Whitmer, Gilchrist again meet with Benton Harbor school officials

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Brotherhood of All Nations Church in Benton Harbor | Nick Manes

    State officials and education leaders in Benton Harbor continue to work toward a solution for the ailing Southwest Michigan school district, although few details are known. 

    Since early June, residents and elected officials in the city have fumed at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration as they rejected an initial plan to shutter the Benton Harbor Area Schools (BHAS) High School and a subsequent offer to keep the high school open. That was rejected on the grounds that the state-issued benchmarks were viewed as unrealistic and likely just delayed an eventual closure. 

    Some Benton Harbor residents, however, have rejected that plan and instead want to work closely with the state on beefing up educational outcomes and overcoming financial struggles. 

    Benton Harbor rejects Whitmer’s deal to keep high school open

    On Tuesday, Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and members of the BHAS school board met to discuss those topics, but the specifics are unclear. 

    “The lines of communication are open among all parties and we look forward to future discussions to identify a solution that puts Benton Harbor students first,” the parties said in a joint statement released by Whitmer’s office. 

    Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Mackinac Policy Conference | Susan J. Demas

    A request for comment sent to BHAS School Board President Stephen Mitchell was not returned on Thursday. 

    Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad was not present at the Tuesday meeting, but did meet separately with Gilchrist, he told the Advance during a brief Thursday phone interview. 

    Muhammad has been particularly vocal about his displeasure with how the governor and her administration have handled the school situation. On Thursday, he said he’s pleased that the parties are meeting and that there appears to be “forward motion.” But he said future meetings should be done in public. 

    “I would caution that hush meetings are almost as bad as hush money because it gnaws away at transparency,” Muhammad said.

    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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