Montefiore School on Privatization Bulls Eye? As usual, Chicago promises not to privatize another special education program

On February 26, 2008 at Montefiore Special School, at a press conference a group of clergy and others warned that Montefiore School is facing imminent closure. Above Right. At the Board’s March 26 meeting, Chicago Board of Education’s “Chief Special Services Officer” Renee Grant Mitchell explains to parents from Montefiore Special School that CPS does not intend to privatize the school’s services, despite evidence from more than four years of the closing and cutbacks in special services in CPS. At every instance where a special education program was rumored to be cut, Schools CEO Arne Duncan and Grant Mitchell assured parents and staff that the school would not be closed, and within a year the school was closed. the list of programs includes LeMoyne, Spalding, and others. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.

“Closing this school will be a disaster because of the professionalism that Montefiore staff brings. CPS needs to rethink their position and bring more resources and teachers instead of gutting this school,” says Rev. Robin Hood, executive director of Clergy Committed to Community.

“The Office of Specialized Services of CPS controls the referral of students to our school. It has maintained 1,400 students this year in private schools, while sending only five students to us all year. They plan to fund six new private therapeutic schools while cutting teachers and staff at Montefiore. This would virtually destroy our program for critically at-risk youth,” says Dr. Mary Ann Pollett, Principal of Montefiore. “CPS should not use taxpayers money to fund private schools. That money should help the growth of our school. This is an outrage!” says Ms. Blanche Ivey, LSC president.

For more than five years, more and more teachers and principals have learned that when Arne Duncan tells a school he is not going to close it, it’s time for that school to get ready to fight back because Duncan’s word is worthless on the streets of Chicago. Four years ago, Duncan told LeMoyne school’s parents and teachers for the autism program that they wouldn’t be closed out. They went to the Board and were told by CPS (Board President Michael Scott; CEO Arne Duncan) that there were no plans to close InterAmerican Magnet School and put it into the LeMoyne building.

Three months later, the deal was done. A year later all of the LeMoyne special programs were dead. When Spalding Special School was closed, it was supposedly to allow for a complete rehab of the building, then a return of the programs that had served Chicago’s special children for nearly a century. After stalling for two years, Duncan is now privatizing Spalding. Duncan’s has been lying to schools (teachers and principals) far back as the Williams closing in 2002. Williams teachers told Substance that Arne Duncan (and Mayor Daley) had told them what a great job they were doing during a Daley visit to the school in October 2001. Less than a year later, in April 2002, they turned around, slandered everyone in the school (April 2002), and closed it down.

To document the sabotage as it’s taking place will be very important, since we’ve covered so many of these attacks on special services after the fact (LeMoyne; Blair; now Andersen) I’d like to get way out in front of at least one of these stories, with the greatest detail.

At the March 26 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education Arne Duncan responded to Montefiore’s questions by assuring the school that there were no plans to close it down, and that rumors to the contrary were not true. 


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