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Multi-million dollar grant could bring more changes to Benton Harbor Area Schools

School officials are looking to bring money back to Benton Harbor Area Schools.

As deadlines approach, the district is moving forward with new plans to help curb its growing debt.

One plan includes reapplying for a statewide grant that could mean a shakeup in the ranks.

“Those painful decisions were a necessity, not just to get a loan but just to right size the district and go in the right direction for our students and our taxpayers,” said Joseph Taylor, School Board Vice President.

Those painful decisions stretched across many meetings and ultimately large layoffs and down-sizing were the outcomes in order for this district to pick up its last loan.

“I say last because we got to make this work,” said Superintendent Shelly Mills-Walker.

So the district is working to take another shot at the School Improvement Grant (or S.I.G).

It’s the $18 million grant the district was awarded last year.

A copy of the grant’s Score Card revealed mismanagement and noncompliance were the causes for the termination.

Benton Harbor High School Principal Rodger Tripplett didn’t make the grade, according to the report, because he lacked the required turn around skills.

That’s a problem the state department says could affect the future.

“In the report she summarizes each of the competencies and gives examples how he does not meet those competencies,” said Lawanna Shelton, Educational Consultant at Michigan Department of Education.

The department says there are four other models for the grant, and just one that wouldn’t require his replacement.

The district would have to discern if it is the right fit or if they would have to make another painful decision.

“I know that in order to embrace the new sig grant we will make sure that we meet the requirements, right, before we apply which is what we’re looking into. Whatever that requires, we want to be in compliance,” said Walker.

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