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Benton Harbor Area Schools working to hire teachers for the fall

NOW: Benton Harbor Area Schools working to hire teachers for the fall

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BENTON HARBOR, MICH. -- With just over two weeks until the first day of classes Benton Harbor Area Schools are working to hire teachers. 

Right now, the district has 24 open positions to fill before the bells ring on the first day of school. There was a job fair held on Friday; however, ABC57 was not allowed inside to talk to prospective teachers or district officials about the situation.

Benton Harbor teachers’ union rep Lou Ann Vidmar says attracting and keeping qualified teachers has been a problem in the Benton Harbor Area Schools for years.

“They have not been able to get qualified, highly certified teachers to come to this district," Vidmar said. “Until this district, which is in financial straits, can afford to entice people to come here with good salaries, good benefits, you know it’s difficult to get them to want to come.”

The district is 18.4 million dollars in debt, has lost students, had multiple superintendents leave, and relied on long term substitutes to fill classrooms where few students meet state reading and math standards.

But despite all that, many residents are fighting against the state’s plan to close the high school, like 1972 Benton Harbor graduate Veronica Isom.

“My mother graduated from Benton Harbor High School, I did, my daughter did. I just don’t think it’s right,” Isom said.

But Vidmar says  the uncertainty over the district’s future could hold certified teachers back, and even lower student enrollment more.

“When you can’t support the quality of teachers that you need here, consistently keeping teachers here and paraprofessionals here, and they’re the ones living in the community, it’s hard to encourage parents to bring children to this district,” Vidmar explained.

The Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson declined to comment on the job openings and enrollment for this fall.

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