Benton Harbor HS seniors graduate as school's future remains unclear

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - For those who know what it feels like, graduating high school can be exciting.

At Benton Harbor High School, Thursday night could have been one of the last times students walked the stage as a Tiger if Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed plan to close the school is approved.

“They should stay open. Benton Harbor High School is a legacy. Kids that are small – if you're small, you'll be like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to get to high school.’ There’s nothing like Benton Harbor High School. There is nothing like it,” 1991 alumna Christine Anderson-Long said.

Before students walked the stage Thursday night, the school board met at the Benton Harbor Central Administration Building – not to talk about Whitmer but to discuss the school’s financial future concerning state aid and taxation.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Herrera, who announced Wednesday that he will officially leave the district at the end of the month, told the board he planned to be at Thursday’s meeting. To the board’s surprise, he did not show up.

“I was expecting him here at the table. I don’t know about shock, but I was expecting him here. Maybe something else happened and he had something else to do,” board Vice President Joseph Taylor said.

Taylor said it is now looking for a new CEO to replace Herrera, who is scheduled to leave once cooperative agreement ends on June 30.

The district has until next Friday to decide whether or not to approve the state’s plan to shutter the high school. If they disapprove, the district could possibly be dissolved or turned into a charter.

One graduating student said her hard work and the hard work of her classmates leading up to graduation proves why the state should reconsider their proposal.

“I feel so good, because I have been through so much with the schools and everything. I was on track to get a GED and everything, and now, I got my diploma because I worked so hard,” Daniah Long said.

The deadline to approve or reject the state’s proposed plan is Friday, June 14. The board says it will be working hard to come up with a resolution before that deadline comes.