Benton Harbor Area Schools behind on teacher insurance payments

By: Brandon Lewis Email
By: Brandon Lewis Email

Benton Harbor Area Schools are two months behind insurance payments as teachers agree to contract changes.

In July 2010 the district fell three months behind its insurance payments and was put on a payment plan to catch up. Previously the district fell behind about three years ago.

"It's my understanding that there's an attempt to work out an agreement with the school district to develop a repayment plan to cover the premiums that are still owing," said Mike Schroder with the Michigan Education Association, the union representing teachers in Benton Harbor.

If a new payment plan isn't worked out, teachers could stand to lose their insurance benefits.

"I've seen it happen in other places where if a bill, an insurance premium bill, is more than 30 days due, the insurance benefit is cut off by the insurance company. It's frustrating, but we try to work through them the best we can given the circumstances we're facing. It's a matter of trying to be patient and understanding and recognize that we're all in this together and we all need to work together to hopefully, ultimately solve these problems," said Schroder.

Earlier in the week, high school teachers agreed to contract changes to the length of a school day and how they are evaluated.

"I think there's going to be a massive reorganization of how things are done. I think the primary thing that's going to happen will be a change in the instructional day, there's going to be a longer instructional day beginning next year and I believe going to be looking at all sorts of changes in the process of instruction, teachers training in-service and so forth to do everything to improve instruction and improve learning in the high school," said Schroder.

Tenured teachers will also be evaluated annually, instead of every three years. 45-percent of all teacher evaluations will be based on student performance.

"That's what the state is telling us had to be done in Benton Harbor High School in order for the state to approve the reform plan that's being submitted," said Schroder.

Without an approved reform plan the high school is more likely to be taken over by the state, but Schroder doubted a takeover would happen.

"I don't know if the state would have the resources, quite frankly, to do that, but obviously we can't take the chance and have them take the school district over. I don't think that would be good for the students in the district, the teachers and other employees," said Schroder.

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