Parents, students and organizers who support turning Dyett High School into a “green tech” neighborhood school staged a sit-in Wednesday at City Hall, and four of them were arrested when they refused to stop blocking a bank of elevators.
Chicago Police handcuffed four of the nine protesters who sat in front of elevator doors on the floor of City Hall where a bustling City Council meeting was taking place. But they left organizer Jitu Brown and four others, including CPS mother Jeanette Taylor.
“It’s 2015 and we’re going to jail for a high school,” said Taylor, who was arrested last fall during a similar protest for Dyett that led to CPS issuing a request for proposals to put a new school into the building.
The members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett have lobbied for years on behalf of their neighborhood school — first to prevent the 2012 phaseout of Dyett, then to put another new neighborhood school in the building. Dyett’s final graduating class in June had just 13 seniors, so few that they took some courses online.
Coalition members were angry when Chicago Public Schools asked for other proposals but submitted its plan, the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, that would partner with the Chicago Botanic Gardens, DuSable Museum and others.
Little Black Pearl, a not-for-profit arts organization that runs a contract school for CPS and showed interest in the site, also sent CPS its ideas for another contract school called Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy for 650 students in grades nine through 12.
A third idea submitted is called “Washington Park Athletic Career Academy” and comes from Charles Campbell, the principal CPS brought in to phase out Dyett; CPS decided to consider that proposal for a sports-themed high school even though it was submitted after the district’s own deadline.
“We have been driven to this point,” Brown bellowed, sitting on the floor as folks taking elevators climbed over him and the others sitting in. “All we want is a world-class open-enrollment neighborhood high school in Bronzeville, that’s all we want. And what we’ve been met with is resistance.
“They’re trying to shove an underperforming alternative contract school down the community’s throats, and we will not accept that,” he continued. “So if we have to be arrested, then so be it.”
The four arrested were charged with misdemeanor reckless conduct, according to Chicago Police spokeswoman Jennifer Rottner.
Brown said when parents recently opposed a charter school moving into Uptown “their needs were immediately met.” That school changed its mind and moved elsewhere. ”We’ve waged this fight for four years,” he said.
Coalition members accuse Ald. Will Burns (4th) of not supporting their efforts; he was loudly booed when he entered City Hall Wednesday morning and did not stop to talk to anyone.
CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district is still reviewing the three applications and that new CEO Forrest Claypool will also consider feedback from an Aug. 10 public hearing when choosing a winner. A location and time for that meeting have not yet been finalized, he said.
The Board of Education is still slated to vote on the finalist at its August meeting; the chosen school model then would open in September 2016.