Mitchell: Time to heal wounds in Bronzeville

SHARE Mitchell: Time to heal wounds in Bronzeville

Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Follow @MaryMitchellCST

The best thing about a compromise is that both sides are able to walk away victorious.

If the goal of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization/Coalition to Revitalize Dyett was to make sure the high school was reopened as a neighborhood school, organizers can give themselves a pat on the back.

Chicago Public School officials rolled out a proposal on Thursday that took into consideration several of the demands KOCO made.

For instance, organizers were adamant that parents in Bronzeville didn’t want a “charter or contract school.”

So be it.

The new Dyett High School will be an open-enrollment school. Any child living within the school’s boundary will be able to attend Dyett.

But instead of a “global leadership and green technology” theme, the new high school would be organized as an arts and innovation laboratory school.

It’s hard to argue that a school named for Walter “Henri” Dyett — a music director who taught students including Gene Ammons, Nat King Cole and Dorothy Donegan — shouldn’t have an arts theme.


Follow @MaryMitchellCST

And while Monica Haslip, founder of the Little Black Pearl Studio, seemed a natural fit to lead a school devoted to the arts, CPS opted to keep Dyett a public school and look for a principal who is above the fray.

Janice Jackson, the chief education officer for CPS, justified taking pieces from all three proposals that were presented under the previous administration, instead of selecting one of the proposals already on the table.

“We had to look at this with fresh eyes,” she said.

But the proposal is also an olive branch from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

CPS announces Dyett compromise Emanuel criticizes in-your-face tactics of Dyett protesters Dyett hunger strikers share concerns with Arne Duncan in D.C. Mitchell: Dyett hunger strikers seek to block access

The fact that people were starving themselves over this issue was bad enough, but the commotion that occurred at a town hall meeting Wednesday night that was supposed to be about the city’s budget showed that frustrations had reached the boiling point.

By incorporating parts of competing community proposals for Dyett, CPS has honored all segments of the community and given them a reason to pull together on this issue.

At the same time, school officials put the onus on KOCO to end this standoff.

Unfortunately, on Thursday, it appeared that the grass-roots group was unwilling to accept a way out of this controversy.

In a tersely worded statement, the group accused the mayor of “lying” to them and to the “taxpayers.”

“This process has been a sham from the beginning and was created to simply award the school to a private operator,” a spokesman for the hunger strikers said.

There’s likely a grain of truth somewhere in those sentiments.

After all, there’s no love lost between KOCO’s leaders and Ald. Will Burns (4th), who heads up the City Council’s Committee on Education.

“I don’t know what it would take to satisfy them,” Burns told me after the announcement.

If there was trickery afoot, KOCO’s actions certainly shut it down. Frankly, if supporters hadn’t gone on a hunger strike, they’d still be waiting for a public hearing on Sept. 15.

CPS was forced to deal with Dyett High School, and KOCO can take credit for that.

Now that CPS has come up with a proposal for Dyett High School that would help this community heal, it would be foolish for KOCO to fight it.

Follow @MaryMitchellCST

Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST

The Latest
The cause and manner of Ahmad Abed’s death was pending an autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer dismissed the case with prejudice based on the misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defense.
“The governance model is not the problem here,” CTA President Dorval Carter defiantly told an Illinois Senate committee. The problem, he said, is funding.
Newly released records provide the clearest picture of last month’s attack on the Cook County state’s attorney. They also show that her office was closely involved in the investigation and the decision to bring serious charges in the case.
Monitors observed one of three surviving chicks in Imani and Sea Rocket’s nest appeared to be lethargic and struggling late Thursday, according to a statement from the Chicago Piping Plovers.