BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - One by one, dozens of parents took the microphone Tuesday night to tell the Benton Harbor Area School Board and Superintendent what they think needs to be done. The district is $18 million in debt massive cuts are on the way. Tuesday, Benton Harbor listened to what parents had to say.
Many parents, like Darwin Finley, thought raising money might be the key to getting Benton Harbor out of its financial jam. "Fundraising,” said Finley. “There are many things (the schools can do.) There are grants we can solicit businesses, corporations," he said. According to Leonard Seawood, the new superintendent in Benton Harbor, fundraising might help but these cuts are more serious.
"We have 28 days," said Seawood. The district has less than a month to figure out where 2.6 million dollars is going to be cut at Benton Harbor Schools for the 2011-2012 academic year or The Michigan Department of Education will have control. Benton Harbor Area Schools are currently under a state review. If they can’t put a plan in place to cut the money, an Emergency Manager will run the district. "It will absolutely be painful,” said Seawood. “But when we come through this we will be a stronger district,” he said.
Details on the cuts haven’t been determined but Benton Harbor is considering consolidating schools, selling off buildings, cutting programs like arts, music, or athletics and laying off teachers.
"There’s a lot of rumors going around I just hope it's not one of my schools," said May Schultz, an art teacher in Benton Harbor. Shultz said she is worried the district won't be able to offer the same education as they did before. Seawood says running a more efficient district will keep the quality of education from suffering.
Seawood said specifics on layoffs will be determined in the next two weeks and the teacher’s union will be asked to take a 10% pay cut.