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Not as simple as it may look

Friday, Aug 28, 2015

* Background

[Chicago Public Schools] decided in 2012 to close [Dyett High School], citing low enrollment and poor performance. In June, just 13 seniors graduated. CPS has been accepting applications from organizations for a new, reimagined school in the Bronzeville facility. But CPS rejected the protesters’ Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School concept.

On Thursday, CPS’ new Chief Academic Officer Janice Jackson said it’s possible that no school may take over the Dyett space.

“It’s important to be straightforward about the obstacles to opening another high school in this area, considering the fact that they have declining enrollment and we have existing high schools there that are under-enrolled,” Jackson said.

“We don’t want to open a new school and then have those schools competing when they’re already in a position where they’re fighting over the same children.”

* There are, indeed, quite a few other schools in the area

“I would remind everybody what they’re trying to work through, within a 3-mile radius there’s 10 high schools,” Emanuel said when asked about the hunger strike at an unrelated event. “Within about a mile of the school is King College Prep. So there’s a lot of high schools in that area, and how do you talk about another one when even some of the high schools that are within the 3-mile radius are not at capacity yet?”

* Let’s go back a bit to August 17th

Twelve supporters of revitalizing Chicago’s Dyett High School campus began a hunger strike Monday morning as they continue their call for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system to adopt a long-proposed community plan to turn Dyett into a “global leadership and green technology” high school.

The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, which created the plan to re-open Dyett as a global leadership and green technology school, spearheaded the hunger strike. The 12 hunger strikers, including community and faith leaders, education activists and public school parents, held their protest outside the now-closed school, located in the Washington Park neighborhood at 555 E. 51st St.

“We are tired of our voices not being heard,” said hunger striker Jitu Brown with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, one of many groups behind the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School. “There has to be accountability to the public for the destabilizing of schools in our community and the sabotage of our children’s education.”

Brown said the hunger strikers will only drink water and “light liquids” and are prepared to remain outside Dyett “as long as the creator allows us to be out here.”

KOCO is the major force behind the Dyett coalition. It has also tried to stop neighborhood “gentrification” by protesting against a new Mariano’s grocery store in Bronzeville. The group has long battled Ald. Will Burns, and its former executive director lost to Burns’ ally state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) in the Democratic primary last year, despite strong financial and other support from the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU supports KOCO’s push to take over the Dyett school.

And despite the proclaimed focus on a “science-based” curriculum, the activists have another goal for their prospective students

It would focus on leadership skills and training students to engage in the political process.

Local politicos who are not KOCO fans ain’t eager to see that happen, to say the least.

* From August 26th

Although plagued by violence, poverty and a scarcity of grocery stores and retailers, the neighborhood is also undergoing a modest rejuvenation. A new shopping center with a major grocer opened this year. And there has been an influx of new condos and multi-unit developments. The neighborhood is being considered for the Obama Presidential Library.

Yet long-term residents complain that they don’t have a quality, open-enrollment school where they can send their children.

“I will stand here and I will fight … until the last breath I have,” Robinson said outside the school Wednesday. Robinson, a grandmother who had nine children attend Dyett, had been hospitalized Monday.

Keep in mind that KOCO fought against that grocery store development.

* But the hunger strikers aren’t just battling CPS to keep the school open. They’re also at odds with rival groups which are also attempting to open a school on the site. From August 26th

On Monday the strikers, as well as supporters, gathered at Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, 1060 E. 47th St., to hand over a letter to President Monica Haslip.

“On Behalf of the Coalition to Revitilize Dyett, we respectfully urge you to withdraw your proposal for Dyett High School,” the letter stated, which had the signatures of all of the hunger strikers. […]

“I’m crying because I’m tired,” Ramann said, who is a parent of a child in the Dyett school boundary area. “We live in a city that doesn’t value us and our opinions because we are Black.”

* But Mary Mitchell strongly cautioned against attacking Ms. Haslip

Haslip is the director of the celebrated Little Black Pearl Studio in Bronzeville. She’s been recognized nationally for her work serving youth in Kenwood-Oakland and Bronzeville.

She presented a proposal to reopen Dyett as an arts academy. […]

Black people shouldn’t have to tear each other down in order to build the community up.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - A guy - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:04 pm:


  2. - walker - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:09 pm:

    Hunger strikes?

  3. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:12 pm:

    Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.
    You gotta have something, if you want to succeed.
    Empty neighborhoods don’t fill schools.
    Empty tax coffers can’t pay for new ones.
    You gotta have something to justify making others do the right thing.

  4. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:12 pm:

    ==Within about a mile of the school is King College Prep.==

    Not an open enrollment school.

  5. - Amalia - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:13 pm:

    KOCO? still? there is so much time wasted on control that real problems get left aside. the entire school closing matter is about buildings with few people in them. but, to be fair, the City did not do much if anything explaining clearly to the greater public just what was happening with the closings.

  6. - Harry - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:15 pm:

    It’s real hard to be optimistic about a school, district or a City where stuff like this goes on.

    Isn’t KOCO under investigation by the Auditor General (HR324)?

    Just what Chicago needs, more trained political activists to squabble over who gets how much of the ever-shrinking pie, rather than people who can help make the pie bigger.

  7. - thunderspirit - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:17 pm:

    == Not an open enrollment school. ==

    Nope. And that statement basically reveals Mayor Emmanuel’s vision: all charters, all the time.

  8. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:23 pm:

    Also re: empty schools, the city tore down the Robert Taylor Homes in the area, driving out tens of thousands of people and putting far less capacity in their place.

  9. - Rasselas - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:38 pm:

    I’m so tired of people saying their ‘voices aren’t being heard.’ They’ve heard you - they just don’t agree with you.

  10. - Ghost - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:42 pm:

    Perhaps their voices were heard, but the answer was no. Not getting what you want is not the same as being ignored

  11. - Mama - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:49 pm:

    Where are the students?

  12. - Enviro - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:59 pm:

    ==CPS has been accepting applications from organizations for a new, reimagined school in the Bronzeville facility.==

    It looks like CPS wants to put a new charter school in the Dyett facility to improve the image of this neighborhood in anticipation of building the new Obama Library in this area.

  13. - Wordslinger - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:59 pm:

    You lose me as soon as you argue against a new grocery store in the ghetto. I hear that, I hear shakedown.

    Living in Oak Park all these years, I’m well-acquainted with the difficulties West Side families and seniors go through to get to my neighborhood groceries stores.

    It ain’t easy, multiple households loading up in one car just to enjoy choices and savings that I’ve never had to think about.

    When I was a kid, there was some exchange program at my church where an East German family came over for a while.

    They were pretty much non-plussed by the wonders of
    DeKalb County.

    Until they went to the Jewels. Then, they cried.

  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:01 pm:

    ===CPS wants to put a new charter school in the Dyett facility===

    CPS has ruled out a new charter school for the location.

  15. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    ===Where are the students? ===

    Long gone.

  16. - A guy - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    Planning a Robert Taylor Homes reunion is where they are Mama. At least according to one guy. The density of the area has changed considerably. There is no need for a new school there. Hasn’t been for quite a while. Even when the housing projects were there, “students” were fewer and further between.

  17. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:11 pm:

    ==- Rasselas - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:38 pm:==
    ==- Ghost - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 3:42 pm:==

    Yes, the same administration that hasn’t held a budget meeting with citizens in four years and held sham school closing hearings has been hearing the people out!

  18. - steve schnorf - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:14 pm:

    KOKO has quite a long and interesting past

  19. - Jack Jackson - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:25 pm:

    Mayor Emmanuel states…

    “…and how do you talk about another one (school) when even some of the high schools that are within the 3-mile radius are not at capacity yet?”

    The mayor hasn’t demonstrated concern about schools being too close to each other when he’s supported the opening of new charters within blocks of existing neighborhood schools. He’s spent taxpayers’ TIFF money and CPS funds for charters directly across from existing schools.

    Even two years ago, as CPS was clearly in a tough fiscal condition, the Mayor pushed on with irresponsible, destabilizing policies. See this Reader article about Ames Military Academy:

    In fact - the Mayor’s team is now supporting new charters - oh -just a few miles from where Dyett HS sits.

    A tad disingenuous, Mr. Mayor.

    This Dyett coalition - not just KOCO - is made up of legitimate community partners, LSC members and long time residents who’ve put years of community-building into the Bronzeville area.

    Interesting that on the Northside, LSC and community members were shown tremendous respect when they raised their collective voices in opposition to two new Nobel St. Charters and one Intrinsic. The N Side group was able to stop these charters, as they would have drawn funding and students out of existing schools. Their elected leaders took up the fight and signed a letter of opposition to the Mayor, the Board of Ed and the Charter Companies.

    Bravo! U.S. Rep. Schakowky, County Commissioners Suffredin and Gaines, Sen. Steans, Reps. Cassidy, Andrade, Harris, Ald. Osterman, Cappleman, Tunney, and Pewar for speaking up for the people you represent.

    Why aren’t community members’ concerns respected on the Southside? Where are their elected officials?

    Reps. Martwick, Flowers, Andrade, Ford, Hernandez, and Ald. Arena were present at Dyett, in support of an elected school board. But no elected officials from directly around Dyett.

    The struggle at Dyett is about a community having a say in its schools, but the context is the historic racial inequity in our society, influence of the wealthy and powerful over the disenfranchised.

  20. - JS Mill - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 4:25 pm:

    There are many community groups that are rightfully unhappy about what is happening in Chicago and CPS. The school closings were ugly, but honestly I cannot understand how people can be indignant about closings when some of their schools had attendance rates as low as 17%. That is just baffling. It is incredibly expensive to run low enrollment schools. Time for these folks to move along and start working on improving their community.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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