Friday, December 18, 2015

DuSable librarian position restored. Thanks to 'anonymous donor' or student protests?

“Thanks to a generous anonymous gift, the librarian’s job can be restored at the DuSable campus,” CPS said in a statement.  -- Sun-Times
“That was just amazing … the kids … I’ve been here a long time, and one of the advantages of a librarian is you get to know kids when they’re little green freshman, then watch them write essays for college,” she said. “It was really very moving to me that they were willing to take that chance and take action.  -- DuSable librarian Sara Sayigh

I'm always amazed, though not surprised any more, by how money magically appears in broke-on-purpose coffers of the Chicago Public Schools.

While I'm elated to hear that students at DuSable (I still call it that) have their beloved librarian Sara Sayigh back, CPS's statement explaining the whole affair, is borderline laughable.  An anonymous donor? Really, Forrest Claypool? Are teaching and staff positions at CPS now like endowed chairs at the university, dependent on the benevolence of wealthy patrons? Is that even legal? Will it become part of the next collective-bargaining agreement (if there ever is a next)?

We've already got high schools named after billionaires line Gov. Bruce Rauner, retired ComEd CEO Frank Clark and Exelon's John Rowe. What's next? The Ken Griffin Social Studies Teacher at Lindbloom? The Anonymous Donor School Clerk at Bronzeville Military?

Sayigh's retention means we're back to three out of 28 high schools with a student population over 90 percent African-American that have a library staffed by a certified librarian. The others are Morgan Park High School and Chicago Vocational Career Academy.

Everyone should know by now that the real magic behind Sayigh's comeback was performed by DuSable students themselves, who made their voices heard loud and clear in what S-T-s Lauren Fitzpatrick calls, "a disruptive 'read-in' from high school students in the historic DuSable building."

Notice that Fitzpatrick uses the name DuSable only to describe the building and not the school itself. The reason being, DuSable High School, central to the Bronzeville gentrification plan, was closed a decade ago and replaced by three privately-run charters,  whose boards at Bronzeville Scholastic Institute and Daniel Hale Williams Prep high schools. immediately dropped the name DuSable (Betty Shabazz charter agreed to keep the name, DuSable Leadership Academy).

At the time, I worked with legendary DuSable alums Timuel Black, the late Jim Wagner and the DuSable Alumni Assoc. (of which I am a proud honorary member) to stop the takeover and keep the name DuSable -- at least on the building. Prof. Black is quoted in Fitzpatrick's story:
Civil rights icon and DuSable alumnus Timuel Black said removing the librarian “would be not only an insult to the history of the school and the library, but a disadvantage to the community which has access to the library, and certainly to those of us who have spent many years in the library even after graduation for information that would not be available anywhere else.”
When students organize, and are courageous enough to stand up and speak out to save their own schools, teachers, parents, and community come with them. Next thing you know, some victories are won over an administration that is bent on balancing the budget on the backs of neighborhood schools. It is also an administration in full retreat and reeling from mismanagement and corruption scandals. We see the potential of student/parent/teacher power in the Opt-Out movement against testing madness, Black Lives Matter, and current efforts to save special education.

Now, DuSable's Betty Shabazz charter is on the chopping block as a result of low test scores.  Makes you wonder if there will be any students left at DuSable to use the library.


  1. That's very nice of "anonymous donor," but just how much was donated, & will this donation be good for more than just 6 more months of employment?
    Also--waiting for the CPS Central Office cuts that are supposedly coming soon (& these must be administrative positions).

  2. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thought the "anonymous donor" miracle fix was a little...strained. Little correction (I only know this because I was so corrected in my story:, two of the schools are publics, Williams and Bronzeville, and one is a charter. Bravo DuSable Campus students!


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