Board, state agree on committee details

BENTON HARBOR — The future of the Benton Harbor school district may rest in the hands of the joint advisory committee between the state and district.

School board President Joseph Taylor said trustees approved creating the committee with the state at a board retreat Saturday, with the first meeting expected to take place before the end of the month.

He said the committee is expected to create the district’s business and operational plan for the 2020-21 school year, by the end of March. The plan would need to approved by the school board and the state before being implemented.

“There will be 11 members with a 12th member who will not have any voting rights,” he said. “That 12th member will be helping out Benton Harbor Area Schools.”

Board Treasurer Denise Whatley-Seats will represent the school board on the committee, he said. Other members include people from the state Department of Treasury, state Department of Education, the governor’s office, InterCare Community Health Network and Berrien Community Foundation, along with a parent, student and teacher.

Taylor said the meetings, which will be in Benton Harbor, will be open to the public, even though they don’t have to be. He said the school district will post when the meetings are once they have a schedule.

A cloud has hung over the school district ever since state officials proposed in May that trustees agree to close Benton Harbor High School at the end of the 2019-20 school year so the district can focus on raising achievement in grades K-8 and on reducing the district’s $18.4 million debt.

At the time, state officials said if trustees don’t approve this plan, the entire district could be closed.

Trustees have rejected all plans that include the possibility of the high school being closed.

In August, state officials said they were pushing the reset button and offered to set up and fund a joint advisory committee with the school district. 

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