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Board President gets earful at hearing on proposal to close Dyett High School as CPS 'Rent A Protesters' get confused about which side they are supposed to be on

With over 60 paid protesters sitting behind him supporting the CPS proposal to close Dyett High School, Chicago Board of Education President, David Vitale was probably feeling very confident that closing Dyett High School would be a slam dunk. It was six p.m, on January 6, 2012, as the Board hosted the first of three hearings on the proposal to close Dyett.

dyett rent a protester jan 6 2012
Two busloads of Rent A Protesters at the Dyett High School closing hearing on January 6, 2012, became confused when challenged about their signs and attitude, and by the end of the hearing many had taken down their signs and agreed with those who opposed the Board of Education's attack on Dyett. The signs held up by the Rent A Protests were the same at all seven hearings across Chicago on January 6. Substance photo by David Vance.

Dyett is one of 20 schools proposed for closing, phase out, and turnaround status in what critics are calling the "2012 Hit List". Vitale sat quietly, saying nothing, and was hustled out as the last speaker, Jitu Brown blasted the CPS proposal.

Dyett is one of 20 schools proposed for closing, phase out, and turnaround status in what critics are calling the "2012 Hit List". Vitale sat quietly, saying nothing, and was hustled out as the last speaker, Jitu Brown blasted the CPS proposal.

In fact the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) leader, Jitu Brown, was only permitted to speak after a protest by the public supporters of Dyett. CPS officials tried to end the meeting an hour early just as Brown was arriving, knowing that he had officially signed up to speak.

rent a thug
Supporters of closing Crane High School and other schools showed up at the first community hearing on the issue, spurring accusations that they were paid lackeys of the mayor.

The paid protesters thought the meeting was over and were leaving. None of them wanted to speak, despite the signs they were holding up. The official speakers list jumped from Number 20 to Number 60 as no one stood up to voice their opinions. Only four or five spoke up, one was their minister.

Paid to show up?
On both sides, there were accusations that audience members were being paid and one supporter of the closings said he and others were given a $25 stipend.

Odell Thomas said CEDA helped him get to the Crane hearing and that the group bused 400 Englewood residents to the different hearings. “If the children aren't benefiting from the teaching, why should you keep the school open? You might as well close it,” he said.

“I just wonder why they wouldn't want it shut down,” Thomas added. “I believe it's just for the money.”

But the fact that yellow school buses brought some of those supporting the phase-out drew ire among the crowd. When they left, people in the audience shouted, “Rahm Emanuel's bus is leaving.”

Substance reporters noted that the approximately 60 paid protesters didn’t mind leaving early. They said they were from the "CLEO Center.". Two buses were waiting outside to take them back. They looked like very poor people; down trodden and needy.

One of the memorable speakers on behalf of Dyett was attorney Matt Farmer. Farmer asked Oliver Sicat how he could justify moving Dyett students to Wendell Phillips that is under its first year of AUSL turnaround. It is also a "Level 3" school, and one year of turnaround doesn‘t make it a better school. Sicat, who is the new CPS "Chief Portfolio Officer" didn't answer.

Taking It to the Next Level With CPS and AUSL
by Matt Farmer

So buckle up and join me as we enter the upside-down world of big-money school reform.

When Emanuel spoke to the Collins kids at the end of the 2010-11 school year, just 15.0% of them were meeting state standards in reading. Only 14.8% of them were meeting state standards in math.

Five months later, when the school was taken off probation, those numbers had actually slipped. Only 14.9% of the kids were meeting state standards in reading. Even worse, only 6.8% of the kids were hitting the target in math.

In other words, CPS took Collins off probation and classified it as a school in "good standing," even though its reading and math numbers had dropped over the course of that probationary school year.

How much had they dropped? Well, when Duncan closed the school in 2006, 17.9% of the Collins kids were meeting state standards in reading, and 7.6% of the kids were doing the same in math -- both better numbers than those that just got the connected school taken off probation.

How's that for a successful turnaround?

At times, the rented protesters didn't seem sure of which side they were supporting. Surprisingly, the protesters, whose prefabricated signs ranged from "You can’t defend failure" to "I choose students, not adults," walked in supporting the closing of Dyett, but applauded bombastically for community members at the microphone who demanded that CPS resource Dyett and other schools properly.

vitale dyett hearing jan 6 2012
Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale at the Dyett hearing January 6. Substance photo by David Vance.

Another speaker exposed President Vitale for a conflict of interest. He was on the board of directors of AUSL for many years. Sending students to Phillips H.S. which is in its first year of an AUSL turnaround looks like taking advantage of poor students to make a politically connected school grow.

A parent also spoke about how her daughter, a Dyett Honor-Roll student, would be removed from a school that served her well. The parent chastised the CPS representatives on the stage, stating that their previous closings have hurt her family and others, as she has had to provide neighborhood transportation to ensure the safety of especially school-age boys "to whatever other places you moved them to." Her daughter then praised the Dyett staff and school experience and told Oliver Sicat that "No Child Left Behind has left us behind," and that by closing her school, "You're telling me that I don't matter."

More Reading Regarding Opposition to Crony Corporate Education Politics in Chicago
- One Public School's Death By A Thousand Cuts
- Taking It to the Next Level With CPS and AUSL
- Another CPS Miracle?
- Rahm's 'Rent-A-Protest' Fails
- Rahm's Rent-A-Protest pickets outside CPS
- Chicago Public Schools sponsor Christian breakfast to promote CPS push for longer school day

Labor Beat: Chicago Protest 16 School Closings - 2/25/09

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