State proposes new plan for Benton Harbor schools

    Benton Harbor High School
    Benton Harbor High School | Nick Manes
    Updated, 8:20 a.m. 8/21/19 to correct the name of Dr. Michael Rice

    The state Department of Treasury and school superintendent have a new plan they hope will support the beleaguered Benton Harbor Area Schools. 

    In a statement on Friday, state officials announced a proposal to establish a Community Engagement and Advisory Committee. The committee, the state says, would work with a broad group of Benton Harbor stakeholders to develop an operating plan for the Southwest Michigan school district that is suffering under debt and under-performing academic achievement. 

    Rachael Eubanks
    State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks | Casey Hull

    “Our goal is to work with the community to identify solutions for creating a viable K through 12 education system for Benton Harbor families,” State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks said in a statement. “Both myself and my team are looking forward to working with the school board, community and the Michigan Department of Education to forge a path forward that works for everyone.”

    As the Advance has previously reported, Benton Harbor residents have expressed anger at a plan proposed earlier this summer by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to shut down the city’s high school and send students to a variety of other surrounding school districts. 

    The plan now proposed by the state appears more in line with what residents and city officials have asked for: closer cooperation with the state in an effort to get Benton Harbor’s schools in better fiscal and academic performance. 

    Should the school board approve the state’s proposal — which it could do at its Sept. 3 meeting — the state says the community can expect the “committee’s members would engage stakeholders and consider enrollment, academic programs, capital needs and other issues as they work openly and transparently on an operating plan.”

    Whitmer, Gilchrist again meet with Benton Harbor school officials

    Stephen Mitchell, president of the Benton Harbor school board, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday morning. But state Superintendent Dr. Michael* Rice said he’s hopeful the committee proposal will assist the district in meeting financial and academic goals. 

    “We are committed to assisting the Department of Treasury and Benton Harbor community in developing financial and academic strategies that will work for the school district’s students and educators,” Rice said in a statement.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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