By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School held a rally at the high school Thursday evening. The group also marched to the home of Ald. Will Burns (4th) in protest of his response to their plan for the school.
In 2012, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) voted to phase out Dyett, 555 E. 51st St., in 2015. The coalition, which is made up of seven organizations from across the city, includes educators, parents and community organization activists and has been petitioning to keep the school open by transforming it into a “Global Leadership and Green Technology,” open enrollment neighborhood high school.
The group of protestors marched outside of the home of Burns on 48th Street near Ingleside Avenue yelling chants and wearing stickers that said “ignored,” “betrayed” and “excluded.”
Shannon Bennett, deputy director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), said Burns gave the group a stern answer of “no” when coalition member Joy Clendenning asked him if he would support their plan.
“He told us that [Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School] and [Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences] were too similar to our plan — but they are selective enrollment schools,” Bennett said.
Bennett also spoke about how far away Chicago Vocational Career Academy High School, 2100 E. 87th St., and Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St., are from Dyett.
Burns released a letter last Tuesday stating where he stands on the Dyett issue: “Like the coalition, I support keeping Dyett open,” Burns stated in the letter, reprinted on page 4 of this issue. “Dyett must be an open enrollment, high quality, neighborhood public high school.”
In the letter Burns went on to say that “The coalition has asked me to endorse their specific plan for Dyett. While there are elements of the plan that reflect the values of a high performing high school, the Coalition, to date, has not engaged a wide range of Bronzeville stakeholders like the Bronzeville Community Action Council.”
KOCO’s Education Organizer Jitu Brown said Burns’ claims that the coalition does not have community support are false.
“His retort is ridiculous,” Brown said. “CACs are not an official vetting governing body. They are an entity of CPS in the neighborhood.”
Brown said the coalition has hosted two town hall meetings where it gained 400 members and have a petition of 800 signatures that it collected from parents at Burke, Reavis, Mollison and Fuller elementary schools. The coalition also presented its plan to the nearby Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council.
“We have engaged over 2,000 people. What has the alderman done,” Brown said. “We are doing his job.”
Brown said the group presented their plans to the Bronzeville CAC two years ago and the CAC didn’t give its support.
The coalition presented its updated plan to the Bronzeville CAC at its June meeting and the CAC plans to look it over and discuss it at its July meeting, according to James Patrick, vice chairman of the Bronzeville CAC.
The CAC was excited to see some of the members of KOCO at its June meeting and said that the organization, which distanced itself from the CAC several years ago, were welcome to return at anytime.
James said the CAC has its own proposal for the schools in Bronzeville, including Dyett.
“The Bronzeville CAC has always been against school closings,” James said. “We want the best education for all of our children. What’s being done now is criminal.”
James said, “Dyett is only cannon fodder for a much bigger issue.”
“This is the destruction of Chicago Public Schools and the rise of Chicago Private Charter Schools,” James said. “That’s what the biggest fight is and Dyett is one of the casualties.”
James said, “Our objective is to get the best education for all of the children in Bronzeville.”