BENTON HARBOR — Superintendent/CEO Bob Herrera is leaving the Benton Harbor school district with the bitter taste of not being given the opportunity to finish the job he started, he says. 

“I don’t want to walk away from this work,” he told The Herald-Palladium on Wednesday. “It’s been a year. I’ve put my heart and soul into this. I’ve used 30 years of experience to develop this plan,” said Herrera, referring to his three-year plan to turn the district around.

On Tuesday, Farmington school board trustees unanimously approved his contract. He expects to begin there July 1.

Herrera said when he took the Benton Harbor job a year ago, he was told by state officials that he would have at least three years to turn the district around under a cooperative agreement, which put school board trustees in an advisory position. Herrera had control of all decision making except taxation and the borrowing of money.

Then in December, state legislators voted to end the law the cooperative agreement was made under, on June 30.

Herrera said his first year was dedicated to creating a solid foundation so teachers had the necessary skills to teach. When he started, he said there had been no comprehensive curriculum in the district for years. Under his leadership, he said the district adopted an English curriculum for grades K-12, and a math curriculum for grades 6-12.

Herrera said the state should have allowed him more time to implement changes. 

“I believe we do have a very good strategic plan in place for year two and three that would have brought about significant change if given the opportunity,” he said.

Herrera said the staff worked diligently to make a positive difference in the district. And he developed relationship with several potential partners, including Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and Andrews University in Berrien Springs. Now, he said, everything is on hold and in flux. 

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