Three more join Dyett hunger strike

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Dyett hunger strikers Anna Jones (left) and Irene Robinson sit outside Chicago Public Schools’ headquarters on Sept. 3, 2015. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Three more people have joined a dozen activists, parents and educators to push Chicago Public Schools into giving them more say in the reopening of Dyett High School, and now the 15 are holding nightly vigils at President Barack Obama’s Chicago home until they get what they want.

Twelve Dyett supporters stopped eating solid food on Aug. 17, angry that CPS postponed a decision on which of three proposals would guide the 2016 reopening of the school at 555 E. 51st St. that closed in June.

On Wednesday, the 24th day, Brandon Johnson from the Chicago Teachers Union, Susan Hurley from Jobs With Justice and Asif Wilson from Teachers for Social Justice joined the 12, spokesman J. Brian Malone said.

Last week, CPS threw out three proposals it had solicited and announced instead that the district will reopen as an open-enrollment high school in the historic school building near Washington Park that will focus on the arts. That’s an homage to Capt. Walter Henri Dyett, who was a longtime CPS music director at Phillips and DuSable high schools.

Chief academic officer Janice Jackson said it would draw students from all over the city. CPS took pieces from the proposals of an arts focus, suggested by the Little Black Pearl arts organization, and an innovation lab from the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, which wanted the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology Community High School, she said.

Malone said the group still refused to eat out of anger that CPS ignored the community’s wishes and the plan developed over several years for the school. The Dyett coalition also wants CPS to allow the election of a Local School Council that will choose the school’s principal instead of CPS appointing the principal.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner would not say whether any more meetings have taken place. Instead she said in an email, “CPS made a decision to reopen Dyett as an open enrollment, neighborhood school with an arts focus — a decision that was celebrated last week by a broad group of community groups, elected officials and members of the clergy.”

The hunger strikers, who’ve been drinking liquids and protein shakes, began holding nightly vigils Tuesday evening outside the Obamas’ Kenwood home to draw his attention to their plight.

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