The Board of Education at Benton Harbor Area Schools (BHAS) signed a landmark collaborative agreement June 28, 2018, with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) that will set a new course for improved academic achievement and financial stability in the district. As part of the collaboration, the Board named Robert C. Herrera, Ed.D., as its new Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer (CEO). “This agreement is an exciting opportunity to make sure what parents, teachers and community partners want to see happen in Benton Harbor schools, happens,” said State School Reform Officer Dr. Dedrick Martin. “This district is going to roar again.”
See this informational website for additional details and updates, as well as answers to questions you may have.
“Serving the Benton Harbor Area Schools will be professionally and personally one of the greatest opportunities in my education career. With the help of district parents, teachers and community partners, we will create a shared vision for what the environment in Benton Harbor Area Schools will look like and what the learning experiences for our children will be. You have my commitment as Superintendent and CEO, that together we will make holistic improvements over the next four years that will benefit all of our students as well as reach the academic outcomes and financial stability we are expected by the State to achieve.”
Dr. Bob Herrera brings a wealth of teaching and leadership experience to the Benton Harbor Area Schools. As the district’s superintendent and chief executive officer, he is responsible for setting goals and developing and implementing plans and systems that will bring about necessary improvements in students’ academic success. He is also responsible for ensuring the financial stability of the district. Bob is well-matched for the educational challenges the district faces.
Most recently, Bob has served as superintendent of South Haven Public Schools (2012-present). He was instrumental in developing and leading the passage and administration of a $38 million bond, which has been used to redesign the high school, install safe and secure entrances for all buildings and implement 1:1 technology for grades 1-12.
His areas of expertise are in curriculum improvements and developing and implementing the systems to support their success. While serving in South Haven, Bob established the K-12 curriculum in math and English language arts and literacy (ELA) and implemented the K-12 Adaptive Schools Model. He was also instrumental in implementing the district’s data management and balanced assessment systems. Under his leadership, the district saw significant Top to Bottom Ranking improvements on an average of 23% in all schools.
As assistant superintendent of Adrian Public Schools (2010-2012), Bob helped transform the district’s low performing schools (bottom 5% in Michigan public schools). At the end of his two years of service, Adrian High School’s Top to Bottom Ranking improved by 86% (5% to 91%).
Bob has also honed his school leadership and teaching skills as:
Bob earned his doctorate and master’s degrees in educational leadership from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and a bachelor’s degree with an education major in biological science from Michigan State University, East Lansing. He is a continuous learner and stays current in best educational practices, curriculum development, performance assessments and education support systems.
In addition to membership in the Michigan Association of School Administrators, Bob is committed to partnering with leaders in the communities where he serves. Most recently, Bob was active with the South Haven Chamber of Commerce, South Haven Area Recreational Association and Brownfield Local Development.
Bob and his family are passionate about living and working in Southwest Michigan. He, his wife Jennifer, and young adult children, Chris and Claire, currently reside in South Haven.
View the letter from the BHAS Board of Education to the Benton Harbor Community.
View the release from the BHAS Board of Education announcing the new collaborative agreement with MDE.
View the release from the Michigan Department of Education announcing their new collaborative agreement with BHAS Board of Education
The State of Michigan is not taking over or running the Benton Harbor Area Schools (BHAS). The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has agreed with the current BHAS Board of Education that a clear leadership and governance structure is needed. This leadership structure entails hiring a superintendent that will in turn become the chief executive officer (CEO) of the entire school system. The CEO will coordinate work between the MDE, the BHAS Board of Education, parents, teachers,and the community and make decisions that will improve the academic achievements of BHAS students and the financial stability of the district.
Success for the school system and improved academic and financial achievement can only be achieved with coordinated work between the state, the Board, parents and community with absolutely clear accountabilities for final decision making.
The signed collaborative agreement will be in effect July 17, 2018 to June 30, 2023. This Agreement calls for defined academic milestones that point to progress for the school system.
The overarching objective allows for the youth of BHAS to succeed academically and the district to have financial stability.
The Agreement calls for hiring a CEO who is responsible for creating a shared vision of success that engages BHAS teachers, administrators, staff, students and parents to work toward a common goal of improving academic performance and – with it – financial solvency for BHAS.
The CEO has signed a 4-year agreement with BHAS. This employment commitment will give the district the stability and continuity of leadership it needs to bring about necessary changes. The CEO will report to the MDE School Reform Officer (SRO) and will regularly update the MDE and the BHAS Board of Education about milestone goals, implementation plans and progress. The CEO will also give financial updates to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
The BHAS Board of Education will provide a collective voice for the community and focus its efforts as an advisory board to the CEO. While the Board will retain its borrowing and taxation responsibilities for the district, the CEO will assume all other Board powers. This will help streamline decision making and allow for a greater sense of urgency in changing and improving the culture and climate of the district.
The MDE will provide its breadth of expertise, experience and resources to assist the BHAS and its CEO in:
The SRO will coordinate MDE services with BHAS.
This is a systemic change in leadership to deal with issues that have been decades in the making. No one person, superintendent or BHAS Board of Education is responsible for the chronic underachievement that has become the norm for the school system. This change is seen as the most expedient mechanism to create measurable progress for student achievement and financial success within the schools.
First and foremost, the agreement is necessary because the State of Michigan, the BHAS Board of Education and the community know we can and must do better at meeting the academic needs of the children of Benton Harbor. As a district, we need to set and reach a higher standard of achievement in the BHAS. We are confident the entire community feels the same way and will rally around bringing change and enhanced opportunity for the children of this community.
Secondly, based upon a uniform set of index measurements used to evaluate all public schools, the Benton Harbor Area Schools have been identified as one of the lowest performing school systems in the State of Michigan. The law does not allow a school system to continue to not deliver the type of education the children deserve and, as such, the State of Michigan requires an intervention, which is being done with the full support of the BHAS Board of Education.
The need for the Agreement itself has been decades in the making, with a culmination of social, economic and policy issues that have resulted in BHAS being identified as performing in the lowest 5% within the State. The law stipulates that the State of Michigan has additional layers of accountability for schools that are among the most struggling.
The BHAS Board of Education is to be thanked for facing the realities that have been in the making for these many years, and choosing to deal with the issues head-on. The Agreement has been crafted between various parties of the BHAS Board and the State of Michigan to create a better environment for kids in the Benton Harbor community.
The agreement between the BHAS and the MDE and the Michigan Department of Treasury is for 5 years. The new CEO has a 4-year contract.
The new CEO will have a 4-year contract. The Agreement calls for defined academic milestones to measure various levels of achievement that points to progress for the school system and with achieving the overarching objective that allows for the youth of the Benton Harbor Area Schools to succeed and the district to have financial stability.
The CEO is in charge of day-to-day operations for BHAS, including academic, staffing and financial decisions. The CEO is also responsible to provide updates to the elected board members and the MDE as well as giving financial updates to the Department of Treasury.
The CEO will be developing a new set of 3-year academic goals within 90 days that will be approved by the MDE. In addition, he will create a 5-year strategic plan by the end of the 2018-19 school year.
In 2010, Dr. Herrera was selected to develop and implement a redesign plan for Adrian High School that resulted in the most significant academic improvement in the State. During a period of two years, Adrian’s Top-to-Bottom School Ranking was increased an eye-opening 86%, from 5% to 91%. (Top-to-Bottom School Ranking was a measurement system used by the state and involved students test scores and graduation rates.)
During Dr. Herrera’s time at South Haven, he helped pass a 38-million dollar bond that included adding safety and security measures to the district, as well as a technology initiative that called for a 1-to-1 ratio between technology and students.
Dr. Herrera, who has a vast background in teaching and learning, has held positions as superintendent in multiple districts, as well positions of director of curriculum and instructional services.
His contract is a 4-year agreement, and Dr. Herrera has expressed a strong desire, commitment and experience of leading and proving that all kids – regardless of background – can perform at higher levels with the right support and guidance. As he conducts his works, Dr. Herrera will answer to the State SRO.
The State of Michigan has no responsibility to keep any one school system open, or any school building open, and makes it clear that actions must be taken when a school building is deemed to be in the lowest 5% within the state. The law requires a free and appropriate education to the youth of the state and that can take many forms or be delivered in multiple ways.
The BHAS Board of Education worked very hard over the past few months to make the incredibly difficult, yet appropriate decision to establish the academic and financial direction of the school system. The Agreement that goes in effect July 17, 2018, to June 30, 2023, embodies that decision. Through the Agreement, the BHAS Board of Education requested that the State appoint a CEO of the school system who will report to the State SRO.
The BHAS Board of Education has taken the appropriate and courageous steps in being the catalyst for this Agreement. As leaders, they faced the realities that were decades in the making and made the tough decision to move toward this structural leadership change for 5 years.
During this period, the CEO will meet regularly with the Board and discuss the issues being faced by the school. He will report the steps being taken, with the oversight of the MDE, to establish a new and more positive academic and financial direction for the system.
The BHAS Board of Education shall continue to have accountability for addressing any taxation (millage requests, sinking fund renewals, etc.) and approval of any long-term borrowings by the school district or the refinancing of previous debts.
The district encourages people to resolve issues or address their concerns by using the most appropriate level as the first step. The district supports taking concerns to the relevant teacher/staff member first, before taking it to the building administrator. For unresolved issues, people are then encouraged to bring their issue to the central administration office, where personnel with work with Dr. Herrera to find a resolution.
This Agreement enables the right structure, the right strategy and leadership to provide a framework for teachers, faculty, parents and students to play a critical role in creating a common vision for academic and financial improvements within the school system.
Whenever there is successful and positive change, it begins with capable and stable leadership. The Agreement calls for clear accountabilities at all levels of the school system, removes layers of decision making and directs the focus of all actions to be about helping the students achieve success and helping the system to improve its financial position.
All decisions prior to Dr. Herrera’s arrival will continue to move forward until he has had time to review and make the appropriate decision based on first-hand knowledge and experience. Both the State and Dr. Herrera recognize the urgent need to look into district operations and quickly create sound decisions for the future.
See “Will there be school closures before this fall?”
All decisions prior to Dr. Herrera’s arrival will continue to move forward until Dr. Herrera has had time to review and make the appropriate decision based on first-hand knowledge and experience. Both the state and Dr. Herrera recognize the urgent need to look into district operations and quickly create sound decisions for the future.
Based on multiple factors, it was clear the the district was not going to meet the goals. Instead of waiting for the end of agreement, all parties recognized the importance and urgency of charting a new and positive course.
See “Will there be school closures before this fall?”
In the spirit of working in collaboration and transparency, Dr. Herrera will be continuing to build on the work of the district as it pertains to positive community partnership and improved communications between students, parents, teachers and staff.