History of the Churchill School and Center

History of the Churchill School and Center

The Churchill School grew out of a bond between Arnold Schickler and Harry S. Valentine III, who, frustrated by the lack of interest paid to intellectual disabilities by the medical community as well as society at large, founded a number of institutes and organizations that ultimately led to the creation of the Churchill School in 1972. Valentine was visionary in this regard; it was his foresight to couple new educational theories with previously effective strategies that laid the groundwork for what would become the Churchill School’s mission and educational philosophy.

Churchill’s philosophy focused on four interdisciplinary levels - intellectual, physical, emotional, and social - to address the needs of each child. The approach, innovative at the time, eschewed the widespread medical model when working with students with learning disabilities in favor of a holistic approach.

Churchill opened in the fall of 1972 with 9 students, the first learning disabled children to attend a school with a medical director, psychologist, sensory motor specialist, speech therapist, physical therapist, optometrist, dietician, nutritionist, head teachers, interns, and volunteers to address the students’ special needs.

In 1973 two events took place that would shape the trajectory of Churchill: the school moved into a brownstone at 22 East 95th Street, which allowed the school to grow from 9 to 60 students within 3 short years. The other event was the hiring of Kristy Baxter who, over the course of her 35 years of service to the Churchill School, would serve as an intern, head teacher, Assistant Director, Director of the Admissions, Middle School Principal, and Head of School. Without her leadership and care, the Churchill School would be a far different place.

Continuing its mission to serve the greater community, Churchill added the Center for Learning Disabilities in 1980 and expanded to two brownstones in 1986. Baxter oversaw the first middle school graduating class in 1989, the addition of the High School in 2000 as well as Churchill’s move from the overcrowded brownstones to its current home at 301 East 29th Street. The first High School graduation ceremony was proudly celebrated in June of 2004.

After Baxter’s retirement in 2008, Dr. Robert Siebert became head of school. Under his leadership the school further solidified itself as a leader in educating students with learning disabilities, taking the school to its next level.  

In 2015 Dr. Siebert retired and was replaced by Dr. Tim Madigan, who continues to lead the school and community today.