Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini
2007 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.
  • Brings twenty-five 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.
  • Treasurer/Secretary SEIU 888
  • Served for twenty-four years as a member of the Cambridge School Committee.
  • Sponsor Cambridge Little League-Major League Braves
  • Sponsor Cambridge Girls Softball.

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:
#1. To establish achievable and challenging goals with the Superintendent that will drive the work we do as a team: We want to raise achievement levels for all students and close the achievement gap. We want to establish a system for longitudinal assessment of student progress. We want to develop a strategic plan for education to guide decision making for the next 3 to 5 year period. And want to nurture and grow partnerships with area art, academic, science, and youth organizations. Our District Improvement Plan spells out specific strategies to be undertaken to meet these goals. Although we are seeing multiple upward trends, we also know the importance of continued focus and improvement --- it is through our goals that we will keep moving in a positive direction for our students.

#2. To strengthen our city's Middle Schools: We have just created a blue ribbon panel to review our Middle School programs with the goal of providing a rich and rigorous academic experience for all our middle school students. We want to make sure all children are high school ready. The blue ribbon committee will evaluate every aspect of our middle schools, look to educational research for guidance, seek opinions from educational experts from local universities for examples of best practices, and seek substantial public input to inform our decision-making.

#3. To identify and plan for short and long term fiscal needs: During the next budget cycle we will face the challenge of a projected 4.1 million dollar projected deficit. Given that this year we have the largest kindergarten enrollment in ten years and we know we will require additional resources as these children move through the system, we will have our work cut out for us to balance the budget.

School Department Administration:
The current administration is experienced and capable of doing excellent work. Over the last five years this administration has managed through some difficult times and at the same time has been able to demonstrate academic improvement across the board in all our schools, especially the high school. Educational industries are personnel driven and as such their needs to be a strong evaluation system in place that supports administration to achieve excellence for our children. I believe and know administrators believe that we can perform better in some areas and as a school committee member I continue to let the superintendent know my concerns. The superintendent has shown he is not afraid to make improvements when the need arises. We can take pride in the increased level of diversity in our administration, which improves each year. We recognize the need for professional development and training for all staff and believe that investing in their professional development has made our system stronger.

Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn's Contract - Based on what you know today, would you support an extension of this contract and, if so, for what term and under what conditions?:
The Superintendent was last evaluated in June 2007 per his contract. I would say the results came out average but he should get credit for tying hard to measure up to all the requirements that where put in his new contract. His contract expires in August of 2008 and so a decision should be made soon, and it looks like the responsibility for extending his contract will rest with the newly elected school committee.

I consider myself to be a fair but tough evaluator and will focus heavily on consideration of two major issues. The first is how the system did in last years MCAS. What happened to the three schools that were in corrective action? Have we continued to make progress in all our schools? Have all our subgroups made progress?

The second is whether this superintendent who has made improvements since he has been here is the right person to take us to the next level. This does not reflect negatively on our current superintendent but is more a question of is there a different skills set needed to take us to the next level.

As I have been knocking on doors in Cambridge the issue of the importance of stability in leadership is raised consistently --- folks remember all too well the several different leadership changes that the high school principal position went through and really don't ever what to go down that road again.

Hiring and evaluating the Superintendent is one of three legal responsibilities a school committee has, the other two being budget and policy setting.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
We have a nationally recognized Controlled Choice Plan and four years ago under the leadership of then Mayor Anthony Galluccio the School Committee conducted an exhaustive and thorough review of the controlled choice plan in anticipation of a ruling that race could not be a primary factor in a school choice plan. The Committee changed the major factor to be socio-economic status and made race a secondary factor. Our plan is grounded in the belief that socio-economically diverse schools are strong schools and strong schools foster environments of positive educational experiences for all.

We are again in the process of reviewing our plan this year and may make some minor changes. We made a one-year temporary change to our plan to accommodate our large increase in our kindergarten enrollment last year and this is one of the issues that will get resolve. .

Our first ever marketing study raised the point that the school choice plan was difficult to understand and we will do a better job explaining how the system works. The good news is that the first round of applications is well represented of our systems diversity.

Enrichment Programs:
We have advanced placement and honors classes at our high school and extensive after school programming at all our schools K-12. Two of our schools are now engaged in formal Extended Learning Time [ELT] programs (Fletcher/Maynard and King) and the King-Open continues to offer one of the city's first Extended Day after school programs operated in collaboration by the Department of Human Services & the School Department. In addition, we also have and will continue to create collaborations with local universities that allow our high school students to participate in higher education course work. Harvard and Lesley University are currently two universities that offer such opportunities.

We are proud to offer music instruction in our middle grades at no cost to give our young people an opportunity to decide if they want to pursue music instruction in high school. This year we have also started a middle school chorus to add to the middle school music experience.

Our ballroom dancing program was a great success!! When grant funds ran out we responded to parent and children request to continue the program.

The Science Department offers a wide range of extraordinary hands-on experiences for students of all grade levels. For example, a week-long middle school vacation camp program is offered each April and both elementary and secondary students have opportunities to work side by side with local and nationally renowned scientists.

I just mention a few above but in reality we have hundreds of opportunities for our students. One area that we could improve on is the offering of more programs during the summer and after school for our special needs community.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter Schools and Private Schools:
We have a great story to tell, our academics are getting stronger each year; Boston Magazine has recognized the offering at CRLS as equivalent with those of prestigious private schools. I'm hearing great stories as I continue to walk and knock at many households. We need to take the next step in our journey to excellence by marketing our schools genuine success to all Cambridge residents in the hopes we will continue to grow our enrollment.

Unfortunately our state legislators have not corrected a major flaw in charter school funding formula, which takes funds away from our school budget to support Cambridge Charter schools. Our charter school tab keeps getting bigger approaching ten million dollars over the next several years, creating deficit positions in our own budget, not a good way to create collaborative relationships.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
Our elementary school and curriculum structure is educationally sound and getting stronger every day. Our collaboration with Lesley University is exciting. Lesley provides training for our Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative programs, as well as math in-service opportunities, all which support our elementary school staff. We have math and literacy coaches in all our schools to support teachers. We have purchased the revised TERC mathematics curriculum and are training our elementary teachers in not only content and pedagogy but also strategies to increase family connections to student work. At the start of this school year we had all K-5 teachers working together at Lesley University participating in professional development designed to help teachers see and practice delivery strategies for the revised curriculum. In addition, we are also a system that has curriculum coordinators that provide the brains behind our curriculum enhancements and assist in the analysis of data to inform and apply best practices. The finalized Blue Ribbon plan on middle schools will provide the infrastructure for strong programs K-8.

High School Programs and Curriculum:
Our high school under the competent leadership of Chris Saheed has shown incredible progress in recent years. Gone are the days when the principal's job seemed to be like a revolving door. We are at a solid place. Students are assigned to each small learning community randomly allowing each student to enjoy a rich academic experience. We have reinstated honors and advanced placement courses, and implemented a block schedule after a year of careful planning. Our relationships with local universities grow and get richer each month. Our principal is considering developing programs that will allow students to graduate with distinction.

Our sophomores all pass MCAS at high rates, 98.5 last year only 14 students' shot of a perfect 100%. This allows for more creative offerings in their junior and senior years. We have instituted academic coaches at the high school this year to support our teachers. And we have a great relationship with the Cambridge Teachers Association, a necessary ingredient to ensure success.

Our RSTA programs continue to grow and although I want to see more success here one has to be pleased with the revitalization of the contemporary Career & Technical Education programs.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs (including CRLS renovations), and the Disposition of Surplus Buildings:
We established a task force with the City Council on facilities issues facing the city. A major focus for it is a plan that funds the needed renovations of the high school, moving of our administration building out of rented space, and finding a new and needed home for the Community Learning Center. The use or disposition of the Longfellow School building, the Graham and Parks, and the Police station will all be on the table. Important in the discussion will be the need for swing space as the high school is renovated. Many citizens should be heard on these important issues.

Our budget has been stable for the last several years with increase less than 2% each year-a disciplined and fiscally responsible budget, but we are projecting deficits in the future that every school system in Massachusetts is facing and we are not immune from. Hard work beginning today to work to manage those deficits will occupy much of our attention in the coming months. We can take pride for our creating a debt stabilization fund that will help fund necessary renovations.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
Previous committees refused to recognize the importance of MCAS or Student Achievement putting us behind other school systems that took seriously the Education Reform Act. Our goals for the last few years needed to focus on Student Achievement and because of that deliberate focus we have shown continued progress in the last five years. We are now recognized as one of the top performing urban school systems and continue to show upward trends in the aggregate for both English Language Arts & Mathematics. One major goal that I take pride in is the fact we will be the establishment of a system of longitudinal assessment for all our children which will measure the progress that each student is making rather than comparing different cohorts of students. One just needs to look at our District Improvement Plan consisting of 107 pages of information on how our system is planning to improve-an exciting planning document.

With our success at the high school with over 98.5% of our sophomores passing MCAS-short by only 14 students from a perfect score, it opens up new educational horizons for our students. Our students will be given the opportunity to take courses at local universities and our high school principal is considering offering students the opportunity to get high school diplomas with distinction for participating in unique experience and/or taking on advanced work. My approach has always been let's nail down the MCAS test so we can move on and challenge our students in more creative and interesting ways.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
Schools of excellence are schools that are safe physically, safe emotionally and intellectually challenging. School safety and bullying were expected concerns that came out from parents from our marketing study. The superintendent is now requiring all schools in their School Improvement Plans to comment on what they are doing to bring these concerns under control. There are solid programs and curriculums, which we are implementing across all schools that are showing progress. In August many of our school staff attended conference on ways to improve school climate in all our schools. Our parent surveys show parents are satisfied with our efforts and I can only say that we are getting better each year. Our teachers are making their courses more interesting and our administration is helping staff understand, learn, and implement effective researched-based strategies for addressing behavior issues.

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 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 2005 responses

Page last updated May 10, 2009 Cambridge Candidates