideration and analysis, the Board of Trustees of both Hawken School and Birchwood School have agreed to merge our two institutions. Birchwood founders Chuck and Helene Debelak will continue to run Birchwood, an exceptional preschool through grade 8 coeducational, independent school that has served families on Cleveland's near west side since 1984.
Birchwood is combining all assets, liabilities and contracts with Hawken. We will become a single entity, with Birchwood operating as a distinct division; its administration, faculty, staff, programming and tuition structure will remain unchanged. The school will be named Birchwood School of Hawken, and Birchwood families will become members of the Hawken community.
Hawken and Birchwood share deeply aligned missions that focus on the development of both character and intellect. Both schools are forward- focused, have similar visions for the future of education, and are committed to Cleveland. The merger of these two great schools strengthens the future of both institutions without changing the Hawken our alumni know and without changing the Hawken experience our current students enjoy on both our Lyndhurst and Gates Mills campuses.
Birchwood has a richly diverse student body and a reputation for producing some of the most accomplished students in Northeast Ohio. Over the years, many have gone on to attend Hawken.

Through this merger, all Birchwood students will now be automatically accepted to Hawken's Upper School, just as our Lyndhurst students are. Birchwood and Lyndhurst intentionally prepare students for their Hawken Upper School experience, where our focus seamlessly shifts to preparation for college and the real world. We could not be more excited to welcome Birchwood students to the Hawken community.
In addition to the merger with Birchwood, Hawken also intends to open an early childhood center in Gordon Square. Read more:

Click to read the official press release:

New Birchwood Logo (Click below to visit Birchwood website.)

Official Merger Signing

Photos of Birchwood School

Birchwood Q&A

The Rationale

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

  • Why is Hawken doing this?

    This intellectual and business partnership is intentionally designed to increase access to a Hawken education to a broader community. Hawken believes that merging with Birchwood School will strengthen its impact and outreach in Northeast Ohio by opening new markets on the west side of Cleveland and diversifying educational models and tuitions under a unified mission. The addition of Birchwood School also positions Hawken to withstand demographic changes and shifts in market demand for independent schools.
  • Why is Birchwood doing this?

    Birchwood’s leadership team wants the school’s distinctive mission and educational model to continue beyond its founders’ tenure in order to provide a high quality education and character training for children and their families far into the future. This arrangement connects Birchwood to a like-minded school on the east side of Cleveland and provides a wonderful opportunity for both schools to create a partnership that will enhance the education of its students.  
  • Why is Birchwood doing this now?

    This merger provides the long-term financial security needed by schools of Birchwood’s size and longevity, supplying the short term resources that will strengthen school management through engagement with Hawken’s admissions and advancement teams. This partnership will enrich Birchwood’s academic and character development curriculum. 

The Merger

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • What are the implications of this financial arrangement?

    Hawken is not buying Birchwood; rather, Birchwood is transferring all assets, liabilities and contracts to Hawken. Even though it is now a division of Hawken School, Birchwood will continue to have a self-sustaining business model.  In other words, Birchwood’s tuition and philanthropy will continue to support Birchwood’s business model and offerings just as Hawken’s tuition and philanthropy will continue to support Hawken’s. Each school’s budget will remain separate and distinct. 
  • When does this merger commence? 

    The merger will be in effect immediately upon the signing of documents October 10th, 2016.
  • What are the organizational changes?

    Birchwood School’s Board of Trustees and Hawken’s Board of Trustees have signed legal documents establishing the merger of our two schools.  Birchwood School will be known as Birchwood School of Hawken. Birchwood will be represented on Hawken’s Board of Trustees, contributing a respected voice in governance moving forward. 
  • Does Birchwood still need to fundraise? 

    Yes. Because the intention of this merger is to keep Birchwood a self-sufficient financial model, fundraising will continue to be an important effort. All funds that are designated for Birchwood will stay at Birchwood. All funds that are designated for Hawken will stay at Hawken.

Tuition and Fees

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

Mission Alignment

List of 1 frequently asked questions.

  • Are Birchwood and Hawken’s missions and philosophies aligned?

    On an ideological level, this merger makes sense because of the two schools’ philosophical alignment and common fundamental beliefs and practices.Both schools are deeply committed to forward-focused education grounded in the development of both character and intellect, share a common commitment to Cleveland and have similar views on the future of education in this country. We see this merger as an opportunity to learn from each other and advance the quality of education at both schools.

Educational Commitment

List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • What impact will this merger have on my child?

    While the merger aims to bring more eighth grade graduates of Birchwood to Hawken’s Upper School, it will not affect the day-to-day experience or education of any Birchwood or Hawken student.
  • How does this benefit current Birchwood students?

    This arrangement provides the financial, structural, and administrative stability that Birchwood students and families deserve while also preserving the school’s distinctive and successful education program. Birchwood graduates now have automatic admission into Hawken’s Gates Mills Upper School campus and access to the Gries Center in University Circle. As an added benefit, Birchwood School will be a pick-up and drop off hub for west side families. 
  • How does this merger benefit Hawken students?

    While all Hawken students obviously benefit from a fully enrolled and funded school, they also benefit from the diverse perspectives, backgrounds and talents that Birchwood students will bring to the Hawken community.
  • How will this merger affect the preschool through grade 8 curriculum and teachers?

    The curriculum in both schools will continue to be delivered as it has been prior to the merger. The merger will not have any effect on teacher assignments. However, it is our hope that over time, our joint intellectual assets will ensure that both institutions will emerge strong and better through the sharing of best practices, approaches and methodologies.  
  • How will the merger affect enrollment and admissions?

    Birchwood’s enrollment has increased in each of its 30 years. With this merger, the plan is to continue growing enrollment from its current 211 students to a projected 260 students over the next few years. All Birchwood students will automatically be accepted into the Hawken Upper School without having to go through an application process. The addition of Stirn Hall to Hawken’s Gates Mills campus expands the capacity of its Upper School, enabling Hawken to take on additional students coming from the Birchwood campus as well as from other feeder schools. Although both Hawken and Birchwood expect enrollment growth, each school is committed to preserving its low student-teacher ratio.
  • Why is Birchwood School keeping its name?

    Birchwood has served the west side of Cleveland extremely well. By retaining the name Birchwood School, Hawken validates its own commitment to securing Birchwood’s future and sustaining the Birchwood School educational model. The goal is to continue Birchwood’s 30-year track record of exceptional education while also growing enrollment. The new Birchwood can be summarized this way: Same School: just better and stronger.

Location/Names of School

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

Hawken School | Lower & Middle Schools, 5000 Clubside Rd, Lyndhurst, OH 44124
Upper School, PO Box 8002 (12465 County Line Rd), Gates Mills, OH 44040
Gries Center, 10823 Magnolia Dr, Cleveland, OH 44106