Benton Harbor Schools leaders discuss district improvements, state goals

Benton Harbor Schools leaders discussed district improvements and state goals. // WSBT 22 Photo

Benton Harbor Schools leaders are dealing with a set of issues.

The state says the district is making progress.

It signed an agreement with the state nine months ago. It was a plan to turn around poor student performance.

Michigan's Deputy Superintendent was at Monday's meeting.

There were also leaders from Boys and Girls Club, Lake Michigan College and the Southwest YMCA. They were all there to share ideas on how to make the district better.

Leaders from Benton Harbor Schools and surrounding areas gathered in groups, discussing how the school district is doing meeting state goals within the first nine months of their agreement.

Venessa Keesler, deputy superintendent with the Michigan Department of Education says the district is right on schedule.

"Benton Harbor is doing a great job with bring their partners together regularly. Keeping them informed. Keeping the state and the ISD and the board community partners informed. So today's meeting was another productive time for us all to sit down hand have an honest conversation about the progress of where we have to go," said Keesler.

The district has an 18-month and 36-month status update with the state.

Right now, specific schools are subject to improvement benchmarks for the state. School leaders are proposing adding the Arts and Communication Academy to the partner agreement.

Keesler says this will help with the overall change in the district.

"This change needs to happen district-wide. So again keeping progress and keeping the focus that district wide change and improvement it's going to be important for them," said Keesler.

Superintendent Shelly Walker says Monday's feedback was helpful, including how the district will handle students who get out of line in the classrooms.

"Clearly we need to continue our focus on how to navigate between students who are not making the right choices but not just kicking them to the curb because strong data says it's the pipeline to prison. And that is not what any of our children deserve regardless of the why," said Walker.

The Superintendent says they hope to have a plan on dealing with referrals and suspensions by their 18-month checkpoint, because they'd rather focus on achievement goals for the district.

The next special agreement meeting will be in April.

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