Three candidates to compete for two Niles school board positions

Published 1:26 pm Friday, May 7, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- With an upcoming election for the Niles Community Schools Board of Education on June 14, there are three candidates on the ballot vying for two four-year terms.
Of the three candidates, two are incumbents Mary Crayton and Michael Dreher and the other, Dan Gillis, is running for the first time.
The three candidates recently talked about why they are running for the board and gave some opinions on what they think is important for Niles Community Schools.
Crayton, who currently serves as the board's president, is finishing up her eighth year as a member of the board and is seeking reelection because she wants to have a hand in making decisions that will best serve our local youth.
Crayton, who is a career placement officer at Michiana College, graduated from Lake Michigan College and is currently pursuing a community services degree from Siena Heights University. She has been in Niles for over 25 years and has had a daughter graduate from Niles High School. She also currently has four nieces and nephews in the district.
She said her desire to continue her role with the Niles Community Schools Board of Education stems from her concern for the well being of all children.
Crayton is pleased with the current status of the district, but said being a board member is a challenging job when faced with a decreasing budget.
Crayton is responsible for creating the Fresh Start program, which helps expelled students to continue their education and get their lives on the right track, and serves a chairperson for the Mulitcultural Involvement Council.
She is also concerned with having a high quality early childhood education program in place.
Dreher, who is currently serving as the board's vice president, has been a member of the school board for the past three years.
As a lifelong Niles resident, Dreher is one of the many generations of his family that has graduated from Niles schools. His parents, grandparents and two children all passed through the district and received "excellent educations."
Dreher, the owner of Modineer and graduate of Western Michigan University, is running for reelection to the board because of his belief in the importance of a good education.
His main concern is providing Niles students with the best possible education while dealing with the challenge of state budget cuts.
Another issue of concern to Dreher is maintaining a high graduation rate for all students in Niles Community Schools.
Gillis, an electronic technician who graduated from Judson College, is running for the school board for the first time and would like to bring a new point of view to the board.
As a graduate of Niles High School and lifelong resident of Niles, Gillis has had three children graduate from the district and a son currently in fourth grade at Howard Elementary.
Gillis expressed a concern with the board being up front and clearly explaining its decisions to the public.
In addition to being more open with the public, Gillis' main areas of concern are keeping class sizes as small as possible, providing teachers with all of the resources they need to effectively do their jobs and taking full advantage of technological programs like Bridges to Digital Excellence, which is providing free computers to students that do not have them at home.