Saturday, June 22, 2019

Open Letter to Michigan Governor Whitmer

Dear Governor Whitmer

We respectfully and urgently request that you visit Benton Harbor in person to meet in an Open Public Meeting with the community and elected School Board Trustees regarding the future of Benton Harbor High School and K-12 District as a whole.

The School Board is hosting an Open Public Meeting  at the Benton Harbor High School Student

Hopewell you are aware that representative from your office,Treasury and the Department of Education are claiming that on your behalf , a unilateral decision has been made to close Benton Harbor High School in 2020. The board was told by your representatives that a decision was made by your office to intentionally exclude the School Board Trustees and exclude open community input from the decision making process. Honestly we are completely shocked and  dismayed by this action. Our Board has been working in good faith with both Treasury and Education to address issues at BHAS including an outline for a new Strategic Plan , submitted to Treasury , but upon which your department have taken no action.

We also want to openly confront the many elephants in the room that neither your staff nor the news media have addressed.

The land which the Benton Harbor High School sits with its athletic field and adjacent School Board properties are the last Major Undeveloped Waterfront Properties in Berrien County, Michigan. Is this just a coincidence , given that your office just told our Board representative on 5/24/2019 that your plan to close Benton Harbor High School has major (unnamed ) supporters in the nearby business community?

The Draft Plan from your office is explicitly a transfer of wealth from an overwhelmingly poor and black community (Benton Harbor) to nearby white , more affluent communities. Under your Plan , that transfer of wealth will occur through the loss by Benton Harbor of its school facilities and use of school land, transfer of state funding from Benton Harbor to the adjacent nine school districts where you plan Benton Harbor students to be redistributed and loss of jobs for local teachers and staff of all levels.

The Contention by representatives of your office that hiring a single staff person to act as a Cultural Dean to smooth over discomfort that displaced 700 black students might feel when transported out of
their community to predominantly white school is an appalling insult to our youth and the community.Such insensitivity to the painful history of racial segregation, unsuccessful past desegregation efforts, and continued State sponsored dis-investment in Benton Harbor calls for a swift and strong response.

We call upon you to fulfill your 2018 campaign promises to support public schools, especially in high poverty communities, to fight urban poverty and to hold government accountable.

BHAS need balanced , constructive leadership from you, your office and all State agencies We need complete transparency. We need State and local leaders to stop sensationalizing limited facts about Benton Harbor in the media and on the Michigan. gov website created by your office to promote your plan to close Benton Harbor High School. Our community needs to feel that our youth are respected , valued and worth meaningful investment, so that they may achieve their tremendous potential. The students , their families, our teachers, and our our community deserve that.

Please allow me to thank you in advance.