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New superintendent looks to revitalize Benton Harbor Schools

Benton Harbor Area Schools’ new superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker took office for the first time Monday and she’s revealing her plans for the future of the district.

For Superintendent Walker, rebuilding this school district, community and city will take accountability.

And she says she wants this community to hold her accountable as well because she believes being transparent is key to being a good leader.

Sometimes leadership in education starts outside the building.

“When I look outside the building, when I look at the cracks in the road, these children are going to grow up to this environment if somebody and those who are already here don’t do something and they deserve people doing something,” said Superintendent Walker. “Really it’s about the kids, they just deserve the best.”

And while Benton Harbor Schools’ newest leader spent her first day inside the office, she vows to be deeply rooted in this community.

 “When I started to come here, and meet people, I knew this is where I need to be next and have made some significant sacrifices to be here and I’m very happy about it,” she said.

Her passion bears the weight of this area’s growing need for change.

The district is $14 million in debt and more building closures were just approved by the school board in January.

But Superintendent Walker believes improving the quality of the classroom could be the fix to bad finances.

“When the evidence of that starts to occur, and it will, and the achievement starts to rise, and it will, then parents are going to say ‘wait a minute, this school is right around the corner, my children can play with their friends,’ so that’s going to draw families and children back into the district, that’s going to increase revenue right off the bat,” said Superintendent Walker.

So while she’s just one day into her tenure, she’s working to rebuild with one thing on her mind.

“What’s good for kids and how is what I am doing everyday going to benefit the children?”

Superintendent Shelly Walker was formerly the assistant superintendent at Ritenour School District in St. Louis, Missouri.

Benton Harbor’s school board named her the permanent replacement to interim superintendent Gregory Weatherspoon back in January.

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