To the Editor:
In a recent news Gazette article “Newsbrief: Dyett High to reconfigure, remain open” dated January 1, 2015 Alderman Will Burns’ description of his leadership with regards to Dyett High School is inaccurate. We are writing this letter because it is dishonest for an elected official or agency to position themselves as leaders on an issue when they have not done the work. Members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett have had a consistent working relationship with Dyett High School since 2003, either as Local School Council members or implementing programs for the students at the school. Alderman Burns may be able to produce a memo, expressing concern about Dyett but the truth is, he did nothing before, or since the announced the phase-out of Dyett in 2012. Here are two questions that Alderman Burns cannot run from; “Did you engage students at Dyett High School who publicly raised issue about the conditions at their school, to the point that they had to file Title VI Civil Rights complaints about suffocating conditions at the school?” “Did you meet with the Local School Council at any point since 2012?” The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “No.”
The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett went to meet with Alderman Burns in 2011 with concerns about Dyett High School and a vision for Dyett High School and its feeder schools. Alderman Burns was non-committal and refused to support a plan or take any action on behalf of the school or the students. Alderman Burns was at the press conference where Dyett students complained about the conditions at the school in 2012 and he did nothing. He took no action on behalf of the students to change the conditions at the school, which is a strong contrast to the action he took on behalf of Kenwood High School when concerns were raised about overcrowding. He took immediate and decisive action and brought the mayor’s office and Chicago Public Schools together to deliver Canter Middle School to relieve the overcrowding.
As a result of his brazen inaction on Dyett High School, hundreds of community members protested outside of his office for three days and then protested at his home. The Coalition went to the U.S. government to get relief on behalf of Dyett and the U.S. Department of Education filed Title VI Civil Rights complaints on behalf of Dyett and 2 elementary schools and those investigations remain open. Only then did Alderman Burns release a statement on Dyett. CPS’ decision to reopen Dyett High School is due to consistent pressure and sacrifice by parents, students, educators and community residents who are committed to Dyett being an open enrollment, neighborhood school. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett is an example of the community bringing its resources together to do what’s best for children, regardless of their race or income. Alderman Burns cannot use the struggle of the very people he has ignored as a stepladder for his ambitions. Alderman Burns may be attempting to convince the broader public of his “passion for” and leadership on the issue of Dyett, however, his constituents and those most impacted by the potential loss of our last community, neighborhood CPS-operated school know better.
Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School
Jitu Brown, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Dyett LSC
Steven Guy, Dyett LSC
Jawanza Malone, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
June Webb, Dyett science teacher
Jeanette Taylor-Smith, Mollison LSC chair,
Diamond McCullough, 2014 Dyett student,
Parish Brown, 2014 Dyett alumni,
Aquila Griffin, former Dyett student,
Harold Lucas, Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council
Jhatayn “Jay” Travis, community resident
Dr. Timuel Black