Work to improve Benton Harbor schools


School pride is something all students should have. The Benton Harbor band is one of the highlights of the Blossom parade. There is pride in the football and basketball teams! No student wants that to be taken away and be sent to other schools including their “rivals” in team competitions.

School is for learning and preparing students for the rest of their lives to earn a living, support their children, feed, clothe and house themselves. This is what the state wants the school district to improve to keep Benton Harbor High School open:

1. Decreasing the percentage of chronically absent students by 25 percent. Is it too much to expect students to show up for school if they want to keep it open?

2. Increase the number of certified teachers by 25 percent.

3. Reduce the use of long-term substitutes by 20 percent. Substitutes used to be used once in a while when a regular teacher was sick or had an emergency, not as long-term fill-ins.

4. Increasing student growth in math and English by at least 3 percent when third-graders can’t even read at the state level.

5. Hiring a highly qualified superintendent and chief financial officer.

They rejected these proposals and said, “No deal!” Seriously? The mayor and school board don’t want to reduce absenteeism, improve education or hire highly qualified people to run the school system? No wonder there is a problem!

In the July 4 newspaper, board secretary Patricia Rush said, “We were just ... doing business, just taking care of what was needed both operationally and educationally.” If that were the case, the state wouldn’t have stepped in due to under-performance and an $18.4 million debt. The mayor’s response is to threaten no support for local events that bring in much needed revenue to the community. Now they want a class action lawsuit.

Where is the pride? Where is the desire for improvement? It sounds like the Benton Harbor school board, mayor and community doesn’t want their children to get a good education, learn, succeed and improve. The state is willing to work with the city and school district by giving them a chance to improve over the next year. It takes dedication and commitment, not apathy. If they can’t make even slight 3 percent improvements now, what hope is there in the long term? They need to start now and stop saying, “It’s not our fault!”

I don’t want to see Benton Harbor High School closed. The sad truth is it is inevitable if absenteeism doesn’t drop, basic skills don’t improve and people keep complaining about the action the state wants to take to improve student learning. Instead, they should be saying, “Yes, let’s show the state we can cut absenteeism, bring up student’s skills and improve their education level!”

Alan Phillips

St. Joseph

Upton hasn’t helped with rural broadband


On Tuesday our landline phone service failed. The phone service of many of our neighbors is also out. We called Frontier and after many prompts we finally reached a real person. The first available repair date is July 17. In the meantime, we have no reliable way to communicate. We live approximately two miles from New Troy. Our smartphones do not work in our house; we have to go 125 yards from our house for them to work. Our landline is our lifeline in case of emergency.

This only heightens our frustration with the inadequate communication systems we have to deal with day to day. We pay so much money for many separate systems to reach the outside world and the service we get is laughable.

Cell phones don’t work; the internet is on and off; even our television reception is often poor. We have to deal with five different providers and constantly fight to keep costs down. We pay much much more than residents in other parts of the state where broadband is available. We have no access to broadband.

Over and over Rep. Fred Upton and other politicians have promised to bring better wireless services to rural communities. We have yet to see any result. On Upton’s website he proudly states that he serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce which deals with matters of telecommunication. He has done nothing to help the citizens he represents here in Michigan.

It is time to find political representation that will fight for our rights as citizens to have adequate communication choices.

Elizabeth and Victor Palulis


Trump should go to ‘summer camp’


Government officials from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s Office recently made unannounced visits to detention centers in the Rio Grande Valley. What they found was “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults.” The report documents no access to showers for many detainees, including young children. In some cases adults were required to stand for days on end.

An explosive report in the New York Times described the conditions in one such facility, in Clint, Texas, as “filthy and overcrowded.” Agents told the Times reporters that “outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children and adults who were being held in cramped cells.” The agents also reported that “the stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing – people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work.”

Donald Trump reacted to these reports in the way he usually reacts to any news reports that do not reflect well on him or his administration – he described them as “fake news” and said that the Border Patrol was doing a “great job.”

Some Trump supporters have claimed that the children who are being detained are in a situation akin to being at “summer camp.”

Since Trump thinks the negative findings of the Inspector General and the New York Times are “fake news,” he might consider spending a couple of weeks in one of the “summer camp” detention centers on the southern border. If he could remove the blinders that shield him from an accurate perception of reality, he might even decide to do something to correct the deplorable conditions in these overcrowded and unsanitary facilities.

Virginia Washburn

Grand Beach