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New school board member follows family path

Alexis Di Fruscia’s successful write-in election in May to a position on the Phoenix-Talent School District Board puts the college junior directly in her family’s footsteps.

Her mother, Marina Piacentini, used to be on the board and just finished her first year as a special education teacher at Talent Middle School. They both live in Talent.

“It was totally her own volition,” said Piacentini. “I was surprised. I had already sent in my ballot. It was sealed up and sent off. ... What she can bring is a novel voice.”

Di Fruscia says she wants the district to have a greater online presence to keep patrons informed. She’ll urge use of Twitter, which she used to spread word of her candidacy, along with other platforms to further communication efforts.

When no one filed to run for the Position 5, Zone 1 seat in the May 21 election, Di Fruscia began her campaign.

“I felt like as a young person who had been in the schools more recently, I could bring a different perspective from other members and learn a lot from them as well,” said Di Fruscia. “When I was a student, I would have liked to know a lot of what is going on.”

That will be especially important for parents of high school students as Phoenix High School undergoes a major rebuild over the next two years, Di Fruscia said. She attended elementary and middle school in Talent and high school in Phoenix.

Piacentini served on the board for six years through June 2017, when she lost a reelection bid. When the elected candidate, Sarah Wright, left the area before being sworn-in, Piacentini briefly considered applying for appointment. But she held off, thinking she would like to work in the district after earning degrees at Southern Oregon University.

Di Fruscia garnered 32 write-in votes. Richard Nagel got six write-ins but he was successfully reelected to the Position 4, Zone 1 seat. Ken Baker, who had served on Talent City Council, also got six write-in votes. No one else accumulated more than three tallies. In all, 191 write-in votes were cast.

Education is a strong value that runs in the women’s family. Piacentini’s father was a teacher. Alexis’ dad had an outdoor wilderness school. Di Fruscia plans to teach math after she completes studies at Southern Oregon University.

“Curiosity and understanding the world around us is definitely something we include in our family,” said Piacentini.

Piacentini had taught swimming and surfing in Santa Barbara, where she grew up. She also worked as a summer camp counselor. During a year when her family was in Quebec, she taught elementary school English in a remote town.

Piacentini started studies at Rogue Community College eight years ago, then transferred to SOU to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in teaching. She would have liked to work as an economist, because those positions can affect policy, she said, but a beginning position would have meant leaving the Rogue Valley.

“Everything was leading me to special education and education. Rather than fight what life was presenting, it was an easy choice. It’s work I can feel good about,” said the teacher. She grew up with a sister, now deceased, who was severely disabled, and she also cared for a number of years for a woman who had suffered a stroke.

“Working with people who had disabilities was known. I enjoy it,” said Piacentini, who had 16 students in her multi-grade special education classroom this year.

Di Fruscia has completed her second year at Southern Oregon University, where she is studying for a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. She plans to go on to get her master’s in teaching and wants to go into the classroom. She currently works part-time at Organic Grind coffee shop in Talent.

Friends were very supportive of her run for the seat and continue to encourage her now that she has been elected, Di Fruscia said. She will be sworn in at the first board meeting in July, but has already attended a board session to get acquainted with other members.

“Alexis didn’t want me reaching out in the campaign. She is her own person in this,” said Piacentini. “We’ve talked about Roberts Rules of Order and basic things. Beyond that, she wants it to be her own experience.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneWrite-in candidate and winner to the Phoenix-Talent School Board Alexis Di Fruscia and her mother Marina Piacentini, who was a former board member.