Name: Lori Barnes
Position you are running for: USD 470 School Board
Family members (e.g. spouse, children, grandchildren): Zach Barnes, spouse; Lucas Barnes, eighth-grader at Ark City Middle School; and Kennedy Barnes, a fourth-grader at Sacred Heart Catholic School.
How long have you lived in Arkansas City?
I have lived in Ark City now for 19 years. I am what some would call a “transplant” to the area. I moved here after graduating from Emporia State University and marrying my husband.
I grew up Olathe (as well as several other Kansas towns) and graduated from Olathe South High School.
While I miss my family in KC, Ark City has become my home and has been a great place to raise a family.
Have you served on any boards previously?
I have served on the Sacred Heart Catholic School Board and Cowley County Humane Society Board. Like most parents, I try to play an active role in all that my kids are involved in, from school to all their activities.
Why did you choose to run for this position?
My number 1 reason for running is for the kids. I want my children, as well as all the children in our district, to have the best education and opportunities possible. Every child deserves an opportunity and a chance at a great education. We have a great administration team and teachers in our schools, and I want our district to continue to be able to recruit and retain the talent level of teachers we employ.
People close to me would verify that I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions or challenge people to think outside “what has always been done.” Having had the opportunity to work at Cowley College for a short time allowed me to have a different viewpoint of how USD 470 and the college interact, so I can offer some insight on that relationship, as well. I have wanted to run for school board for quite some time and with my kids getting older, it seemed the perfect time to do so.
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?
I believe the district and the City worked together on the Curry Field transition after the new football stadium was built. There is also a shared use agreement between USD 470 and the Recreation Center and the College concerning cooperative use of facilities around town. While I’m not familiar with the details of the proposed swap, I do believe that anytime two taxing authorities can cooperate to improve and/or lower the cost of services, it’s good for us all.
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 understand that there are a couple obstacles with this issue. First being that the cemetery is landlocked and there is not a road maintained to access, thus requiring a 4-wheel drive to reach it and additionally getting permission from the property owners to drive on the land.
I think the most recent meeting/discussion that took place in August of this year offered a good solution for all parties to consider.
“Senator Larry Alley suggested that the Liberty and Silverdale townships should agree to jointly maintain the property, and the school board should pay for the materials to put in a useable road, with both townships and the county using their equipment to build the road. Obviously creating a suitable road/pathway in and out of the cemetery is the biggest challenge as well as the cost but at least it offers a start to get solution to the ongoing issue.” (Retrieved from www.ctnewsonline.com, John Shelman, “Questions remain about status of rural cemetery,” Aug. 12, 2017)
I am not sure if the state could offer any assistance with materials for the road, but I think it would be worth looking into, as well, so that USD 470 does not have to acquire all the material costs associated with building it. With that being said, if possible — once a solution has come to fruition — I think it would be fair to all parties associated to look at if the school district could “deed” the land to one of the townships.
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?
Yes, I do. I think the public should be able to access the baseball/softball fields, similar to the ACHS track.
There seems to be a lot of questions about the use of the fields and that could probably be better communicated to those who are coaching or wishing to access it. We all pay/paid taxes to cover the build of the facility and it should be able to be used by the public, as long as the high school or recreation commission is not utilizing it.
Anyone who visits our facility will tell you how beautiful and lucky we are to have it. I think there is a lot of potential to utilize it more with tournaments and bring more revenue into the community, but also recognize that it is a joint venture with Rec Center/USD 470.
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?
There should always be a master plan in place to address the constant fluctuation of students throughout our schools. It’s a good reference tool to see where we have been and where we would like to see the future of USD 470. Obviously, it’s hard to predict the future, especially with funding issues from the State of Kansas always changing, but we need to be prepared as a school district to handle changes, both from a facilities and classroom standpoint.
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?
No, I do not think it’s appropriate to leave a school board position vacant. You are elected by the community to do a job, and if vacancies or continued absences delay or stop a critical vote from happening, then it affects more than just the board. I do think that bylaws need to be adopted to state a vacancy needs to be filled in a certain amount of time, as well as address continued absences from meetings.
If the school district were to add one curriculum or program of study, what would you like it to be?
I would like to see the High School offer more technical type programs — NDT, Welding, Auto Mechanic and even CNA classes. If ACHS could find a way to work in conjunction with Cowley and still offer the classes at ACHS, I think it could be a win-win for both USD 470/Cowley College.
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?
I know that Ark Citians and surrounding towns are very excited about the addition of wrestling to Cowley College. Obviously, Ark City has been very successful with wrestling in our schools and youth programs in the community, and I know the support will continue at the college.
While I think it’s a great move for Cowley, my apprehension to adding any new sport/activities to USD 470 is obviously the funding, but more importantly participation and support from students and community.
We need to work together on all fronts to find a way to bring the excitement and school spirit back into our schools before we decide to add programs and added expense.
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?
Dr. Ballard has always done a great job in managing our finances for USD 470. I believe this helped our school district sustain almost all of our teachers when many other school districts were having to downsize and lay off teachers and staff. I think communication is always something that can be improved, starting from the top down to students and parents. It helps elevate any questions or frustrations, and keeps us all working towards the same goal of providing the best education and keeping our schools on the Kansas map in regards to test scores and graduation numbers.
Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you or why you are seeking this position?
I would like voters to know that I am hard-working and dedicated to this community. I will always try and put the best interest of our kids first and foremost.
I want to see the schools in our district continue to help develop our children to be the best students, and future citizens, they can be.
This information was provided by Lori Barnes, candidate for the USD 470 Board of Education.