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BHAS superintendent confident in proposed state partnership

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -

Three Benton Harbor Area Schools at risk of closing could now stay open for at least 18 months if a new partnership with the state is agreed upon.

ABC57 first reported on this potential deal Monday night, after speaking with the Michigan state superintendent.

On Tuesday, ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz spoke with Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker about the partnership.

“We are planning on accepting it, and actually, we have fast-tracked that plan,” said Dr. Walker. “My hope will be to have our paperwork complete with State Superintendent [Brian] Whiston by the end of March.”

In an effort to keep three under-performing schools afloat a little longer, Dr. Walker and her staff will be signing on the dotted line in the next few weeks.

“I kind of make jokes and say the partnership agreement is what we’re [already] doing on steroids,” said Dr. Walker.

She said the state’s proposal to work hand-in-hand with Benton Harbor Area Schools will help build on a foundation she and her staff have set in the last year.

“What I don’t see in the partnership agreement is the state’s intention to come in and tell us what to do,” said Dr. Walker.

Anxiety over the possible closings – coupled with a controversial history of state control in Benton Harbor – has some in the community on edge.

But Mayor Marcus Muhammad said he agrees with Dr. Walker after joining her in Lansing last week to meet with two of Governor Rick Snyder’s top aides.

“The cabinet director even said, ‘We don’t want to come in to dictate; we want to come in to collaborate and work with those who are already there,’” said Muhammad.

If the partnership is approved once submitted, the goal over the next year and a half will be to produce some real results when it comes to academic improvement.

Dr. Walker said she’s 99.9 percent confident it will work, but she’s calling on the community to get involved.

“I say it with almost a sense of urgency to the community and to the parents that I do believe this is our last chance,” said Dr. Walker.

One way you can get involved is by attending an upcoming meeting between parents and State Superintendent Whiston.

Dr. Walker said a time for that meeting – along with several others that will take place to help finalize the partnership before submitting it to the governor – is being sorted out. 

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