Montefiore to protest sabotage of special education at March 25 Chicago Board of Education meeting

Members of the Montefiore School community are planning to speak out at tomorrow’s Board of Education meeting against proposed staff cuts. Principal Dr. Mary Ann Pollett, teachers, LSC members , former students and community supporters plan to question why the Office of Specialized Services (OSS) has stopped referring students to Montefiore despite their proven success in 80 years of addressing the needs of students with severe and profound behavior and emotional needs.

Montefiore school, at 1300 S. Ashland in Chicago, has been taking on some of the most challenging students in the city for 80 years, as the red banner hanging from the front of the school proudly proclaims. But despite a tradition that most educators praise, Montefiore is finding the most serious challenge it has ever faced is coming from the conservative ideologues who currently sit on the Chicago Board of Education and staff key positions in the Board of Education's "Office of Specialized Services" (OSS, which runs special education). The program of the current seven-members of the Chicago Board of Education (all appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley) calls for the continued privatization of special education services. For more than six years, this privatization has come at the expense of public school students who need quality public special education the most, like the students at Montefiore. Since Arne Duncan became "Chief Executive Officer" of the Chicago Public Schools in 2001, CPS has destroyed public special education programs for the city's poorest children at an increasing rate, beginning with the closing of Spalding school (now privatized in an expensively rehabilitated CPS facility) and continuing to this school year. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. They want to educate CPS Board members about the services Montefiore provides and show them how these services are related to the Corey H. Settlement.

Pollett says that Board members are “ill-informed” about special education and the Corey H. Settlement. According to Pollett, board member Norman Bobins stated at a past Board meeting that he thought the settlement meant that day schools had to be closed. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law upon which the Corey H. Settlement is based, states that students must be educated in their Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Therapeutic day schools are considered the LRE for many children suffering with behavioral and emotional disturbances.

Rev. Robin Hood (above, center) has said that he will speak against the privatization of special education services under the "Renaissance 2010" program. Hood is now a member of the Local School Council at the Montefiore school, which is being sabotaged (along with Las Casas and other schools for students with special emotional and behavioral needs) by CPS's refusal to allow more severely handicapped students to be placed there. The above photo was taken on March 30, 2007, two years ago. At the time, Rev. Hood and Jitu Brown (above right) of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) had been barred from a press conference being held by Arne Duncan. At the press conference, Duncan announced the "success" of the Sherman "School of Excellence" and the work of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Hood and Brown arrived for the press conference only to be told by CPS officials that only "credentialed members of the press" were allowed into the room where the event was held (just beyond the door beneath the "Fire Escape" sign in the background. Board of Education security officials barred Hood and Brown from Duncan's event, while Duncan asked his deputy chief of staff David Pickens (above left) to talk to the two community leaders. Substance archive photo by George N. Schmidt. Reverend Robin Hood, the Executive Director of Clergy Committed to Community (as well as a community representative on Montefiore’s LSC) plans to speak tomorrow because he wants to tell the Board of Education that “it is immoral to have children funded by tax payer’s money be denied services for special needs schools while at the same time CPS spends money on private therapeutic schools.”

According to Board of Education reports dated April 23, 2008 and June 25, 2008, CPS has contracts to spend over $69 million dollars through OSS to private service providers for special education services over the next two years. Many argue that this money should be invested into CPS’s own schools and programs instead of being outsourced to private entities.

Rev. Hood says, “the lack of education for high-risk children in our communities is directly linked to the violence in the communities.”

He calls Renaissance 2010 and the Board’s decisions to close, turn around, and phase out schools “the new slave trade.” Rev. Hood says that CPS should be expanding Montefiore’s services, rather than cutting them.

Apparently, Mayor Richard Daley agrees. He was overheard at a breakfast with members of the clergy on May 21st commenting on how successful Montefiore is and how more children with behavior issues should be placed at Montefiore. 


March 25, 2009 at 8:49 AM

By: Marricat

Retired SPED teacher

It sounds like Montefiore is going to be phased out just as Spalding was. Prior to

Spalding being closed, our feeder school stopped sending fourth graders to us so getting new students became more difficult. In addition, Specialized Services was sending less students. It will be a same because schools like Montefiore are needed by the students. If these students end up back at their home schools, it will impact the education of all students because classes will be disrupted. Teachers with 30 plus students in their classes can not give these students the attention that they need.

CPS has always misinterpreted what the Corey H. Judge was saying. In my discussions with him, he said that the full spectrum of services should continue but that students should be placed based upon individual need rather than category. I.E. Not every cognitively delayed students belongs in self-contained and not every LD students belongs in a mainstream setting. When questioned, he said that the full spectrum included specialized schools and private placement outside of CPS schools when an appropriate program could not be found. If Montefiore is closed, I think we will (and should) see more lawsuits due to inappropriate placements and it will cost CPS more money as students are tuitioned out as a result of these lawsuits.

May 24, 2009 at 11:04 PM

By: Suzanne Dunn

Back in the Attic

The principal at Prescott closed two sp ed classrooms. These children are being sent to the south and west sides. Out of sight, out of mind? What year is this? I can't believe this is happening in Chicago in the 21st century. The privatization of public education is becoming a fascist nightmare.

May 25, 2009 at 11:05 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Substance print edition, "Letters" deadline

The viciousness with which the Chicago Public Schools and the Daley administration have been forcing special education children back into the closet has not been limited to Prescott, nor to Erin Roche's regime.

In fact, it seems that one of the requirements to be a "New Leader" is that you attack special education in the real world of public schools so that it can be forcably privatized. Forced "choice" and all that.

We want to document more of that, even if the Corey H court and overpaid monitor ignore every ugly instance of forcing disabled children -- especially those with extreme disabilities -- all the way to the far back of the closet (or, as Suzanne Dunne says) "in the attic."

It's the policy of the Daley regime, aided and abetted by the federal courts, the scourge of privatization, and our neighbors in most of the Chicago media.

Here is a suggestion for at least getting some of the story in print and further on the Web.

Since a large number of people have been commenting about the Substance articles on Prescott, I hope that more than two people will also write letters to the editor so that we can publish them in our June 2009 print edition, due out next week (to be mailed June 3, 2009).

However, the requirements are a bit different.

Print letters (a) must be signed and (b) must come from our "regular readers" (i.e., paid subscribers).

Already we have one from a parent of a special education students who is being forced out of Prescott now that the Local School Council and Principal have reserved Prescott for the "elite" (whatever that means other than economically, which as every now knows is a dubious definition of "elite"). The policy of Michael Scott (school board president) and the "CEO" (first, Arne Duncan, now Ron Huberman) has been to force the privatization of special education services, then ignore the privations that result when the services degenerate (choice of words deliberate).

You might say Mr. Huberman wants disabled children forced back into the closet, so to speak, since he is slavishly following the same policies created by Duncan and Scott on Mayor Daley's orders six years ago, beginning with their attack on Spalding and LeMoyne and continuing, year after year, with the attacks on every special education program since.


If you are a Substance subscriber and can get a letter in by Friday, send it to

Csubstance @

May 25, 2009 at 11:46 AM

By: outsider looking in about spec. ed

AYP is on Erin's mind

Let's look at this situation from the "amazing" New Leader's perspective and you will understand why Erin Roche wants special ed out... He has already clearly stated that he wants to mandate that all of the 8th graders go to a oouple of selective enrollment schools. When we look at districts (both CPS and suburbs) one thing rings true...Where ever there is large numbers of special ed, many times this is the reason that schools don't make their AYP and are put on probation. If Erin can get rid of these programs from his school, the likelihood of him not making AYP because of special ed is less. If he wants his school to be "elite" push out the programs that will prevent from getting what he wants. After all, all but 2% of CPS's special ed students and their scores are included in a school's over all composite. I'm sure that this makes the special ed parents at Prescott extremely happy, not.

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