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Benton Harbor Area Schools, state continue search for solutions in looming takeover problem

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Community concerns continue to grow as Michigan’s Department of Education (MDE) looks to get even more involved with Benton Harbor Area Schools (BHAS).

“How could you possibly turn around something that’s been happening for 20 years in 9 months?” one parent asked the state representatives at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Nine months into a partnership agreement that would keep three schools in the district open, the state is looking to add new stipulations to that contract.

Under the proposed changes, MDE would:

  • Appoint a mediator to work with board and superintendent.
  • Identify a plan for central office support.
  • Provide a support person/mentor for the superintendent.
  • Provide a liaison to assist in the board's request for partnership/consent agreement information.
  • Ensure special education curriculum will be integrated in the partnership agreement.
  • Bring in an independent team to conduct a safety evaluation.

A few board members Tuesday welcomed the changes.

“Any help that we can get to help us move forward for our students in a quicker more efficient manner, then let’s do it,” said trustee Martha Momany.

While Momany was optimistic, others questioned why the focus of these changes is mostly on the administration and school board.

“This is about helping the board and the superintendent get some clarity on where they want to go around some of the positions that had been negotiated in prior meetings,” said Vanessa Keesler, MDE Deputy Superintendent.

The BHAS school board can negotiate modifications to these proposals but the state is looking to finalize these changes within two weeks.

These potential changes also come in the middle of what some parents are calling a safety crisis for the district, which is why the sixth addendum calls for the state to look into the safety and security of students and staff.

Parents spoke out Tuesday night about a rumored brawl in the halls of the high school that happened Monday.

That comes just a month after a video surfaced of a huge fight in the high school last month.

Parents are now saying enough is enough.

“A lot of these kids need to take responsibility for their actions,” said one parent.

“We have to find a way, how can we address this?” said Pastor Steven McCoy.

Pastor McCoy and the district will hold a safety coalition meeting Thursday at 6:00 pm at Mccoy’s Memorial Church of God in Christ to continue this conversation.

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