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Benton Harbor Area School Board selects new board member

NOW: Benton Harbor Area School Board selects new board member

BENTON HARBOR, Ind. - The Benton Harbor Area School Board voted in a new board member after their late president, Steve Mitchell, passed away in September.

The board had two big decisions to make Tuesday night. The first is about the state’s recommended advisory board, which has been put on hold. The next was to fill in the empty chair on the board and they unanimously voted for Darwin Watson.

“At this state, right now we’re at a moment in time where this board will either function properly and do what’s right or this district will be closed,” Joseph Taylor, Board President said.

Money and education problems have plagued the Benton Harbor school district.

“We know that right now we don’t have time for mismanagement, disagreements. We need to be on the same accord,” Taylor said.

With President Steve Mitchell’s passing, it’s now time to select a new board member.

Candidates Elnora Gavins, Nicholas Magee, Shaquille Turner and Darwin Watson answered questions about their vision for education in this community, all stating the issue of under-education in the district.

When asked about the biggest challenge facing education today, they all answered ‘funding.’

In the end, the board decided to unanimously support Darwin Watson.

“I think the board chose Mr. Watson based on his experience right, he’s an ex-city manager and we think he’ll do well,” Taylor said.

Darwin Watson, the new board member, said he is excited to assume this new role.

“I’ve done government public service for the last 20 years this is just an extension of it. Our kids deserve a quality education and I just want to help be the one – I want to be one of the ones to help bring that about for our community,” Watson said.

Watson worked for the city for more than 20 years. In July, he was fired as city manager. He was rehired by the mayor and in August he was fired as the director of public works.

“It’s in the past. I got to move forward. I can’t dwell on that,” Watson said.

He said his main goal right now is “getting to an amicable situation and a workable situation with the state so that the state feels comfortable that the board and the district is moving the way they want it and they should be moving.”

And after that, “then we’ve got to start working on making sure that we do everything to put our best face forward,” he said.

The board could vote on what’s called the ‘memo of understanding’ regarding the advisory committee as soon as this Saturday, once the State Superintendent looks at the documents.

But the first advisory meeting is the week of October 28th.

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