THE LOOP — Chicago Public Schools will launch an open-enrollment, neighborhood arts school at Dyett High School, district officials announced Thursday.
In doing so, they circumvented a formal request for proposals on the school by coming up with a concept of their own, not submitted in the conventional process.
"Ultimately, the goal was to do what was right for the children," said Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool in making the announcement at CPS headquarters.
Yet the dozen Dyett hunger strikers urging acceptance of their proposal for a Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School were quick to signal their disappointment outside after the announcement was made.
"The hunger strike is not over," said Jeanette Ramann. "CPS did not follow its own process."
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) tried to mollify protesters over the decision, saying he had worked alongside members of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization spearheading the Dyett protests and "I identify with them."
Yet he added, "Sometimes we get blinded" by fervor, and he urged the protesters to consider "they have won" with the decision to retain Dyett as a community, open-enrollment high school.
State Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and Ald. Will Burns (4th), who both have tangled with the community group, were at the announcement and cheered the decision, which will give the community an arts-focused, open-enrollment high school, augmented with a technology innovation lab, and with attendance boundaries in Bronzeville in the 3rd and 4th wards.
"We all fought for Dyett — together," Burns said.
Ted Cox discusses why the hunger strike continues:
Yet the hunger strikers berated some community leaders who attended the announcement on their way out, including Dr. Leon Finney.
"Leon Finney sold out Bronzeville!" Cathy Dale shouted as he walked away down the street. "These people do not represent us. They're sellouts."
CPS nonetheless tried to put a happy face on the selection.
"Walter H. Dyett has a storied history of serving students and the community of Bronzeville, and this new neighborhood arts program and community center will continue this proud tradition and ensure a bright future for the children and families of Bronzeville," said Frank Clark, president of the Board of Education.
The school is expected to serve 550 students at capacity, with neighborhood kids getting the first chance to enroll, CPS said. Through a deal with the Chicago Park District, it will also share its pool and gym with the community. (The facilities were given a major renovation in 2011 through the ESPN Rise Up program.)
According to a CPS press release, "The Bronzeville Community Action Council recommended an arts program, along with a request for increased technology resources to equip students with 21st century skills, as part of the 2013 CPS Educational Facilities Master Plan."
Yet some felt that circumvented the request for proposals on the school CPS issued last December, which produced three competing concepts: the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School plan, another from Bronzeville's Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy and a sports-oriented academic program submitted by former Dyett Principal Charles Campbell.
"Our objective was to make the decision that best meets our children's needs, and this plan creates the opportunity for a unique, world-class school on the South Side," Claypool said. "Working with community partners, we arrived at a solution that meets multiple needs: creating an open-enrollment neighborhood high school, producing an enrollment stream that can weather population changes, filling the critical demand for an arts high school on the South Side and working with education leaders to create a technology hub."
The announcement came at the end of raucous day of protests at City Hall over the fate of Dyett, on the 18th day of the hunger strike.
Dozens of new protesters joined several of the dozen Dyett hunger strikers at City Hall, where about 15 people were arrested for blocking elevators during a sit-in.
The day after Dyett protesters shut down one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's citywide budget forums at the South Shore Cultural Center, well over 100 protesters backed the hunger strikers.
"Today, we sent a signal throughout the City of Chicago that we're not gonna take it," said Jawanza Malone, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, who had also led protesters onstage Wednesday night during one of three scheduled mayoral budget forums.
Protesters massed first Thursday outside Emanuel's office on the fifth floor of City Hall to chant that they wanted the new Dyett High School recognized "Right now!"
"What happened last night, while it was a travesty, it needed to be done," Ramann said.
Ramann thanked the new protesters for joining their cause, and suggested that racism was behind CPS' refusal to readily accept the plan put forth by the Bronzeville-based Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School.
Cook County Clerk David Orr was among those adding his support to the Dyett protesters Thursday. He said politicians were constantly complaining, "People don't participate," but then congratulated the protesters for their participation — only to be ignored by those very same politicians.
"It is people who have the power," Orr said outside the mayor's office.
Protesters then staged a sit-in for just over a half-hour on the ground floor of City Hall, first in silence, then with songs of protest. When some blocked elevators, they were warned by police, then arrested. A City Hall police sergeant estimated that about 15 were arrested.
In spite of the announcement, the Dyett protesters were expected to have a presence again at Thursday's budget forum at Wright Community College. Malone said the protests and the hunger strike would continue day by day until their demands are granted to have the plan for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School accepted, and later in the day Ramann echoed that their resolve had not changed with the day's announcement.
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