School faces budget crisis

May 20, 2009 (CHICAGO) The school for emotionally disturbed children faces a budget crisis.

Aldermen say they will continue to hold hearings and look into ways to provide Montefiore Special School with more resources.

The Southwest Side school is not on the hit list to close. But, Montefiore officials and the teachers union are convinced if Chicago Public Schools continue to cut programs and teachers, Montefiore will eventually shut down.

For 80 years, Montefiore Special School has been part of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system. It was designed to help troubled boys and those who have been diagnosed with severe emotional disabilities. Vincent Arizzi went to the school 3 years ago; he is bipolar and has attention deficit disorder.

"When I first came to this school I was bad and my anger and everything else was all up. I didn't get along with nobody. I just started to calm down," said Arizzi.

The school has served thousands of kids over the years, Montefiore principal fears the school is on track to shut down...Dr. Mary Ann Pollett says classrooms sit empty and shop equipment gathers dust because Chicago Public Schools has cut programs and teachers. During the past 14 years, 26 teachers have been cut.

"They are strangling us, giving us a little bit of arsenic at a time," said Dr. Pollett.

Dr. Pollett and others are hoping to keep Montefiore open.. They took their fight to city hall today where a hearing was held....aldermen were open to their cause...

"You cannot carry an infant nine months and do crack all day and not think that kid doesn't have issues because do. Now we have them in schools and it's causing a severe problem for not just the kids in the classrooms but all of us," said Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon, 24TH Ward.

The cuts at Montefiore are due to declining enrollment. Dr. Pollett and the Chicago Teachers Union said CPS has been placing troubled kids at private facilities rather than schools like Montefiore.

CPS officials say while they have no immediate plans to shut Montefiore, they are looking at all options to serve the Chicago's most troubled kids.

"These are students at risk and C.E.O. Huberman has made statements and commented on the fact that we need more schools and more environments for students at risk," said Monique Bond, CPS spokesperson.

Montefiore is also getting support from juvenile court judges. Several of Montefiore's students are kids who have been in and out of the juvenile justice system.

The city's education committee will hold another hearing on the issue in June.

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