Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini
2009 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
4 Canal Park
Cambridge MA 02141

Contact information:
Tel: 617-577-1755

Send contributions to:

  • 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 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-six years as a member of the Cambridge School Committee.
  • Sponsor Cambridge Little League-Major League Braves
  • Sponsor Cambridge Girls Softball.

Endorsements (received and anticipated):

  • 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

Top Priorities:
#1: A most critical issue is further accelerating the rate of improvement in our schools by supporting programs that improve student achievement, closing the achievement gap between high performers and low achieving students, and supporting the programs for accelerated learning and high performing students as well. This year we have established a longitudinal assessment system to measurer students progress; this will be invaluable tool in providing important data that will inform our academic strategies and will work well with the state's new systems for growth model assessment that can help diagnose individual student learning problems.

Key to supporting this priority is developing a strong working relationship among school committee members and our new superintendent as he leads us along, identifies key goals, and shares best practices from our own district, the state and national and international education systems.

#2. The middle grade restructuring process needs to be completed with a clear, long term plan. A Blue Ribbon Commission to study middle schools was done in response to a parent survey which highlighter middle schools as an issue. The blue ribbon panel's mission was to gather information, discuss strengths and weaknesses, engage numerous stakeholders that included parents, school leadership, staff, curriculum specialists and others in a review of what other school system middle school structures look like. The commission adopted five strong guiding principals.

Its important that we understand what educational research tells us is best practice for middle schools. There are pros and cons of every model and Cambridge needs to design a model that best suites our children. We may end up keeping our current K-8 structure or designing a hybrid model. We need a model that will respond successfully to kids socially, emotionally and academically.

My desire is to have all our middle grade students enter the high school well prepared so they can begin to do high quality work as freshman.

#3. To identify and plan for short and long term fiscal needs during the current financial crisis and focus on maintaining and improving what happens in the classroom. During the next budget cycle we will face the challenge of a "revenue gap," larger expenditures than revenues would normally provide. One major reason for this revenue gap is we are experiencing a growth in enrollment as more parents show their confidence in the Cambridge Public Schools - this is a good thing. There will be some difficult decisions to be made relative to future budgets when demands outstrip available funds.

School Department Administration and Superintendent:
The current school administration is experienced and capable of doing excellent work and I support them. They have done amazing work in the last several years, making the restructuring of our elementary schools successful and in reshaping the high school into one of the best in the state. These are two genuine examples of success growing out of strong school committee/superintendent collaborations. The work they have done increasing the levels of diversity in our system and the competent way they have managed our budgetary resources are also noteworthy.

Our superintendent is new and its important for senior administrators, school committee members to all work together to create a strong working relationship. The school committee has created several retreats to work on creating a dynamic relationship with the Superintendent. We will be working on establishing goals and priorities. .

A commendable amount of progress with MCAS results has taken place since school year 2003, especially the high school. The most recent MCAS scores for 2009 and the reports on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results suggest we must do better, even thought there are several areas of success. I know the Administration feels the same way and is developing several strategies to improve those scores. The program improvement section in our controlled choice plan should be an important part of our planning.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs:
The School Department has managed its resources responsibly, keeping the budget below than 3% from FY 2006 to FY 2009, and we recognize that this practice is impossible to sustain in an economic crisis. We are incredible lucky to live in a community that supported the renovation of the War Memorial Building and now our high school. We also recognize that many of our elementary have need of capital repairs and we will work with the MA School Building Authority, the city and within our own budget to find resources to support those needs.

At present we have no surplus buildings. The Longfellow school building is being used to house our freshman class and the former Graham and Parks School, located on Upton Street, is being used to house our high school extension program as well as administrative officers. The school committee showed great wisdom in keeping these buildings so that we do not need to rent additional or unneeded space.

I would think that we would always need one building to use as swing space as we renovate some of our elementary schools, and we must work with school officials to determine if educational needs require us to keep that building as well.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
We have a nationally recognized Controlled Choice Plan with the current model developed 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 consideration. As a result, our plan meets the high constitutional standard and can be sustained. 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. I am particularly proud to have had a hand in creating every developmental phase of the landmark controlled choice model, including the first one in 1981. Our model is now reviewed and studied by other school districts across America.

Each year the review of our controlled choice plan is placed on our agenda to review and make necessary changes.

Enrichment Programs:
We have advanced placement (AP) and honors classes at our high school and extensive after school programming at all our elementary schools. Two of our schools, the Fletcher/Maynard and King, are now engaged in formal Extended Learning Time (ELT) programs and the King-Open continues to offer one of the city's first Extended Day After-School programs operated in collaboration with the Department of Human Services and the School Department. In addition, we 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 and instrumental programs in high school. This year we have also started a middle school chorus to add to the middle school music experience. And we are most proud of the EarlyBird singers at the Peabody School.

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 weeklong 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:
Regarding Charter Schools, unfortunately our state legislators have not corrected a major flaw in charter school funding formula. The current formula takes funds away from our school budget to support Cambridge charter schools. Our charter school tab keeps getting bigger approaching nine million dollars over the next several years, creating deficit positions in our own budget. This is not a good way to create collaborative relationships. The need to do some marketing to get children back into the public schools seems to be a necessity given the success our schools. We also need to follow up on research that shows distressing rates of drop outs from charter schools and the cost of our obligation to take those students back.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
Our elementary school and curriculum structure is educationally sound. Content area specialists- curriculum coordinators, coaches, principals, work to ensure that the state frameworks and standards are supported in our curriculum so that every child has access to the same curriculum. Making our curricula secure allows each school to deliver those subjects in many ways - project based learning, traditional approach, core knowledge curriculum, etc.

Interventions like Reading Recovery, Literacy Collaborative, and coaches all support school efforts to improve.

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. High School curriculum is now supervised by the Deans of Curriculum at each house where it is supported by the system Curriculum Coordinators.

Our Alternative High School is a great success and does an excellent job of working with children at risk who find the traditional high school too difficult to navigate.

Our Rindge School of Technical Arts programs continue to grow and draw more students with its many certified vocational, technical program offerings.

MCAS and measuring Student Achievement:
Previous committees refused to recognize the importance of MCAS and the way it can foster student achievement. This put us behind other school systems that took seriously the Education Reform Act of 1993. Our goals for the last several years needed to focus on student achievement and, because of that deliberate focus, we have shown continued progress since 2003. We are now recognized as one of the state's top performing urban school systems and continue to show upward trends in the aggregate for both English Language Arts and Mathematics. One major goal that I take pride in is 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 to see our goals and objectives for improvement. As mentioned earlier, this ability to integrate district data with the state's new "growth model" assessment will help us find strengths and areas for improvement for individual students, classes, and schools.

With our success at the high school with high numbers of our sophomores passing MCAS, we will open 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.

Teacher Evaluations and Performance Measures:
We have a much improved evaluation system that was negotiated with the Cambridge Teachers Association. Each year all administrators go through an evaluation training program. Each year our system is completing close to 400 evaluations. We are a school system that has very skilled teachers and our evaluation system helps identify those who need improvement and can be effective with help, or others whom we should no longer employ.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
Schools of excellence are schools that are safe physically, safe emotionally and intellectually challenging. Cambridge designed programs at the district level, the school level and the classroom level to deal with school safety and student behavior issues. Two programs, Responsive Classroom for grades K-5, and Development Design for grades 6-8 already exist. These programs provide the teachers with the tools to recognize and address bullying. It also provides the kids tools to help kids respond to each other when circumstances arise. The curriculum is used to teach students respect for themselves and others. There are also peer mediation teams comprised of students who have 35 hours of training.

Parent Involvement and School Councils:
It is very important to Cambridge parents to be empowered and to be able to take a very active role in the education of their children. I believe that parent involvement is an essential 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.

On the other hand, many families depend on us for help and assistance in helping and advocating for their children. We should be exploring more ways to help them help their children. In many cases, parents want to help, but they need additional support, and we have to involve the city's broad social services network to work with us. We might also consider introducing a "parent institute" that engages parents in a meaningful way.

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 2007 responses

CCTV candidate video 

Page last updated October 03, 2009 Cambridge Candidates