Special ed leader to head new boundary-breaking school
Buffalo Grove resident Miriam Pike shows off a classroom in the new Wolcott School, located in Chicago. Pike is set to be the first head of school when it opens this fall. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 22, 2013 9:08AM
DEERFIELD — When building a new school from the ground up, one must have both students and teachers. The former leader of special education in Deerfield has the easy part under control (the building), and this winter has been searching for a staff to lead her classrooms... and teens to populate them.
Miriam Pike left her job as chair of special education at Deerfield High School to become the first head of school at the Wolcott School, a private academy that expects to open this fall in Chicago. Billing itself as “Chicago’s first college prep for students with learning disabilities,” Wolcott hopes to decode the messages of typical schools into the languages native to teens with dyslexia, ADHD and other challenges.
“When they’re in the right environment, they find that they can do what other kids can,” Pike said. “In other settings, they have to spend so much time relearning.
“In careers, we don’t go for the things that are the most difficult for us, we go for the things that are easiest for us,” she added. “They have superior to average intelligence, so their thinking skills are great, but they may struggle in one or possibly more of the areas of reading, math and writing.”
Wolcott’s doors, located at 524 N. Wolcott Ave., should open this fall to a student body of no more than 80 — 40 freshman and 40 sophomores, no upperclassmen. Pike will be the hostess of an open house from 2-4 p.m. March 10, for families of interested students; she said a variety of scholarships will be available to ensure diversity for the nascent community.
Several other accomplished educators are playing roles in Wolcott’s creation:
• Don Monroe, past superintendent of New Trier High School in Winnetka, is a trustee.
• Pearl Rieger, a member of the advisory council, is a co-founder of Skokie’s Rush Neurobehavioral Center.
Pike is also looking at applications for teaching positions.
“We’re looking for people who really have the expertise,” she said. “They’re going to come from all over the place.”
She said she had heard colleagues talking for years about the idea of a private school specialized for learning disabilities in Chicago.
“Last year, another professional contacted me and said ‘They’re really doing it,’” Pike recalled. “I found out about the position, and I applied. They had a national search, and it turned out that I was right here the whole time.”
She said she will be looking for ways to get the small student body involved with each other, and with other schools. Athletics and other extracurricular activities will have a role at Wolcott.
“Obviously, we’re a small school, so we can’t have all the things Stevenson has. But they have to be involved in at least one thing. Ofentimes, kids learn wonderful things in the extracurriculars.”
While doing the work that comes before even the beginning, Pike said she envisions the beginning of summer 2016 — when she should preside over Wolcott’s first graduation ceremony.
“I think about it every day, when I’m working like crazy, doing all the work that’s involved in starting up a school,” she said. “When they graduate, that’s going to be a big deal.”