The announcement last week that CPS reversed course and now plans to reopen Dyett High, set to close at the end of the school year, was a hard-won battle for community activists. But the war is not over.
Members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization gathered this week at City Hall to issue a no-confidence vote – symbolized by slips of yellow paper – for the reelection of 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns. The Washington Park school is in Burns’ ward and has been a flashpoint in the alderman’s relationship with some in the community.
KOCO’s Jitu Brown said the demonstration was a result of Burns’ recent comments on WVON-AM Radio, which Brown called a “smack in the face” that would lead to Burns’ “political death.”
On WVON’s Matt McGill Show earlier this week, Burns discussed the recent developments regarding Dyett. He explained that the request-for-proposals CPS will issue for the school as it seeks a new operator for it will make it “very clear” that Dyett will not be a charter or alternative school and would be an open-enrollment, neighborhood high school.
“If there are groups in the community that have an idea and have the extra piece,” Burns said on the show, “it’s their opportunity to come forward with a plan to run Dyett and bring it to the Board of Education.”
Burns made no mention of the coalition’s existing plan to turn Dyett into a school whose curriculum would be based on teaching “global leadership and green technology.” The academic plan was developed over several years, Brown said, and has the partnership of several outside institutions as well as the input and support of more than 2,000 Bronzeville community members.
“Thousands of people in the ward have said what they want,” Brown said. “This is not some cockamamie plan. We’ve been dreaming about what should be happening in this community [since 2008], so we are not going to let some [private] contract operators go into these schools.”
Other speakers talked about mobilizing voters to elect a new alderman in the 4th Ward and pressuring CPS officials to skip the RFP process in favor of the full proposal from the coalition.
At the end of the press conference, the activists relocated to the City Council Chambers, calling out Ald. Burns in the middle of a budget hearing and chanting, before being escorted out by security.