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Dyett Seniors Demand Fair Treatment, Restored Resources

By Ted Cox | September 11, 2014 6:04pm
 Dyett High School senior Nefateria Denton talks of conditions at the school outside the Mayor's Office.
Dyett High School senior Nefateria Denton talks of conditions at the school outside the Mayor's Office.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Dyett High School's 13 seniors presented a list of demands for fair and equal treatment with their Chicago Public Schools Class of 2015 classmates Thursday at City Hall.

Dyett students and community supporters presented a list of 10 demands to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying they'd already met two weeks ago with the mayor, who was sympathetic to their requests, but nothing had changed.

"There is a serious lack of resources in the school," said Dyett senior Nefateria Denton. "In 2012, CPS promised we would not be neglected during the phaseout. That promise has been shattered."

The Board of Education voted to phase Dyett out in 2012, and the current senior class makes up the last group of students at the school. According to Jitu Brown, national director of the Journey for Justice Alliance and a member of the Dyett Local School Council, students have been "pressured to leave the school."

 Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Bennett accepts the students' list of demands Thursday outside the Office of the Mayor.
Deputy Chief of Staff Ken Bennett accepts the students' list of demands Thursday outside the Office of the Mayor.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CPS officials have acknowledged they've contacted students to see if they'd be interested in switching to another high school for their senior year.

"We don't want to switch to a new school," said Dyett senior Kenneth Brown. "We shouldn't have to."

"That should not happen," said Ken Bennett, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, in accepting the students' list of demands Thursday. "They should not be receiving that message."

According to the protesters, Emanuel was sympathetic to their demands that they should not have to use the school's back entrance, should have teachers for all classes, not have them taught online, and should have access to the school gym.

Bennett agreed and promised to get back to the protesters Friday.

In a statement released Thursday night, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the school developed a full curriclum for the remaining Dyett students.

"Though most of their peers chose to transfer to other nearby high schools over the summer, these students have elected to finish their education at Dyett. CPS is providing these students with the education necessary to graduate prepared for the future," he said.

CPS also countered that it has gone to student-based budgeting, adding that "for a school with an enrollment of this size, the number of academic options for students is limited."

Although the Board of Education had pledged to allow the school to phase out one class year at a time, on Thursday CPS pleaded that "due to financial constraints tied to low enrollment, Dyett has limited academic offerings compared with other neighborhood schools in the area."

CPS cited that 24 students who would have been seniors this year at Dyett had transferred to other schools over the last year.

Students said they felt betrayed by the reduction, which in effect compelled students to transfer. One of their demands, in addition to renewed full funding, was for CPS to reach out to those who had transferred and offer them a chance to return to Dyett for their senior year.

Bronzeville residents have said for years that closing the school would "gut" the neighborhood.

"The school is good," Denton said, but resources were being diverted to other schools so "it's going down."

"I feel that we've got some teachers there that care about us and that want us to succeed, but then we've got a principal there that doesn't care about us," said Chrisean Criddell, another Dyett senior. "He wants to close the school down."

The students demanded teachers for all classes, not online classes; an outreach to give Dyett students who left the school an opportunity to return for their senior year; after-school tutoring and ACT test preparation; a new, more supportive principal; internships and part-time job opportunities; college trips and career days; a prom; a sports team; "Life After Dyett" support counseling; and off-campus lunch.

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