Montessori School of Englewood shows how social-emotional support helps kids

MSOE Exterior Kelly Frazier-WawirePhotos:

1) After spending its first five years sharing space in other school buildings, Montessori School of Englewood settled into its own space at 6936 S. Honore last spring.

2) Kelly Frazier-Wawire is director of social and emotional support at the school.

Staff at Montessori School of Englewood knew they would do things differently when they decided to open one of the first public schools in the nation to offer free Montessori education in an underserved, high-needs community. One way they have differed from other schools is by providing wraparound social and emotional supports for students. 
Since the school opened in 2012, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis has been there to help: clinicians have provided individual psychotherapy on a weekly basis to more than a dozen of the school’s 300 children aged 6 to 12, located at 69th and Honore in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood. 
As a public charter school, Montessori School of Englewood receives public support as well as private support from foundations and individuals. Clinical services from partners such as the Institute are a key component of that support, school staff say.
“From the very start of the school, the psychosocial needs of the students have always been at the fore of our programming,” says Kelly Frazier-Wawire, LCSW, director of social and emotional support at the school. “It’s always been understood that this was going to have to be an essential integrated component of the school.”
Nearly all the 300 students at the Montessori School of Englewood are categorically considered “at-risk” due to poverty, exposure to familial or neighborhood trauma, and/or beginning school with inadequate school readiness. 
Trauma has touched many students as well as school staff who live in the area, Frazier-Wawire says. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is part of the school’s eclectic approach to helping children and the school community that also draws from cognitive behavioral therapy, restorative justice, and other influences. 
She and another social worker are at the school full time, with a third joining this fall. Their goal is to make the entire school trauma-aware. With clinical support from the Institute and other sources, the social and emotional support team can work with 50 children one-on-one plus students who are in groups. 
Frazier-Wawire helped develop that programming initially as an an Education Pioneers Fellow while completing her master’s degree at University of Chicago Social Service Administration School in the summer of 2012, before the school opened. She already knew of the Institute from a previous stint at Juvenile Protective Association, where both Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Director and faculty member Denia Barrett and her husband, Institute board and faculty member Tom Barrett, were consultants.
In addition to clinical support, Frazier-Wawire says, the Institute’s director of child services, Denia Barrett, has provided regular on-site consultation and support: “She has been a fantastic mentor. We process a lot when she comes in [and] we learn a lot from each other.” 
Five years in, Frazier-Wawire, who has been asked to present on her methods to other educators, says that others can take a lesson from Montessori School of Englewood’s way of doing things: “One of the things I love about the school is we want to do this really well here, and our primary focus is here -- but we also want people to know that we are doing something very unique and special and we want to share. It’s also about sharing and supporting kids [all] across Chicago.” 
Clinics, Englewood, children