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Benton Harbor superintendent resigns, amid police investigation

Oct 14, 2015

Leonard Seawood has officially stepped down as superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools.

There are still so many questions.

On Wednesday, Leonard Seawood released a statement about his resignation as superintendent of Benton Harbor Area Schools.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have made the difficult decision to resign.  The past six months have been extremely difficult for me and my family and harmful to the mission of BHAS. After consultation with my family, I have decided to step down.”

But we still don’t really know why.

Six months ago, the school board announced they were suspending Seawood, putting him on paid leave.

The board wouldn’t say why – just that the board was investigating Seawood and couldn’t disclose details.

Then the Michigan State Police began its own investigation. Det. Doug Kill confirmed today that his investigation is ongoing, and is looking into allegations that Seawood misused public money.

School Board President Sharon James said the board has unanimously voted to part ways with Seawood, and that they “wish him well as this chapter in the district’s history is now in our past.” James declined to give further comment.  

Meanwhile, it’s a tough time for Benton Harbor Area Schools.

The state took over some local control last year, pointing to the district’s deficit and financial stresses. Benton Harbor opted for a consent agreement with the state, rather than getting an emergency manager.

But the acting superintendent, Gregory Weatherspoon, was previously the emergency manager for other school districts, and was put into the Benton Harbor job with the state’s approval. 

Here's Seawood's full resignation statement:

It is with a heavy heart that I have made the difficult decision to resign.The past six months have been extremely difficult for me and my family and harmful to the mission of BHAS. After consultation with my family, I have decided to step down.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve my alma mater for the past five years, particularly during a time of fiscal crisis. My team and I have achieved many successes during this time by keeping a watchful eye on budget expenditures, including:

  • Avoiding the appointment of an emergency manager for the district by establishing and securing approval for a Deficit Elimination Plan with the Michigan Department of Education
  • Securing more than $4 million in private and foundation funds to support district operations and educational consultants
  • Outsourcing non-essential services and eliminating unnecessary administrative positions
  • Reducing the overall footprint of the district by nearly 50 percent
  • Partnering with community organizations and businesses in the region to improve direct services to students
  • Establishing performance-based evaluations for teachers and administrators focused on improving student outcomes and other measures

During my tenure, we also made significant improvements in curriculum and instruction, culture and climate and overall accountability, resulting in stabilization of enrollment, improved student performance, higher tests scores on the ACT and MEAP, and decreases in the dropout rates.

I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish during my tenure with BHAS and feel I will be leaving it in much better financial shape then when I first arrived in 2010.

                                                                                                                          Dr. Leonard Seawood