Three candidates seek lone Niles School Board seat May 3

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Due to changes in legislation, voting in the school board election is a little different this year.
Voters will go the polls and choose school board members on Tuesday, May 3.
This year, voters in the Niles Community Schools district will choose between three candidates for the one available seat on the Board of Education.
Jerry French
Jerry French, president of the French Paper Co. in Niles, seeks re-election to the Niles Community Schools board of education.
French and his wife, Terry, have two children, Kimberly and Brian, both of whom are Niles High School graduates.
French has extensive experience on the Niles school board.
French said he is running for another term on the school board because "I think I realize how important our schools are to the future of our community. I am involved in the community and listen to the wants and desires for our schools. We need to listen to the community and school employees to find better ways to do our jobs.
French said, "My goal is to provide the best educational program we can. Two years ago, after six months of work, a citizen's committee presented a Strategic Plan to the Board of Education. This plan identified 11 goals that we need to achieve in the next five years. The Strategic Plan is a valuable document that I believe is an excellent road map for improving our district. Besides the budget, the top priority for our district is to complete the facilities study and bring a plan for improving our buildings to the voter.
As an incumbent on the board, French is proud of bringing citizen involvement to the district. "The past five years we have had active citizen committees helping to develop our athletic philosophy, our Long Range Strategic Plan, and now our Community Forums to discuss improving our facilities. It is important that we continue to involve citizens in meaningful ways.
Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon, the third candidate , is a 1973 graduate of Niles High School, Gordon is an industrial engineer with Miller Builders in Elkhart, Ind..
Gordon's wife, Jan, is also a Niles native and is employed at Modineer. The Gordons have a son, Jason; daughters Kristi and Erica; and two grandchildren.
For the past eight years, Gordon has been a Howard Township Trustee, a liaison to the Howard Township Fire Department, a member of the Cass County Road Commission, as well as on the Howard Township Park Board and Zoning Board. "I also ran for 78th District State Representative in 2002 and 2004, losing both races by small margins," he said. He was also Union President of the Local Paper Workers Union 430.
His decision to run for the school board is community centered. "I have always been interested in serving my community. I am a lifetime resident and graduate of the Niles Community School System and feel now I should give back to what I received. I bring many years of experience and understand the workings on the state level involving the budget cuts and monies to the schools," he said.
His approach to managing the budget is to monitor the distribution of monies. "We need to research wasteful spending on all levels, review the wages of the administration, teachers, and staff to be sure they are in line with other school districts. We also need to review the budget for the curriculum to insure that educational needs are being met first," he said.
Gordon's goal for the district he said, "is for the Niles School system to be number one in academics as well as athletics. I want our schools to be the ones that people want to send their children to. Our community offers tremendously talented youth. We want to ensure they continue to have a school system that embraces their talents on all levels
Toby Mitchell
Toby A. Mitchell, a chiropractor, is owner of Clear Choice Chiropractic and Holistic Wellness Center in Niles and Berrien Springs.
He and his wife, Kimberly, have two daughters, Taylor, 12, and Jacqulyn "Hunter," 9, and a son, Zane, 7.
Although the Mitchell children do not currently attend the Niles Comunity Schools, he said does not see this as an issue in his campaign.
His previous political experience is varied. "I have held various positions on the Board of Directors for the State Doctor's Society and currently direct the district covering Berrien, Van Buren, Cass, and Kalamazoo counties," he said.
Mitchell said that if elected to the board, his three top objectives are "to listen, listen, listen."
He said, "I was born and raised in Niles and am a product of the Niles Community School system. As a business owner and doctor, I feel I am exposed daily to the opinions and feelings of a great cross section of the public, giving me a broad sense for the pulse of our community," he said.
Mitchell said he chose to run because, "I have always been actively involved in the school system, donating money to several diverse programs each year and supporting the high school athletic programs. Running for school board is a natural extension of my commitment to this community which has given me so much.
Mitchell defines his goals for the Niles District as educational concerns.
Concerning the budget, Mitchell said, "The district should approach challenges by realistically assessing the ability of tax payers to increasingly contribute during this time of economic recovery and newly proposed state tax increases, looking for ways to more equitably divide the available tax revenues between the bond issue and school funding programs with an emphasis on funding.