Advisory committee OK'd in concept

BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor school board trustees Tuesday approved creating an advisory committee with state officials to develop a sustainable operating plan for the district.

But the specifics of who will be on the committee still need to be worked out, Vice President Joseph Taylor said after the meeting.

“So the board accepts the concept,” he said. “That’s what tonight was about. In two weeks, we’ll come right back out in probably a special meeting, and we’ll have a list. There might not be names on it, but it will be a list of positions for the advisory board.”

At last week’s work session, President Stephen Mitchell said district and state officials disagree on the composition of the advisory board. For example, he said trustees want two of their members on the committee, while state officials want only one.

The resolution approved Tuesday calls for the advisory committee to be established by Oct. 8, with a written report submitted to school board and state officials no later than March 31. School board trustees and state officials would both have to approve the committee’s plan for it to be implemented.

Michigan Deputy State Treasurer Joyce Parker, who attended the meeting, said she needs to see the resolution that was passed before she can comment on it.

“I’m not sure exactly what was passed,” said Parker, who oversees state and local government finance programs, after the meeting. “I’ve seen a couple of versions. I plan to wait until I see the final (version) with any revisions.”

On Aug. 16, Parker traveled with state Treasurer Rachael Eubanks to Benton Harbor to present the state proposal. The committee will need to assess how the school district got to its current situation and come up with an operating plan to move the district forward.

That proposal was greeted with cautious optimism by trustees and local residents, who were still shell-shocked after battling with state officials for almost three months to keep Benton Harbor High School open. 

State officials first proposed on May 24 closing the high school at the end of the 2019-20 school year, setting off a back and forth between both parties. 

The board also discussed the superintendent position. Taylor said at least some trustees are expected to meet Sept. 18 to figure out the best way to set up committees to help the district decide what qualifications are needed in its next superintendent. He said he’s uncertain if it will be an official special meeting.

Anyone interested in serving on a superintendent search committee should call the school district’s administration office at 605-1000.

Student count

Meanwhile, Interim Superintendent Patricia Robinson said after the meeting that 159 new students have enrolled with the district, with more signing up every day.

So many new high school students have signed up that school officials had to open another elective class to make room for them.

She said that next week, the district will start dropping students who registered but haven’t shown up.

“I’ll have a better indication of where we stand with overall enrollment after that is done,” she said. 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege