CITY HALL — Dyett High School protesters insisted their proposal to keep the school open after this year should move to the head of the class ahead of any privatization deals on Tuesday, then disrupted a City Council hearing by calling out the ward alderman.
"Ald. Will Burns is an instrument of privatization," said protest leader Jitu Brown. "He's a tool."
Protesters then sat in on a City Council budget hearing until they suddenly broke into a chant of "Will Burns has got to go." Brown accused Burns of "boot-licking" and called him an "embarrassment" before protesters were led out by police officers.
Burns, the 4th Ward alderman, apologized for the disruption, and later said the group should submit its proposal to Chicago Public Schools to compete with others under a plan announced by CPS last week to put out a Request For Proposals to reopen Dyett as an open-enrollment high school in the fall of 2016.
"If they want to run Dyett High School, they can submit a proposal," Burns said.
But Brown said, "The question we have to ask ourselves is do we want to play the game or do we want to change the game?
"We have played by everybody's rules," he added, "and we are tired of our views being ignored."
Dyett protesters have staged regular demonstrations at City Hall and a campout at Burns' ward office in an attempt to keep open the school, which is slated to close next spring. They have already proposed converting it into the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School and say they felt blindsided by the CPS plan announced last week.
They called the announcement a tactic meant to grease the way for privatization and a potential contract or charter high school, although CPS has publicly ruled out a charter.
"CPS is open to any proposals that would keep this an open-enrollment, neighborhood high school, but it will not be a charter school," said spokesman Bill McCaffrey. "There is already a separate RFP process in place for charter schools, and therefore we are not accepting charter proposals as part of this RFP."
Countered Brown: "There should not be an RFP process. What is the issue with working with a plan that 2,000 people have endorsed in the neighborhood?"
Rico Gutstein, a University of Illinois at Chicago education professor who took part in creating the Global Leadership and Green Technology concept, compared it to Social Justice High School in the Lawndale-Little Village area as an example of schools that can excel with community input and involvement.
The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School has already presented the plan to CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "If we have to submit the proposal, we will," Brown said. "Thousands of people in the ward said they want this. This is not some cockamamie plan that was being dreamt up."
Yet Brown called CPS' RFP process "a shell game," adding that if the Board of Education ultimately rejected their proposal and gave the school to a contract or charter operator, those school administrators would be treated like "invaders." In that case, he promised more civil disobedience in response.
The school is currently home to 13 seniors, who are in the last class to graduate from the school before it shuts down.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: