Three groups present their visions for Dyett High School’s future

SHARE Three groups present their visions for Dyett High School’s future

Should Dyett High School focus on sports, the arts or global leaders?

That was the question Wednesday night as three groups presented their competing visions for the Washington Park school’s future come September 2016.

The group with the oldest plan, which would put in a neighborhood school, attacked its private competition.

“Is Little Black Pearl Qualified to Run Dyett High school?” read a flier distributed outside the meeting by the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett.

Coalition member Jitu Brown said the flier, which accuses Little Black Pearl of a weak culture at its existing school and too many shake-ups, is part of the fight.

“The fix is in,” he said. “We shouldn’t be sitting here in a competition for schools.”

The coalition lobbied for years, first to prevent the 2012 phaseout of Dyett, then to put another new neighborhood school in the building. Coalition members were angry when CPS asked for proposals but submitted the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, to partner with the Chicago Botanic Gardens, DuSable Museum and others.

Several supporters brought up that history, saying that without the coalition’s efforts, Dyett would stay empty.

“This is a sham and this is disrespectful,” said Jonathan Projansky, a member of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, part of the coalition. “Our schools are not for sale, and our children are not for sale.”

Others lobbied CPS to keep the school named for Capt. Walter H. Dyett, a longtime African-American music teacher in Chicago.

“When you change the name of a school,” Jack Taylor said, “you lose the community’s history.”

Little Black Pearl, a nonprofit arts organization that runs a contract school for CPS presented plans for a Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy, where about 650 students in grades nine through 12 could study dance, theater, music and industrial arts and have access to a theater and exhibition space. Board member Terri Evans wouldn’t comment on the flier.

Matthew Kupritz, Little Black Pearl’s architect, said a corner of the building would be opened up for the theater, saying, “Our objective is to enable it to connect back to the park, connect back to the community . . . enable people to inhabit the school in a way they couldn’t before.”

“To the Dyett students, I understand you love your school and want to support it,” said Brianna J. Smith, who just graduated from LBP, “but I love my school as well.”

The third proposal, the Washington Park Athletic Career Academy, was submitted after CPS’ own deadline and backed by Dyett’s principal, Charles Campbell. It would prepare kids for behind-the-scenes careers in sports. At capacity, this school would reach 1,200 seventh- through 12th-graders.

“The ideal school should be able to keep students engaged with learning and performing at their best as often as possible,” Campbell said.

Mark Coleman, who runs a nonprofit, backed the third option, saying, “I’ve seen how sports in particular unify young girls and boys.”

A formal public hearing will be held on Aug. 10. The CPS CEO will make the decision and submit it to the Board of Education for approval.

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