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Phoenix-Talent board seats all contested

PHOENIX — All five seats up for election May 21 on the Phoenix-Talent School District No. 4 board are contested, with four incumbents seeking re-election and seven challengers vying for seats.

Four of the seats carry four-year terms. A fifth position is for two years to complete the term of a member who died. Those elected will be sworn in at the first board meeting in July.

Candidates from the Talent area are in zone 1. Those from the Phoenix area and the portion of the district in south Medford are in zone 2.

Greg Frownfelter, Ruth Staten and Arron Waldron are running for Position 1 in zone 2. Dave Garcia resigned from the position in March, and the seat was not filled because the election was so close.

Frownfelter serves on a review board at Southern Oregon University and has been on a swim team board. He has prior work experience as a manager. "I'm concerned with the education that the children get and how we can best support everyone who's involved," said Frownfelter. "I hope to be a good, analytical eye to help resolve issues."

Staten is on the Children's Miracle Network leadership board and is chairwoman of Candlelighters for Children with Cancer. She is a past PTA treasurer at Orchard Hill Elementary and a former district office employee. "I think all issues need to be looked at fairly for impact on staff and how they impact children. I don't know that that is always done," she said.

She'd also look for things to cut to help with funding issues, she said.

Waldron has worked in management, sales and customer relations, but has no prior board experience.

"I'd like to see the schools get a better reputation. Of course, education is the top priority," said Waldron, who said he hears of students who want to leave the district to seek what are perceived as better opportunities in sports and academics.

Joseph DeLuca is challenging incumbent Marina Piacentini for position 3 in zone 1.

DeLuca, who served as a union shop steward for 10 years, would like to see class sizes reduced and some facilities updated. Football equipment also is out of date, he said.

"There's not enough space for people (in alternative programs)," said DeLuca. "I'd like to see enough space for people who want to participate."

Piacentini was appointed to the board and then elected two years ago. She's on the Legislative Policy Committee of the Oregon School Boards Association.

"The greatest challenge facing our district revolves around funding," said Piacentini. "I want to keep the good things that are going on and improve the things that need improving."

Incumbent Laura Lotspeich and Dawn Watson are competing for the two-year term of position 5 in zone 1. The late Loretta Nordquist had been elected to a four-year term in 2009.

Lotspeich was named to replace Nordquist in November 2011. She previously had served on the board for 14 years and has worked in the wine industry.

"I think the board's job in this financial climate is doing the best that we possibly can to make sure our students get the best education we can provide them," said Lotspeich. "It's not easy. Tough decisions have to be made."

Watson served on the Talent City Council for two years. She now is a member of the school district's Budget Committee. She's also on the Family for Community board.

"One (of my priorities) is to continue to get increased and effective communication between the board members, the staff, parents and the community," said Watson. "Open communication with all those makes a big difference and will benefit everyone involved."

Incumbent Nate Shinn is being challenged by Debra McAlister for position 6 in zone 2.

McAlister taught for 13 years in Alaska public schools.

"I'd love to have more teachers hired for the classroom and less administration," said McAlister. "I'd like to use some of my experience as an educator to help make improvements."

McAlister wants athletic coaching openings to be offered first to certified teachers.

Shinn has served on the board for 13 years overall, continuously since 2005. He has been the board's president and has also taught in public and church schools.

"My top priority will continue to be our children and their education. We have a great district, and I will do all I can to keep improving it," said Shinn. "We have a great administrative team, teachers and staff, and I desire to see our district continue to meet the needs of our children and community."

Incumbent Craig Prewitt is challenged by Maria Thompson for position 7 in zone 2.

Prewitt is board chairman and has served the body for 21 years. He is a past president and present board member of the Oregon School Boards Association.

"I would like to continue to maintain local control and emphasize what the community feels is the best education for the kids," said Prewitt. "We always have the issue of "… hitting the moving target of state regulations. The state is always moving the bar on what we must do to be compliant."

Thompson was on the Phoenix-Talent Little League board for nine years and on the Phoenix-Talent youth wrestling program board.

"What I'd like to see with our district is make athletics as important as academics," said Thompson. "I'd start hiring teachers qualified for coaching. There's a lot of nonteaching coaches in the district."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.