Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini
2011 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
4 Canal Park
Cambridge MA 02141

Contact information:
Tel: 617-577-1755

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  • Master's Degree in Management with a specialized graduate certificate in Diversity from Cambridge College in May 1999.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Finance from Bentley College.
  • Parent Advocacy Training from the Federation for Children with Special Needs
  • Brings close to thirty years experience as a municipal finance professional as Deputy Treasurer for the Town of Arlington.
  • Unique record of linking fiscal priorities, educational goals, and standards and measures of accountability in a strategic planning format.
  • Experienced on both sides of the collective bargaining table representing management on the Cambridge School Committee and workers with labor as President of SEIU/NAGE local 113.
  • Former Treasurer SEIU 888
  • Served for twenty-eight years as a member of the Cambridge School Committee.
  • Received parent advocacy Training at the Federation for Children with Special Needs
  • Sponsor Cambridge Little League-Major League Braves
  • Sponsor Cambridge Girls Softball.

Anticipated Endorsements:

  • Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • Massachusetts Laborer' District Council
  • Carpenters Local 40-Cambridge
  • Service Employees Union - Local 888,
  • National Governmental Employees Association
  • IBEW 2222
  • District Council 35, IUPAT, AFL-CIO

Top Priorities
A. Innovation Agenda
To implement the Innovation Agenda successfully. This bold initiative that took a lot of courage for school committee members to vote and holds a lot of promise for the future of our children if done well and if we are really to achieve socioeconomic integration and equity for all students. We need to make sure that our educational programs and physical plant facilities are ready by September 2012. School committee members must now have the courage to support a process that ensures a successful opening.

B. Improve Academic Achievement
A most critical issue is accelerating the rate of improvement in our schools by supporting programs that improve student achievement, close the achievement gap between high performers and low achieving students, and supporting the programs for accelerated learning and high performing students as well. We have established a longitudinal assessment of student progress system know as YARDS, which will be invaluable tool in providing important data that will inform our academic strategies. We also must implement strategies to make sure expectations for both sexes are high, especially in science and math.

C. Controlled Choice
Do a comprehensive review of our controlled choice policy, particularly the assignment system used to place our students in our elementary schools. Keeping our schools socio-economically balanced and having all children attend high achieving schools has been the purpose of our controlled choice plan. We have made minor adjustments to the controlled choice plan over the years but its time we do a "comprehensive review" to develop a controlled choice system that is sustainable and delivers on our goals to balance our schools.

School Department Administration and Superintendent:
The Superintendent, supported widely by many parent groups, was hired to move our system from a good system to a great system. His first major recommendation-the Innovation Agenda, to revamp our middle schools was made for precisely those purposes.

The current administration is experienced and capable of doing excellent work and I support them. They have done amazing work in the last several years in making the restructuring of our elementary schools work and in reshaping the high school into one of the best in the State. This achievement demonstrates more insight and courage than we have seen in over two decades.

This year and next they have the challenge of successfully implementing our Innovation Agenda and the new Common Core Standards, both monumental tasks. School department leadership is up for the challenge and recognizes this is a major piece of work that can significantly improve the outcomes for students.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs:
The School Department has managed its resources responsibly, keeping budget increase less than 3% from SY 2006 to SY 2012 and in many years turning back surplus funds to the city. We have established ourselves as a well run and disciplined department managing our resources responsibly and continuing to place more of our dollars directly into our schools where are children are. We also use our money strategically by supporting teachers and paraprofessionals in the classrooms where the students are. Our in-class supports are among our least known but most effective strategies.

Our surplus schools made it possible for us to minimize the impact of renovating CRLS by using the Longfellow school to house our incoming freshman-Freshman Academy, for three years. We were able to use our Upton Street building and house many administrative functions as well as our High School Extension Program.

The Longfellow school will remain a swing space as we shift to supporting the renovation or replacement of the King, King Open and Tobin Schools where our middle schools are housed. The Upton street building will house the Amigos School.

We still need a location to move our Central Administration Building out of rental space, and, perhaps the Longfellow School will be a very likely site when the capital improvements are done. It is close to the civic center of the city and has room for community use and civic activities.

Our Budget for FY13 will be challenging from the standpoint of how we will allocate resources given the shift to K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools.

The Innovation Agenda
I'm excited about the Innovation Agenda (IA) and believe it holds much promise to prepare our students for the rigors of high school and prepare them for college or career success. The IA is necessary to close the persistent achievement gap and improving academic achievement for all our students. I like the concept of transitions K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 with each transition expecting more from our students and our system. We will have smaller middle schools of fewer than 300 children, and be able to provide special programs and a focused approach children need. We will have experience middle school teachers and leadership at each campus to ensure success.

There were strong opinions of both sides of this issue and I want to thank all of our parents and teachers who are now engaged in making the IA work.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
It's time for our Controlled Choice Plan needs to have a comprehensive review; the tinkering with the plan is not wise because it fails to get at the major weaknesses we have had facing us – namely that not all schools are equal. All issues need to be discussed and decisions made on a myriad of issues that will lead to balancing our schools. We need to simplify our controlled choice plan so that parents trust the rules and process. And if really support balanced schools then our plan should deliver on that promise. This will certainly require out of the box thinking.

Controlled choice works best when "all" schools are schools of excellence and where every educator has high expectations for children. Accountability standards need to be worked out and schools not meeting those standards, after a fair amount of time and intervention, need to be closed or reinvented.

Key issues to discuss are (a) immersion programs, (b) proximity preference, (c) not filling all seats in the first round for highly chosen schools, (d) transfer policy, and most importantly how will the Innovation Agenda impact our assignment policy.

Enrichment Programs
We have a myriad of enrichment programs and after school programs to provide students with programs to support their intellectual, emotional and social growth. The state's new program of Innovation Schools could have been adapted from what we've done here over the last 30 years.

Here are a few:

  • Extended learning Time at the Fletcher/Maynard and King schools
  • Extended Day after school program at the King Open run by the Department of Human Services
  • Strong Partnerships with East End House, City of Cambridge-Department of Human Services, Breakthrough program, School Volunteer Program, City Sprouts, the Science for Girls, and Cycle friends.
  • Technology partnership with Leslie College and the Kennedy/Longfellow School in SY 2012.
  • Instrumental music program offered free of charge to all sixth, seventh and eight graders.
  • Early bird singer program at the Peabody
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Weeklong science program in April
  • Bus our students each day to after school programs throughout the city

One major challenge is to work with these partners so that our efforts are aligned to support our children.

Enrollment and the marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools
First off, I think that the Charter Schools in Cambridge and our public school system have good relationships; after all, many that attend Charter school are Cambridge children.

It's unfortunate that the financial rules established by the state impacts our budget negatively. Cambridge in FY12 will pay an estimated $7,000,000 to Charter Schools where citizens have little say in how the schools are run. Moreover, these charters send the kids they can't handle or don't want back to us; and they don't enroll many English Language Learners or kids with intensive special needs, so the funding system really works against us in two ways.

Most folks are aware that we recently launched our newly designed web site, and have launched our Facebook and Tweeter accounts all packed with information for our parents and citizens. We also produce a lot of publications like Schools at a Glance and mail a budget update pamphlet to citizens each year.

Topics like the Innovation Agenda require special efforts to reach stakeholders.

I would like the school system to be represented at public functions at booths to share information with the public.

Our kindergarten enrollment has been on a steady increase for the last several years.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum
Starting in school year 2012 our Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks must be aligned with Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & and Math. Since our school is accepting Race to the Top funding we are required implement the Common Core Standards which has a stated goal of ensuring students are prepared well for college and career success.

Each year the Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) is beginning Curriculum Review of each of our disciplines, the first being Math. The review will be done mostly in-house and the purpose is to determine if we are teaching all the content areas that are required of us. Our curriculum practices are supported at each school with full time Math and English coaches, district coaches and our curriculum coordinators.

High School Programs and Curriculum
We are proud this school year to open a newly renovated high school having spend 118 millions dollars. Our renovated high school with our brand new Main Library and newly renovated War Memorial Athletic Building has the feel of a college campus. Every good school system needs a strong high school and I believe that Cambridge has just that. As kids transition from middle grades much is expected from them at our high school.

Our former high school principal Chris Saheed retired after several years and we are grateful for the leadership and stewardship he has provided. Our high school continues to be talked about as one of the best in the Commonwealth. It offers students the best any high school in Massachusetts has to offer, and our college acceptances prove that. We need to continue to make sure the school serves kids at risk and kids with special needs and inspires them, too.

Students are assigned to each small learning community randomly allowing each student to enjoy a rich academic experience. Our honors and advanced placement courses and our block scheduling are working well. Our relationships with local universities grow and get richer each year. And we are making progress to implementing a program where our children can graduate with distinction.

Our sophomores are passing MCAS at high rates with increased percentages in the proficient and advanced categories. This allows for more creative offerings in their junior and senior years.

High School curriculum is now done by the Deans of Curriculum at each house that is supported by system Curriculum Coordinators.

MCAS and measuring Student Achievement
Our MCAS scores for the school year 2011 show that our high school scores are continuing to improve and show that in Math and English Language Arts we compare favorable to States averages. Our fourth and eight graders did well scoring higher than state averages. Our proficiency rates are increasing and our percentages of children in the advanced categories are improving. Unfortunately there are no quick fixes to improve MCAS scores it takes time and can be a slow painful process. Our strategies do look like they are paying off.

We now have instructional coaches in every school that work with teachers and school leaders. We have developed an in-house software program that teachers can access on line that help crunch the data and can show how each student did on every question thus providing opportunities to change instruction to reach every child.

The Morse school did so well this year it received a Commendation from the governor for its improvements. They used a host of strategies to succeed including assigning an adult to every child and holding Saturday classes for children in need. A great story that I think we will be an incentive for other schools to learn from.

Science scores still need much improvement, which raises the question about how much science is being taught in our schools, and do we need outside intervention. In the science capital of the word this is truly unacceptable.

Another disappointment is the results of our special needs population and English Language Learners, both groups performed below state averages and this needs to be a major focus of our efforts going forward.

Closing the persistent achievement gaps has had some improvement but still needs addressing. For me, our achievement gap issue is one reason why I supported the passage of the Innovation Agenda. Our major goal is student achievement.

We still remain one of the best performing urban school system and I think overall we are making progress.

Still, we and other districts that serve kids from distressed families and kids who are the victims of poverty and social circumstances need more than the schools to improve. For that reason, we need to build very strong bridges to the social and economic agencies that help families and get them into every school. In the same way, we need to make better use of the health care system for children who don't see a medical professional, dentist, optometrist, mental health professional or vision care specialist, because more than 1/3 of our kids have an undiagnosed problem in these categories and this gets in the way of learning and there's nothing the teacher can do to treat that.

Teacher Evaluations, Performance Measures, Contract Negotiations
Our teachers contract is up for renewal this year and contract negotiations will begin soon. Because we accepted Race to the Top funding a new teacher evaluation procedure will need to be negotiated. Measuring student performance must be a factor in this new evaluation document.

We currently have a strong evaluation system that works to ensure that Cambridge keeps only place the best teachers in front of your children. Annual training by the personnel department is provided to administrators that will conduct evaluations so they are done fairly, consistently and well. The new rules and forthcoming contract will have to step that up even higher.

School Safety and Student Behavior
Schools of excellence are schools that are safe physically, safe emotionally and intellectually challenging.

Cambridge designed curricula at the district level, the school level and the classroom level. Two parts of our curricula, Responsive Classroom for grades K-5, and Development Design for grades 6-8 exist. These programs provide the teachers with the tools to recognize and address bullying. It also provides the kids tools to respond to each other when circumstances arise. Respect for yourself and others are an important lesson provided. There is also peer mediation teams comprised of students who have 35 hours of training at CRLS.

Parent Involvement and School Councils
We have had several discussions regarding school councils and I'm not sure that every school has reached the potential of what good school councils should look like. School Councils are required to meet monthly, minutes of those meeting should be published on the school's web site so that everyone is aware of what is happening at their schools, school council's membership should represent the diversity of the schools and meetings should always have a quorum to conduct business. One major responsibility of School Councils is to produce the Schools Improvement Plan-a serious document on how each school is gong to improve. Some School Council is vibrant and others are moving on that continuum to get better. I would ask all parents to become more involved in the happenings of their school councils. I will also recommend that we provide training and professional development for our school councils, something that is done in other districts.

I believe that Parent Involvement is an important ingredient for successful schools. Cambridge is lucky to have many talented parents who can offer and do some much for schools. I've seen parents put up web sites for schools, do incredible data analysis for schools, raise significant funds to support activities, do volunteering at schools when they are needed, and so much more.

I'm always interested in feedback and ideas from citizens, parents, and children. Please let me know what your ideas are for moving our system forward. My e-mail is or call me anytime at 617-577-1755.

Candidate's 2009 responses     Candidate's 2007 responses

CCTV candidate video (2011)

Page last updated Monday, October 3, 2011 11:56 AM Cambridge Candidates