By Kevin Kelley
Efforts by Hajni Fekete, the longtime director of the now closed Murton’s Child Development Center, to launch a new preschool may not have panned out. However, Fekete believes she is continuing the Murton’s tradition of quality child care at another Lorain Road preschool.
In October, Murton’s landlord sold its Fairview Park building, giving parents and instructors only three weeks notice. Many lamented the closure of the highly regarded preschool, which opened in 1956.
Many parents encouraged Fekete, who had worked at Murton’s for 27 years, to start her own preschool. Richard Read, a father of two boys who attended Murton’s, offered to join Fekete as an investor in a new preschool, and organized several meetings among interested parents to get a new business started. A property in Fairview Park was tentatively identified as the location for the new business.
However, banks that Read and Fekete met with were unwilling to loan the seed money that would be needed to open a new preschool. The banks, Read said, were either unwilling to lend or asked for too much in collateral.
“Despite Hajni having been a successful preschool director for so long, that really wasn’t enough for them,” Read said of the banks.
But the story doesn’t end there. When Murton’s closed suddenly back in October, Fekete, known to both parents and children as “Miss Hajni,” recommended a handful of nearby day care center in a letter to parents. One of those was Bee My Baby, located at 23789 Lorain Road in North Olmsted. Fekete had stopped in when the facility opened in December 2011 and met its owner, Michele Warner.
During Murton’s final days, Warner dropped in to thank Fekete for her recommendation. The two realized they shared a similar philosophy on preschool education.
The owner of a solo architecture firm, Warner specialized in designing educational facilities, including day care centers. But she was often disappointed, she said, when the centers did not turn out quite the way she envisioned them.
“I knew with every day care center I designed that I could make it feel more homey,” Warner told West Life.
So the Bay Village resident, who had enjoyed teaching Sunday school classes while in high school and college, decided to open her own preschool. On Jan. 4, 2012, Bee My Baby opened in a building that formerly housed a photography merchandise store.
About a year later, the director’s position at Bee My Baby became vacant, and Warner thought of Fekete and appointed her director Feb. 11. Warner had already hired two instructors who had taught at Murton’s.
Today, seven former Murton’s employees besides Fekete work at Bee My Baby, which counts 17 former Murton’s children among its students. Open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, Bee My Baby offers both day care and preschool programs to children 6 weeks to 12 years of age.
A native of Hungary, Fekete said her goal continues to be providing children the best care and educational opportunities possible.
“My philosophy has been always looking out for the children’s interest,” she said.
Among the initiatives Fekete is pursuing at Bee My Baby is implementation of the state’s Step Up to Quality program, a voluntary rating system for licensed child care programs. Fekete, who used the program at Murton’s, likes its emphasis on a creative curriculum and involvement of children and parents.
Child care centers that sign up for the Step Up to Quality are given a rating of one to three stars based on benchmarks such as early learning standards and specialized staff training. Warner said Bee My Baby will receive its first star much faster because of Fekete.
Because Bee My Baby opened a little more than a year ago, Warner said she welcomes the association with the Murton’s tradition brought by Fekete and the other former Murton’s teacher.
“We hope that our reputation is as good as Murton’s,” she said.
Read, whose youngest son attends Bee My Baby, said he thinks it is.
“We didn’t rebuild Murton’s, but in a way Bee My Baby is another Murton’s,” he told West Life. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s where Murton’s is.”