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DuSable Librarian Saved, Thanks to Anonymous Gift After Student Protest

By Ted Cox | December 18, 2015 11:53am
 Students at the DuSable campus,  organized a sit-in to save the job of libraian Sara Sayigh.
Students at the DuSable campus, organized a sit-in to save the job of libraian Sara Sayigh.
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BRONZEVILLE — Answering to student demands, if not a Christmas wish list, the DuSable campus librarian whose job was on the chopping block will be retained through an "anonymous gift," according to Chicago Public Schools.

"Thanks to a generous anonymous gift, the librarian's job can be restored at the DuSable campus," said CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner on Friday.

CPS credited Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson with lobbying the community for the donation.

Librarian Sara Sayigh had been slated to be laid off at the end of the month, prompting a walkout by hundreds of students at the campus Dec. 11.

Students and others protesting the layoff organized under the Twitter hashtag #SaveOurLibrary, and an online petition asking to retain her had been signed by almost 3,000 people as of Friday morning.

The old DuSable High School campus is now shared by Williams Prep, which aims to specialize in medical fields, and the Bronzeville Scholastic Institute, a newly authorized International Baccalaureate school, making the library and librarian critical, according to teachers.

"Without her, teachers will not have a computer lab in which to bring whole classes of students," said Williams Prep teacher Adrienne Handelman, who organized the online petition. "Why? Because she maintains the lab, which she constructed on her own by writing grants," Handelman said. "There are no other options for full-class computer access in my school."

Earlier this week, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey charged that there were only two librarians at what have historically been African-American high schools in Chicago, and the union charged librarians were being laid off in an attempt to protect teaching positions.

CPS expressed sympathy for that position on Friday.

"While we are glad that this will restore a valued position that supports students across these schools, we remain concerned that the current financial realities will continue to put our schools in a challenging position as they try to prevent classroom cuts," Bittner said. "This is why we will continue to work with our state leaders to fix an unfair funding system that gives Chicago only 15 percent of state funding despite having 20 percent of the enrollment — a disparity that forces schools to make tough choices."

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