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Benton Harbor school board approves latest proposal from the state, but only in concept

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Benton Harbor High School

The Benton Harbor School Board says it supports the concept of a new advisory committee with the state to turn around the district. But the board says it will take more time to create the committee.

The idea for the committee is the latest in a back and forth between the leaders of the district and the state over how to turn things around. In May, the Whitmer administration proposed closing Benton Harbor High School to help the district cope with its debt and low performance on standardized tests. The school board unanimouslyrejected the plan.

State leaders from the Department of Treasury and Department of Education went back to the school board last month to propose the idea of an advisory committee. They asked the board to vote on it. Tuesday night, board members did vote, but only to support the concept, not to actually create the committee.

Joseph Taylor is vice president of the board.

“In two weeks, we’ll come right back out, and probably a special meeting,” Taylor said. “And we’ll have a list of – it might not be names on it – but it’ll be a list of positions for the advisory board.”

The school board approved a resolution saying the advisory committee would be formed no later than October 8. It would report its findings by the spring of 2020.

“We recommended a community-based, autonomous, advisory committee,” said Deputy State Treasurer Joyce Parker. “And so I’m not sure if that’s what was adopted tonight.”

The state says the district is $18.4 million in debt.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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