CITY HALL — The Dyett hunger strikers entered the third week of their protest fast Monday, returning to City Hall to call for the mayor to move up a hearing on their proposal to reopen the high school.
Earlier this month, Chicago Public Schools deferred a decision on Dyett High School until September, with a hearing set for Sept. 15, prompting the hunger strike begun two weeks ago.
"Clearly, our hunger strikers will not make it until the 15th," said Audrey May, of Chicago Parents, Educators and Clergy for Education, a religious group affiliated with the Chicago Teachers Union. She led calls from religious leaders Monday for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to move up the hearing.
"This isn't theater," said the Rev. Robert Jones, one of the hunger strikers. "We're calling on the mayor to make the right decision for the parents of the Bronzeville community."
Jones dismissed those who questioned the tactics of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School. "Slash and burn is not what we do," Jones said. "Passion is what we are. You can't call passion slash-and-burn tactics."
Half of the dozen Dyett hunger strikers came to City Hall Monday for a protest in which religious leaders sided with them and called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to move up a hearing with Chicago Public Schools.
Jones asked his religious colleagues to "continue to pray for us, because our resolve is firm, and we're going to do what we're called to do, to get this job done for the community and for the children of the community."
"We're here this morning to appeal to the mayor's sense of morality," May said. "We're asking the mayor to stand and be who he said he would be in all of his commercials when he was running for his second term in office."
It was during the mayoral campaign earlier this year that CPS reversed field and put out a request for proposals to reopen Dyett next year, even as it had been slated to be phased out with the graduation of its final senior class this spring.
The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School has been pushing its plan for a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School for years in an attempt to keep Dyett open. Competing proposals from Bronzeville's Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy and another from former Dyett Principal Charles Campbell were also submitted, the latter after an initial deadline had passed.
Speaking at City Hall on Monday, the Rev. Liz Munoz, of Logan Square's Nuestra Senora de las Americas Episcopal Church, called the coalition's proposal "a plan that President Obama, I think, would support."
The Board of Education was to rule on which of the three proposals to accept in August, but abruptly put it off a month when top leadership changed with Frank Clark joining the board as president and Forrest Claypool as CPS' chief executive officer. That delay prompted the hunger strike.
CPS issued a statement late Monday pleading for more time and again suggesting it might renege on the entire process.
"The new board and administration want to be sure that they have time to make the right decision for students," said CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey. He added that they had met with the Dyett coalition "many times over the past year and as recently as last week with board President Frank Clark."
Yet at the same time CPS suggested those meetings and the entire RFP process might prove fruitless.
"As we consider these proposals, we remain mindful of the declining population in the area, which is losing students and already has 12 high schools within a three-mile radius," McCaffrey added. "We also respect the community’s passion for Chicago’s children, and we will make the best possible decision to give all the children of the city a good education."
The coalition has shown that 155 eighth-graders a year graduate from public schools within the existing Dyett boundaries, but CPS suddenly stated: "The Dyett facility would need to enroll 800 students to be considered at capacity."
The hunger strikers returned to Dyett Monday, and according to May were considering making an appearance at the mayor's public budget hearing set for 6:30 p.m. at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren St.
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