Name: Lance Niles
Position you are running for: USD 470 Board of Education (BOE)
Family members (e.g. spouse, children, grandchildren): Tamara Niles, spouse; children — Natalie Niles, eighth-grader at Arkansas City Middle School, and Will Niles, sixth-grader at Arkansas City Middle School. We also are hosting an exchange student this year — Lucia Lara is in 11th grade at Arkansas City High School.
How long have you lived in Arkansas City?
30+ years. I was born and raised in Arkansas City, and after completing college spent 10 years in the Kansas City area before returning to Arkansas City in 2005.
Have you served on any boards previously?
Spent 9 years on the South Central Kansas Medical Center Board of Trustees, Past President of the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Past President of the Arkansas City Rotary Club Board of Directors, Big Brothers Big Sisters Advisory Board, and Twin Rivers Developmental Board of Directors.
Why did you choose to run for this position?
I had been out of public service for the last couple of years and felt the need to find another way to serve the Arkansas City community in that capacity. When Dr. (Aaron) Watters resigned from the BOE, I felt that was the time to step up and fill that void. In doing so, I felt like if I was going to make that commitment, I needed to go ahead and commit to running for the office, as well.
Ultimately, I decided to run for a BOE seat because the biggest passion in my life outside of my work is children. I spend most of my free time coaching and seeing kids develop is extremely rewarding. The importance of providing high-quality public education and pushing students of all learning levels to reach their full potential greatly appealed to me.
The City of Arkansas City has proposed a land swap adjacent to the bus barn area once Water Treatment Facility construction is complete. What improvements or changes would you like to see in the area?
First of all, the city has made drastic improvement to that area and I applaud them for doing so. I have no doubt that the school district and the city will work together to continue to improve the area, and I am sure that they will come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
What do you think should be done about Liberty Cemetery, the small rural cemetery owned by the school district that is northeast of Ark City in Silverdale Township?
I think the district is taking the appropriate steps to come to a resolution. It is an extremely interesting situation that has transpired over many years.
My understanding is that the district has asked the Kansas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on the matter and once they receive that back, the district will work towards a proper solution. Obviously, the district does not wish to be in the grave site business, but the district also wants to handle the matter with respect to the families with loved ones buried there, as well as the land owner.
Tax dollars were used to finance the bonds for construction of the new ball fields south of Arkansas City High School. The bonds are still being paid off. Do you think USD 470 should relax policies for these fields to allow more public access?
I think that the district and the Arkansas City Recreation Commission probably need to do a better job of publicizing how access can be achieved.
My understanding is that the district controls access to the fields during the school months. They obviously do not want people using certain fields during the seasons that those respective sports are in session, but I personally coach teams that use the fields on a regular basis, and as long as we communicate with the district and/or the recreation center, we have not had an issue gaining access.
Do you think the school district should develop some sort of master plan for its facilities and how it will deal with continued changes in its mix of students?
The district constantly is planning and monitoring all student demographics. What makes a long-term master plan difficult is not having a long-term understanding of how the State of Kansas is going to fund public education. Those plans are consistently looked at and in the last couple of board meetings, we just discussed what options are available in the event student numbers continue to increase.
In general, do you think it is appropriate to leave a school board position vacant for an indefinite period of time, or should the board of education adopt some sort of time limit or deadline to fill future vacancies?
Generally speaking, I would contend that it should be filled by following guidelines set by the state.
The only time that it would not make sense to me is if the vacancy occurred when there was not enough time to follow the proper protocol.
If the school district were to add one curriculum or program of study, what would you like it to be?
I would say some sort of technical field such as robotics or Mechatronics. Just from personal experience, the classwork coupled with laboratory experiments really appeals to my children.
Anything that uses today’s technologies and allows them to create seems to be really appealing to them.
The real struggle is finding and attracting the teachers.
Cowley College begins competing in wrestling this year. Are there any new sports or activities you would like to see the middle and high schools participate in, and if so, how would you propose to finance them?
Kudos to Cowley College! Based on the long-term success of wrestling in this community, I would say wresting at the college was long overdue.
My concern on the sports and activities front is more of student participation. Certainly in the sports arena, the number of students participating has decreased over the last 30 years.
More athletes are not participating in 2 or 3 sports, but only 1. The crazy thing is they may be actually practicing that one sport more than the kid that played 3 sports 30 years ago!
I would definitely say that administration and the BOE would be more than willing to entertain the option of additional activities, as over time clubs, activities and sports evolve.
What is your opinion of the job being done by Superintendent Ron Ballard and his administrative staff? What changes, if any, would you like to see in their approach and/or the school district’s direction?
The district is extremely lucky to have Dr. Ballard and he has done an excellent job building the administrative team. A better question may be what are our plans for replacing said staff when they choose to retire or move on? It will be difficult to find experienced administrators that have managed the uncertain financial climate that all Kansas public schools have faced over the last few years.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you or why you are seeking this position?
First, I would like to wish the other candidate the best of luck. Most of the candidates are friends of mine and I know they are in the race because they want to see the district thrive.
Second and most importantly, I want to thank our USD 470 faculty, staff, administration and current BOE members for doing what they do! Each and every one of them want nothing but the best for the district and the children in the system. As a member of the Board of Education, I see and understand that firsthand.
If elected, I will continue to work towards increased graduation rates, better test scores, and attracting and retaining the highest-quality teachers.
This information was provided by Lance Niles, current (appointed) member of and candidate for the USD 470 Board of Education.