Dyett Hunger Strikers Help Cut Ribbon As Renovated School Reopens

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

GRAND BOULEVARD — Chicago Public Schools officials were joined for a Tuesday afternoon ribbon cutting at Dyett High School for the Arts by the some of the activists who went on a 34-day hunger strike last year to get the school reopened.

Jitu Brown, one of the leaders of the hunger strike that opposed CPS’ earlier decision to phase out the school at 555 E. 51st St., stood alongside CPS CEO Forrest Claypool Tuesday to welcome freshmen back to the reopened high school.

“Don’t buy into the injustice, that somehow you deserve it, that you deserve to be underserved,” Brown told about 30 of the more than 150 freshmen that have enrolled at the school.

Claypool had few words on the clash between protesters and school officials, who wanted in 2011 to phase out the school due to low enrollment, but said the district has been steadily climbing in its test scores and graduation rates.

Janice Jackson, CPS’ chief education officer, was more direct in her assessment of CPS’ change of heart on Dyett.

“CPS listened to the community and reinvested in this school,” Jackson said.

She said CPS originally projected 125 students would enroll when the school reopened, and said more than 150 have currently enrolled and the school is already over enrolled.

CPS’ clash with the protesters gained broad attention last year when 15 people went on a hunger strike for 34 days in an effort to get the school reopened.

The fight also pitted the protesters against then Ald. Will Burns (4th), whose successor was at Dyett Tuesday to thank the hunger strikers.

“After many hard months and sacrifice, we’re celebrating a new life for Dyett,” said Ald. Sophia King (4th).

Earlier in the week, Brown and others from the hunger strike said they didn’t want to wait until the third year of the reopened school to start a local school council, which is CPS policy.

But any remaining issues being hashed out between the protesters and CPS were put on hold Tuesday as students were brought up to help cut the ribbon on a $14.6 million investment by CPS to reopen the school.