CPS announces two teams to help develop Dyett High School

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Theaster Gates in 2011 | Sun-Times file photo

Dyett High School will have two volunteer teams of experts — one in the arts, the other in innovation — to help develop the neighborhood school the Chicago Public Schools decided to open next fall under community pressure, which included a monthlong hunger strike.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to develop a modern, high-quality high school at Dyett, and these industry leaders will help us ensure that vision is realized,” said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool. “They bring a wealth of experience and wisdom crucial to the development of this progressive school and technology center on the south side.”

The community group, the Coalition to Save Dyett, didn’t see it quite that way. The group, whose members ended their 34-day hunger strike last week, said Monday they’re unhappy none of the people they suggested are included in the panels.

“That’s not a surprise and . . . that’s business as usual,” said organizer Jitu Brown. “So we will continue to work and have conversations with Chicago Public Schools, as we fight for an elected, representative school board.”

But Brown and the other hunger strikers declared victory on Monday, saying they had drawn national, even international attention to the plight of working-class black and brown communities and the separate and unequal education system that exists for these neglected communities.

The group planned to hold a celebratory citywide rally next Tuesday.

The Coalition to Save Dyett had fought the closure, then pressured CPS into agreeing to reopen the school in the fall of 2016 by, among other tactics, sitting in at City Hall. On Aug. 17, the coalition denounced the delay of a decision CPS had promised in August, and 12 supporters launched a hunger strike.

Earlier this month, the coalition sought help from U.S. Secretary of Education and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan, and the hunger strikers loudly confronted Mayor Rahm Emanuel at public budget hearings, chasing him off the stage at one of them. The district then announced it would not choose one of three proposals it had formally solicited and instead would use its own plan for an open enrollment school that it said combined aspects of the three.

District officials called it a compromise. The coalition cried foul and said the hunger strikers would continue to refuse solid food. They ended their efforts on Saturday, the 34th day of the hunger strike.

The arts panel announced Monday will be made up of Homer Bryant, artistic director of Chicago Multicultural Dance Center; Mary Ellen Caron, CEO of After School Matters; professional vocalist Joan Collaso; musician and composer Ernest Dawkins; Theaster Gates Jr., director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago; Joan Gray, president of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago; Perri Irmer, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History; Tenille Jackson, president of The Intelligence Group, Ltd.; professional dancer and choreographer Brenda (Malika) Moore; Kemati Porter, interim executive director of the ETA Creative Arts Foundation; and former CPS official Mario Rossero, a senior vice president of education at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The technology panel will consist of Howard Tullman, CEO of the Chicago-based technology incubator 1871; Gerald Doyle, vice provost at the Illinois Institute of Technology; Jerrold Martin, vice chancellor and CIO for City Colleges of Chicago; and Nichole Pinkard, associate professor at DePaul University and founder of the Digital Youth Network.

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the experts for the new Technical Advisory Councils were identified and asked to serve by district leadership, who did not solicit applications.

The Board of Education voted in 2012 to close Dyett by June 2015, one year of students at a time.

CPS has yet to release substantial details of its plan for the school. Officials are still searching for a principal to open the school next September, McCaffrey said. A Local School Council will not be elected until the 2018-19 school year, he said, in accordance with a board policy that requires the school to be in its third year or at least 50 percent full.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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