CITY HALL — Supporters of Dyett High School rallied at City Hall Wednesday demanding a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his school chief to save and revitalize the Bronzeville institution.
Calling Dyett "the poster child for the sabotage of a neighborhood school," dozens of protesters gathered outside the mayor's office on the fifth floor of City Hall. They presented petitions signed by 675 local residents and parents of students at elementary schools in a designated district feeding students to Dyett.
"If Dyett closes in 2015, North Kenwood and Oakland would not have an open-enrollment neighborhood high school," said Jitu Brown, education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.
"There is a strong need for an open-enrollment neighborhood high school in Bronzeville," said Rico Gutstein, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "CPS' rhetoric of choice is false if Bronzeville families are denied the one choice that all parents really want — a wonderful school close by home that all children can attend."
"Our first choice is our neighborhood school should not be an alternative school or a charter school," Brown added.
Dyett avoided being shuttered as part of last year's 50 closing of Chicago Public Schools because it was already under an edict to be "phased out" from 2012. It currently has about 100 students, juniors and seniors, and is scheduled to close after the current juniors graduate next spring.
"There is currently no plan to keep Dyett High School open beyond its scheduled closure next year," said CPS spokesman Joel Hood.
"The Board of Education redrew the school's boundaries in 2012, allowing Dyett's incoming students the opportunity to attend Phillips Academy, a Level 1 neighborhood school that serves students in the North Kenwood and Oakland communities. We will evaluate all options to ensure the families in these neighborhoods continue to have access to quality education options."
Hood pointed out that, while Phillips may not technically be within the boundaries of Kenwood or Oakland, it is definitely in what is considered Bronzeville.
Brown said Dyett was subject to "CPS disinvestment" and called it "separate and unequal" that Emanuel and CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett recently announced plans to build a selective-enrollment high school named after President Barack Obama on the North Side while taking funds away from Dyett.
Community groups, educators and Dyett's Local School Council have proposed converting it into a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School as soon as this fall. The plan was created with the input of education experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Brown University, as well as Teachers for Social Justice and the Chicago Teachers Union.
Community groups said they suspect CPS intends to give the building to a charter high school. Brown said $4 million was spent on a gym renovation, but students are not allowed to use it and instead take physical education classes online.
Hood pointed out the renovation was paid for by ESPN as part of its Rise Up promotion and insisted the gym is open to all Dyett students. He said the district has no plans for the building after the school is closed.
Protesters demanded a meeting with Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett "in the next two weeks," Brown said. He promised a "summer of discontent" lobbying CPS, the mayor and local politicians for the Dyett conversion.
Mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Kruer responded, "The Mayor's Office and CPS met with this group and are open to future meetings to discuss providing quality education options in the North Kenwood and Oakland communities."
"We are not going away," said Jeanette Taylor, chairwoman of the LSC at Mollison Elementary. "We will not be denied."
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