Benton Harbor School Board meeting turns heated - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor School Board meeting turns heated


What was expected to be a routine meeting, got heated Tuesday.

An emotional parent let loose at the Benton Harbor School Board meeting, frustrated about his kids' homework assignment.

The parent, who missed his turn to talk during the public comment portion, wasn't staying quiet.

He passed a written complaint to one of the board of the board members who then shared his concern. He says his 6th and 8th grade children were given a homework assignment asking them to identify the sounds a duck and cow make.

Then this exchange took place:

School Board President Martha Momamy says, "We already had public participation."

Parent, "I'm not talking to you. I'm talking to the school board."

Momamy "Excuse me?"

Parent, "Be quiet."

Momamy Bangs gavel, "You are out of order."

Parent, "And you are too!"

Momamy, "Excuse me? I may have to have..."

Parent, "I don't care what you do (bangs fists) What are you gonna do about my childrens' learning? That's what I want to hear. Stupid."

Momamy, "Are you calling me stupid?"

Parent, "That's what I said (bangs fists)"

Board members recognized the parent's frustration.

"I don't agree with 8th and 6th graders getting 2nd grade work. We the board need to get busy and truly investigate that," says board member, Willie Lark.

Superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood says the district should have been able to do some investigating before things got out of hand, saying there's protocol parents should follow and should bring their concerns to the principal first.

"As a board member, that probably should have been pushed back and said, 'You know, we're going to follow up on it.' Instead of forcing us to respond to something we haven't vetted," says Superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood.

That wasn't the only concern brought up from citizens.

Reverend Edward Pinkney addressed the board saying member Willie Lark should not have voted for a contract extension for Superintendent Seawood because they are in business together.

He says Lark should have recused himself and Seawood should have made the public aware.

"I think we should be asking Dr. Leonard Seawood to resign for failure to fulfill his obligation to the citizens here in the city of Benton Harbor," says Pinkney.

But Seawood says they've checked with attorneys, and aren't breaking any rules.

"There is no court in the land that would look at that as a conflict. I have many investments," says Seawood.

In other school board news, the board voted for a new deficit reduction plan.

Seawood says the state has basically given the district a loan of $2 million to shore up transportation and custodial services. 

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