Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini
2017 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
4 Canal Park
Cambridge MA 02141

Contact information:
Tel: 617-577-1755
e-mail: fredfan1@aol.com

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Statements from 2015 election:

Background:

  • 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 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 thirty years as a member of the Cambridge School Committee
  • Sponsor Cambridge Little League-Major League Braves
  • Sponsor Cambridge Girls Softball
  • Attends educational courses and conferences on a regular basis
  • Recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the MA Association of School Committees (Nominated by Fellow School Committee Members in 2012), and was cited for "advocacy and courage during times of great change over 30 years of public service."

Anticipated Endorsements:

  • Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • National Governmental Employees Association
  • SEIU-Local 888-Working Together
  • Carpenters Local 40-Cambridge
  • General Construction Local 151-Cambridge
  • Plumbers and Gas Fitters Local 12-Boston

Top Priorities
Our Mission: The Cambridge Public Schools will be a diverse urban school system that works with families and the community to successfully educate ALL of its students at high levels.

Each year prior to our budget preparation, the Superintendent meets with the School Committee (SC) to develop budget guidelines and goals so that our resources are directed to achieve those objectives. The SC overarching goal is academic excellence and social justice for every student. The goals the SC worked on this year and ones that I was active in supporting are as follows:

1. Student Achievement

a. Elementary Schools

b. Upper Schools

c. High School Program

d. Program and Curriculum Evaluation

e. Special Populations and Strategies to Close the Achievement Gap between High Performing Students and Children at Risk.

f. Proficient Readers by Grade 3

2. Family Engagement and School Climate

a. a. Social/Emotional Learning

3. Operations and Long Range Planning

Throughout this questionnaire I will be expanding and explaining some of the above noted goals.

Top Challenges Facing CPS today
A. Continue to Improve our Middle Schools
Ongoing support for the Upper Schools is essential to building a successful program in grades 6 through 8. It’s important we refine the Upper School program in order to meet the Innovation Agenda goal of a providing a superior academic and social experience for all students that prepares them for success in high school and post-secondary education. We need to continue to provide support and make investments in the areas that will enhance the success in our middle schools. Students enjoy attending schools with larger cohorts of students instead of the isolation that many experienced prior and the school system is able to provide enhanced offering in the visual and performing arts areas. The goal of having these middle schools racially balanced is also important to me. This year we added additional positions-interventionists and guidance council as well as summer and after school math support that middle school leaders requested. My goal is that every child leaving the middle school structure is ready to do rigorous work at CRLS.

B. Hiring a new Superintendent
We are currently engaged in a process to hire our next Superintendent. Much of the process in developing a “learning profile” that has taken place during the summer months but also participation was solid and the process will allow for even far more participation in the coming weeks. Eight strong candidates will be interviewed in the semi-finalist round and from those eight the school committee will interview three finalists. The final interviews will take place publically and prior to the finalist interviews there will be an opportunity for many constituent groups to meet the candidates and provide input to the school committee. Our current superintendent has been with us since 2009 and we hope the next superintendent will enjoy the same longevity.

Superintendents have a lot of power under the educational reform act so it’s important that we hire someone who will be a good fit for Cambridge and will work collaboratively with the school committee and community to move Cambridge from a good school system and a great one.

C. Closing the Achievement Gap
One issue that is unacceptable to me is that fact we have made so little progress in closing the achievement gap. The performance of our students at greatest social and economic risk continues to fall below the rest of the student population. These include families who live in poverty, in socially vulnerable family settings, in homes where they are not yet English speakers, or who are homeless or transient and do not remain long in one place. This is a statewide problem, not just for Cambridge, but we have done so much as a district and as a city to welcome and serve high risk students and families that we want to protect our investment in our community by ensuring that we have high expectations for success for all our students. The school committee and the Superintendent need to create a real “sense of urgency” not panic and a plan to end this disparity. MCAS results show that little progress has been made and no internal benchmarks have even been established. With the recent work with our professional development and curriculum development, I am encouraged that we are making progress.

Evaluation of the Innovation Agenda (IA)
As I have said previously, 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 improve academic achievement for all our students. I like the concept of transitions into K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 schools with each transition expecting more from our students and our system. Our smaller middle schools with fewer than 300 children allow for better and focused management that should result in significant achievement.

The IA, however, has proven to be a major undertaking. In its fourth year we have some valuable experience behind us, have provided additional budgetary supports, a lot of professional development for staff and leadership and are prepared to move forward with some optimism. Many of our upper school teachers are working long and hard and need to be supported. The Superintendent is committed in his last year to making the IA a significant priority. Leadership has to be more proactive in its decision making and the school committee needs to encourage them to do so.

School Department Administration and Superintendent
Initiatives undertaken by the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction which will help significantly in improving teaching and learning are priorities. Professional development under the leadership of Chris Colbath-Hess has initiated offerings from New Teacher Induction Programs, an improved teacher mentoring program, offering significant professional development such as offering the RBT Studying Skillful Teaching course for faculty, and creating a syllabus of over 80 course offerings to teachers, and Para professions. And in the curriculum area the Assistant Superintendent has developed a Curriculum Review and Design system consisting of four Phases implemented over a six years which ensures our eight major subject areas are in one of those phases each year receiving the attention it needs to ensure our students are receiving a rigorous education. Making sure our curriculum is aligned with Common Core and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks is an important component as well.

Also, our school system is committed to improving service to our special needs community. The core value of the plan is “Service” and its mission is “To collaborate with the school community, families, students, and community stakeholders to ensure the academic, social and emotional success of every learner.” A new “Parent and Family Handbook” has just been completed providing important information for all families.

School Department Budget and Capital needs
Strong relationships between the City Manager and City Council have allowed us to increase our general budgetary needs over the last few years from an average of 2.5% to 4% to support our schools. It’s unfortunate so much of our general fund dollars (app. 11,500,000) goes to support charter schools. And in addition the city has supported our capital needs which could reach a half billion dollars over a ten year period. We have a renovated high school, war memorial, new library, new King school and the King Open and Tobin renovations coming to follow. We are providing our employees with top notch facilities to work.

Achievement Gaps, Meeting the needs of All Students
Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) results for 2014 show the Cambridge Public Schools making progress as we pursue our vision of academic excellence and social justice for all students. Ten of district schools were designated in the highest category, “Level 1” in 2014 compared to only four in 2012. This top ranking includes seven elementary schools, two upper schools and Cambridge Rindge and Latin. Progress for which we should be proud.

However, the persistence of an Achievement Gap still eludes us and requires a strong response from all stakeholders. Initiatives begun such as Response to Intervention, instructional coaches, significantly improved and targeted professional development, a strong curriculum plan, better and more goal driven School Improvement Plans all show great promise towards eliminating the achievement gap. MCAS growth for our lowest performing students are showing promise. Finally, the Superintendent needs to create a “sense of urgency” not panic that he wants the Achievement Gap eliminated as much as the school committee.

Meeting the Needs of Advanced Learners
I think we have a way to go in meeting the needs of Advance Learners but we are making progress. In school year 2013 the position of Academic Challenge Program Manager was created to oversee academic challenge and enrichment supports in the elementary and uppers schools. This position has many significant responsibilities in providing professional development for teachers and administrators in differentiated learning, working with our instructional coaches to identify advanced learners, developing individual plans through the Subject Acceleration Protocol procedure, providing training programs for parents and being a contact person for parents.

A committed parent group known as CALA-Cambridge Advanced Learning Association (http://cambridgeadvanced.org) has played a crucial role in keeping the issue of Advanced Learners front and center and has been instrumental as an advocacy group not only for advanced learners but for all children-a great resource. Most recently their advocacy for changing how math is taught in our middle schools is making a difference. The number of children taking advanced math has increase dramatically as well as the number of students taking advanced math during the summer.

Our job as a school system is to be supportive for children at both ends of the learning spectrum – and in the middle, to assist all those children needing help, in need of encouragement and high expectations, and those children who are advanced and want to get even better.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies
This year some tweaks had to be made to adjust some changes we made two years ago but our Controlled Choice Plan (student assignment) plan is strong and continue to affirm our values of diversity and excellence for all our schools. Positive trends in keeping our schools balanced by race and socio-economic status continue even while many of our nation’s public school are losing ground. We should be proud of how we have made this system work. Our changes will continue this growth in balancing our schools. Programs that support three year olds like the Montessori, Special Start Program and our relatedly new Wraparound Zone School at the Fletcher Maynard School now have their own separate lottery. Schools that are not attracting students may have to undergo change.

I’ve been around since the start of our voluntary controlled choice plan and know the importance of children of all races and economic backgrounds learning and growing together. The schools are the center of a community and having our schools diverse makes for a much stronger community.

There has been some talk of creating neighborhood schools which we should discuss how to accomplish and still maintain the diversity in our schools.

Curriculum and programs
Our recently created position of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction will oversee the three areas noted below. Someone specifically focused on strategic planning and implementation for curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development JK-12 will be critical to moving our system forward. Expect changes.

Elementary School
As I tour and attend open houses, it is clear that administrators, teachers, and specialists are working hard to create a special place for our children. New initiatives from the Kodaly music program that expanded to three more elementary schools, the continued implementation of our RTI-Response to Intervention initiative taking place in our schools has had a positive impact. I see leadership teams meeting to make sure all students have the tools they need to improve. The goals and strategies established in their School Improvement plans drive the work at the schools. Our K-5 schools are much smaller, and strong leaders can manager them well. We are in a good place to make progress in closing the Achievement Gap.

Middle School Grades
Ongoing support for the Upper Schools is essential to building a successful program in grades 6 through 8. It’s important we refine the Upper School program in order to meet the Innovation Agenda goal of a providing a superior academic and social experience for all students that prepares them for success in high school and post-secondary education. We need to continue to provide support and make investments in areas that will enhance the success in our middle schools. Students enjoy attending schools with larger cohorts of students instead of the isolation that many experienced prior and the school system is able to provide enhanced offering in the visual and performing arts areas. The goal of having these middle schools racially balanced is also important to me. This year we added additional positions-interventionists and guidance councils that middle school leaders requested. My goal is that every child leaving the middle school structure is ready to do rigorous work at CRLS.

High School Grades
Our high school continues to be the showcase of our system with capable strong leadership with principal, Damon Smith, a great facility and campus, and very active community groups and strong community support. We continue to send students to the nation’s best colleges and universities and to careers that require two-year schools, apprenticeships, or other training. CRLS has achieved its reaccreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and was a good experience for CRLS to reflect on its mission. High school enrollment is increasing because of many students coming from private elementary schools to attend CRLS.

Other Comments:
Cambridge should celebrate its Visual and Performing Arts Department
Cambridge excels in enrichment curricula and treats them as essential. Our visual and Performing Arts Department is considered by many to be the tops in the State. Our students at every level have a wonderful opportunity to participate in fine Art, drama, Music and Dance and after school opportunities. This last budget saw an expansion of our Kodaly program to three more elementary schools and my goal for the next budget is to work on making art teachers full time at our elementary schools.

Our Athletic program excels
Our athletic offering of sports and club offerings excels most high schools in the country. Approximately 50% of all high schools students participate in a sport or a club and participation is approximately equal for boys and girls. These quality programs allows students to feel a real sense of pride and school spirit. Our larger community also shares in this pride. Sports provide students with valued skill like responsibility, discipline and leadership. Our athletic facilities and fields are second to none and the fact that we charge no fees is unheard off. Look for the athletic director to implement a program to create and develop leadership programs for student athletics.

School based funds
Cambridge is the only school system in the country that provides a discretionary amount of funds based upon a formula to allow schools to make school based decisions on how best to support their school system. This year those funds provided to support their individual school improvement plans has increased by 11% for a total appropriation of 1.3 million dollars.

Supporting our community partners
The school department provides top notch support during and after school opportunities for our children. We support both financially and with in-kind support (office space) the following Community Partners: Cambridge School Volunteers, Breakthrough, City sprouts, Tutoring Plus, Science Club for Girls, Beyond the 4th Wall, and Cycle Bikes. These programs add tremendous value to improving our children’s academic, artistic and social experience.

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CCTV candidate video (2015)

Page last updated Wednesday, October 7, 2015 8:09 PM Cambridge Candidates