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Pride event held to kick-start Benton Harbor school year

A ‘Welcome Back to School’ pride event in Benton Harbor was held Wednesday to help the district start fresh as the 2016 school year approaches.

“I think the community is beginning to feel the energy in Benton Harbor Area Schools,” Benton Harbor High School Interim Principal Don Pearson said. “And this is why we have so many people out here today, and I’m just totally excited about it.”

Pearson recently became interim high school principal, as former principal Rodger Triplett continues to be on paid administrative leave for an unknown reason.

But at Wednesday’s event, Pearson said he’s excited to start the new academic year.

“I characterize this as the renaissance period for Benton Harbor Area Schools; rebirth and renewal,” Pearson said.

His words are strong for the struggling district, but new superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker said they’re taking a step in the direction.

“The goal is to increase our communication and information to our families,” Dr. Walker said. “And we still have work to do, but we are definitely improving.”

That’s where Wednesday’s event came into play – a meet-and-greet for parents and new administrators, an opportunity to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before school starts after Labor Day, and a chance for students to get some free school supplies and have some fun (face painting, games, food and the chance to sit in a Benton Harbor fire truck) to help kick-start the year.

“Everything we’re doing is focused on giving our best to every child,” Dr. Walker said.

Dr. Walker spent much of the day introducing herself to the families she now serves.

And Pearson said he’s hopeful his lengthy tenure in the community will override any nerves families may have of yet another new person overseeing the high school.

“The community knows me as a public servant,” Pearson said. “I’m not a new person in the area; I’ve been here [in Benton Harbor] for over 30 years, in many different roles, so they know what to expect once they get to Benton Harbor High School.”

And for families new to the district, like Mandy Robinson and her two children, Wednesday’s event was a great first impression.

“I love it!” Robinson said. “It’s awesome! The kids love it as well.”

Dr. Walker said Wednesday that details about why Triplett was placed on paid leave may not be available until October. 

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