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Benton Harbor Schools work to ‘right the ship’

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- After a year filled with uncertainty and big decisions, the Benton Harbor Area Schools District held its ‘Back to School Bash’ Tuesday with hopes of continuing to improve.

“Are we where we need to be? No. I won’t pretend,” said Dr. Shelly Walker, superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools. “Are we a lot further along than where we were? Absolutely.”

The hallways of Benton Harbor High School were full again on Tuesday afternoon, as parents prepared to send their kids off for the upcoming first day of school.

But Dr. Walker said the work did not stop throughout the summer.

“What we have done this summer is a lot of work with our staff to do more professional development coming from within the staff,” she said.

And the message – not just from parents, but students too – is that that’s a good thing.

“It’s hard for the teachers to teach cause it’s like, they tried to mix all the students together and it’s just, it’s not working,” said Latoriya Moore, who’s going into the eighth grade. “But I like about the school that they just still give confidence and they keep going.”

“What I like about Benton Harbor Area Schools is no matter how much they are close to closing down, they still never give up and they keep trying to get students to come here,” said incoming tenth grader Elexia Williams.

As we reported throughout the last school year, the district eventually agreed to a new partnership to keep its doors open.

On Tuesday, Tiger pride seemed limitless at the back to school event.

Dr. Walker said the new partnership agreement is already bringing change.

Most notably, she said every school will now have counselors in the building every day.

And those differences mean something to parents like Laquilla Pringle, whose 6-year-old daughter Kailynn is going into the first grade.

“I’m a strong believer in my community and my children going to school in my community,” Pringle said.

Tuesday’s event was filled with some fun, and even some learning.

The robotics club showed off one of its robots.

And students looked on as a man showed them how to weld.

It’s the start of another high-stakes year for the district, but Dr. Walker said progress is in plain sight.

“Benton Harbor, without a doubt, is proving, through our data, that we are improving,” she said.

Dr. Walker also said consistency is what she and her team are aiming for.

Every school but one will start the school year with the same principal it ended with a few months ago.

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