By DASCHEL M. PHILLIPS
Hyde Park parents whose children attend The Children’s House of Miss Tammie (CHOMT), a Montessori School located inside the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) have started a letter writing campaign to keep the school from being moved out of the building. The school’s director was aware that her stay at the HPNC might be short-lived, according to the HPNC’s board president.
For the past six years CHOMT, a day school and after-school program that serves 2 to 6 year olds, has occupied one room that is about 500 sq. ft. in size at the HPNC, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave. Tammie Crutcher, the founder of CHOMT, said the board recently informed her that her program no longer suited the goals of the HPNC and she has until June 30 to leave the building.
Once parents were notified about the upcoming move, they began a letter writing campaign to keep the school at the HPNC.
“I am very distressed by the board’s decision to force Miss Tammie and Children’s House out of the building,” said Marjorie Marshall, in her letter to the HPNC board (see letters on page 4).
She said that her son Myles, who has attended CHOMT since 2010, has grown so much since he began in the program.
Marshall said CHMT is more than a day care: It is a place of learning.
“Miss Tammie’s school also fills the need for an autism curriculum, after-school education for sign language, and after-school care for kids who come to her from the neighboring schools,” Marshall said. “It is a source of affordable schooling for Hyde Park parents. Wherever Miss Tammie’s school re-locates, her students and their families will follow.”
CHOMT parent Erica Allen said she does not understand why a school that occupies such a small space but does so much has not been embraced by the HPNC.
“Miss Tammie welcomed my son into her school when he was at a very vulnerable place in his development,” Allen said, in her letter to the HPNC board. “His transformation, creativity and ability to articulate and interact with the world around him have been shaped by this very special school/alternative daycare.”
Allen said if the HPNC board members would have spoken to parents of CHOMT they would know the value of the program and “she would be signing a long-term lease with additional space to expand at HPNC.”
Margaret Guillory, who has twin daughter’s with autism, said her daughters have made great strides in communication and social awareness over the past seven months at CHOMT.
“Miss Tammie’s patience, experience and tireless dedication to reaching and engaging our girls has been truly inspiring and energizing for us as a family,” Guillory said, in her letter to the HPNC board.
Guillory said while the HPNC has the right to discontinue the school in its building, “in a political climate in which an unprecedented number of public schools are in jeopardy of being closed, it is sad to see our neighborhood club limiting educational opportunities rather than encouraging the diversity that is so essential to the development of all of our children.”
Crutcher said she was surprised to learn that the room would be given to Peg Dunne Pavelec, founder of the Little Inspirations program and a woman Crutcher said she helped get space at HPNC.
Little Inspirations is a program that offers daytime and after-school programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
“Peg was running her program out of her home then at St. Paul and The Redeemer Church and said she wanted her program to be located [at HPNC],” Crutcher said. “I told her that I could introduce her to Jennifer Bosch.”
Crutcher said that Dunne Pavelec told her last year that she wanted her space and that the board will be talking to her soon.
“The board president told me that they had a goal for this room and ‘you are not a part of the goal,’” Crutcher said.
She said she was told that the price had gone up on renting the room but she was not given the opportunity to make an offer.
“I was told that the rental price had gone up, but they wouldn’t tell me how much,” Crutcher said. “If they wanted to raise the rent they should have just told me. It has risen before from $670 to $850 then $870.”
Bethany Pickens, president of the HPNC board of directors, said the space where CHOMT now resides has not been leased to anyone and that Crutcher knew that changes at the organization could happen at any time.
“Two years ago, Miss Tammie and HPNC agreed to a month-to-month lease to give both parties greater flexibility for future growth,” Pickens said. “We took into consideration many factors as a business and made the decision that is based on our growth strategy as an organization.”
Crutcher said she declined an offer from HPNC to take a smaller room that she believed would be uninhabitable for her students because it had exposed piping and was in need of lots of repair that she was told she’d have to do at her own expense.
She is now looking for a new place in Hyde Park that has space for her program. She said she is pursuing space at K.A.M. Isaiah Israel, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd; The United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St. and the space that once house Little Inspirations at St. Paul and The Redeemer Church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave.
Crutcher said that the most difficult part of the move for her and her four-person staff will be helping her students adjust to a new space during the summer program.
“They need special attention all the time because they do not understand their surroundings and that is a major part of understanding,” Crutcher said. “In a Montessori environment children need to have a sense of belonging because everything is for them.”
Pickens said “historically, HPNC has responded to the changing needs of the community by facilitating appropriate programming and services.”
In 2011 the board made the decision to discontinue all of its programs for the elderly and return the organization, which was struggling financially, back to its to focus on day school for infants, toddlers and preschoolers and after-school programs for older children and teens.