Two contenders want to create a new Dyett high school

SHARE Two contenders want to create a new Dyett high school

Jitu Brown talks about the Dyett High School and making it a student-centered community school. | Brian Jackson/For The Chicago Sun-Times

Two Bronzeville-based organizations submitted proposals Monday to operate a school that will inhabit Dyett High School’s sprawling building on Washington Park after its last 13 students graduate in June.

One is from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, which submitted its formal plan for a neighborhood school they’ve been developing for the past several years, dropping it off in person at Chicago Public Schools headquarters.

The other comes from Little Black Pearl, a non-for-profit arts organization that runs a contract school for CPS and showed interest in the site, which proposes another contract school. Executive director Monica Haslip said she couldn’t share details until she’s back in the office next week.

Jitu Brown, a Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization leader, said the coalition objected to the request for proposals since it already had a plan, but relented to playing according to CPS’ rules so it would be considered.

“One of the things that has resonated with people over the last few years is that Bronzeville residents do not want another privatized school where Dyett High School sits. We want a CPS-run, open-enrollment neighborhood school. And our question is ‘Why for black and brown children is the answer always privatization?’ ” he asked.

“We want to make the message clear that we will not accept a privatized school in the Dyett building,” Brown continued, “and we want to be full partners with the district in implementing Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School,” which would start with 150 ninth-graders in the fall of 2016 and add a grade each year.

In 2012, the Board of Education voted to phase out the school at 555 E. 51st St., which is home to just 13 seniors set to graduate in June and who take many of their classes online. Spurred this fall by protests, including one at City Hall that ended in arrests, CPS reconsidered opening the school again.

The district’s request asked for an “innovative program which engages its students and also meets the needs of the local community.”

CPS wouldn’t comment on either proposal Monday, citing the ongoing process. District spokesman Bill McCaffrey said two had been received in time.

The district says it will hold a community meeting June 17 and a public hearing Aug. 10. The board expects to vote Aug. 26.


Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St. | Sun-Times file photo

Over the past several years, the coalition developed its plan with input from the DuSable Museum, Chicago Botanic Gardens and UIC’s College of Education among others. In addition to those community partners, the design team includes community residents, parents and teachers, subject-area experts, education professors and current and former CPS principals.

Its vision teaches high schoolers about green technology and their place in an interconnected world, and the school model would lean on restorative justice and peer jury programs for discipline. It also would draw from area elementary schools for continuous education for Bronzeville’s children.

“Our model is of a sustainable school rooted in the community,” the coalition wrote in its executive summary. “This proposal comes from the people of Bronzeville who speak from the heart about a school that lives in a village of tightly interconnected feeder schools, community institutions and organizations, local school councils of dedicated and loving adults, relationships, and the meaning of place.”

The project has attracted support from civil rights icon and veteran educator Timuel Black, who also knew Captain Walter Henri Dyett, the musician and bandleader, for whom the school is named.

“For us, this gives children at Mollison an opportunity to have an open enrollment high quality neighborhood school in their own neighborhood,” said Jeannette Taylor, a Mollison parent and Local School Council member who has been part of the process. “The current neighborhood school is Phillips, and that’s been turned around three times and that’s not acceptable for (Mayor) Rahm’s (Emanuel’s) children, so why is it acceptable to mine?

“Today this is message to Chicago Public Schools and to the people on the Fifth Floor,” she continued, referring again to the mayor’s office, “people in the community care, the parents are engaged, the community is engaged.”

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