BRONZEVILLE — The new principal of Dyett High School came out Monday with big ideas for the reopening school and directly faced the confrontational recent history of the school.
Beulah McLoyd met with residents for the first of several scheduled public meetings on the future of the school at 555 E. 51st St. and made a point of addressing groups that went on a 34-day hunger strike to keep the school open that CPS had scheduled to close.
“This is a school for kids in our neighborhood; this is a school to challenge our kids,” McLoyd said.
The former principal of Michele Clark High School in Austin is less than two weeks into the job of getting Dyett back up and running in time for the next school year. On Monday at Bright Star Church, 735 E. 44th St., she presented a vision for the open-enrollment arts-based school.
McLoyd said she wanted every student to have four years of art in digital media or visual or performing arts in collaboration with tech classes and an innovation lab developed in partnership with the Illinois Institute of Technology.
She painted a picture of a school that used the arts to lure students and act as the doorway to get kids interested in math and science and broaden students’ perceptions about what they could do beyond art.
“Our job is to make this building as attractive as possible to students because filling the seats is what will keep it sustainable,” McLoyd said.
McLoyd faced pushback from several in the audience who said they felt the arts was one of the most difficult fields to find a stead, and good-paying job.
“Everyone knows arts is one of the worst careers you can get into because you won’t be famous until you’re dead,” said Irene Robinson, one of the activists who was arrested and went on a hunger strike to reopen the school.
McLoyd, who grew up in Englewood and now lives in Bronzeville, said she was given a mandate by CPS to run an arts-based school and said she didn’t think science and art were mutually exclusive.
“They’re not polar opposites, they’re not the antithesis of each other, there are ways to make them work together,” McLoyd said. “We by no means believe the arts supplants anything.”
She faced numerous comments from school activists in the neighborhood who were happy the school was reopening, but remained frustrated that the school would be geared toward arts and not green technology, as many community groups had wanted.
“I’m OK, because I know this has nothing to do with me,” McLoyd said of the criticisms.
Jitu Brown, one of the lead organizers of the hunger strike, said he had a “very good impression” of McLoyd so far, but gave her a warning.
“This path has a lot of holes and pits in it and that’s what you’re walking into,” Brown said.
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