- 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."
- Greater Boston Labor Council, AFL-CIO
- Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers' District Council
- Carpenters Local 40-Cambridge
- National Governmental Employees Association
- Painters & Allied Trades District Council #35
- IBEW 2222
- District Council 35, IUPAT, AFL-CIO
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. Innovation Agenda – Implementing it successfully.
b. Program and Curriculum Evaluation
c. High School Program
d. Special Populations and Strategies to Close the Achievement Gap Between High Performing Students and Children at Risk.
2. Family Engagement and School Climate
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. Successful implementation of new evaluation requirements.
With the acceptance of Federal Funds from the Rise To The Top initiative by the Federal Government, we must implement a new evaluation system for all certified employees starting with the Superintendent, the leadership team , and teachers. The overall goal is to improve student learning by providing a system that is supportive and improves the quality of educator practice in the classroom, but which also holds adults accountable. Standardized testing results will become one factor in addition to multiple other district measures of accountability in the evaluation system and input for and from students, teachers, and parents will be introduced as the plan roles out. The details are being negotiated with our teachers union but the process has already begun and we will expect the professional judgment of our supervisors, principals and superintendent will help balance the hard data with much of the less quantifiable evaluation data we might have (i.e., observations, conferences, interpersonal interactions, and overall performance.
B. Budget Issues should be a concern
The school department has had some financial flexibility over the last several years because of the consolidation efforts we implemented in FY 2003. We have been able to keep our average budget growth since FY2003 to less than 2.5%, below the overall rate of growth for the city as a whole. Projected expenditure increases just to keep our "maintenance of effort" budget the same for the next several years will be in the 4% range. Increased costs for health insurance, pension, technical services, special education tuition, transportation, energy, and charter school costs make up that 4%. Where we to establish new initiatives, we will find ourselves in the position of scrutinizing current programs to make up the cost. Charter schools present a special challenge because the state takes from us and gives to the charter school the average per pupil cost of educating that student. Charter schools may present choices for parents, but they represent a virtual form of revenue expropriation without representation to our city and taxpayers since charter boards of trustees get more than $22,000 per student taken from our state financial aid allocation every year and they do not report to anyone in local government.
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" 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 reorganization of our districts leadership team in the area of curriculum, I am encouraged that a strategic plan will be put in place that will accelerate improvement.
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 has proven to be a major undertaking; the first year was difficult with the growing pains of any new initiative, but having larger cohorts of children working together in more diverse settings is a good first step. Many of our upper school teachers are working long and hard and need to be supported. The second year expectedly has stared better with teachers, parents, and leadership showing great enthusiasm and willingness to make the IA meet the expectations of more rigor that the Superintendent promised. The school committee will be meeting with the Superintendent this year to discuss outcome measurers so that we can benchmark our success.
School Department Administration and Superintendent
Last year, the Superintendent recommended restructuring the Office of Teaching and Learning by replacing three director level positions with three Assistant Superintendent positions - Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services and Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education. This reporting structure will ensure more timely and effective evaluation of administrators and improved direct central office support to the schools, principals, and teachers. This will allow us to add a diligent level of oversight and scrutiny as we pursue our academic goals that made this reorganization necessary. We can look forward to improved teaching and learning.
School Department Budget (see above) and Capital needs
Timely and careful planning and our ability to work with the city manager has made it possible for us to rebuild the King School on Putnam Avenue with the King Open and Tobin Schools to follow. I was honored to provide commentary at the King school ground breaking ceremony held recently. Many of our schools had minor work done over the summer including creation of new classroom space and replacements of windows to begin the school year.
Achievement Gaps, Meeting the needs of All Students
Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) results for 2013 show the Cambridge Public Schools making progress as we pursue our vision of academic excellence and social justice for all students. Nine of district schools were designated in the highest category, "Level 1" in 2013 compared to only four in 2012. This top ranking includes six elementary schools, two upper schools and Cambridge Rindge and Latin. Progress for which we should be proud.
The persistence of an Achievement Gap still eludes us and requires a strong response from all stakeholders. The recent reorganization of leadership positions that created three new Assistant Superintendents and the realignment of responsibilities is a good first step. The investment of significant funds to create math, English and science coaches need to be deployed more strategically so that their practice makes an impact on reducing the gap between top students and students at risk. This has been a strategy used in other schools districts with much success. The new "Response to Intervention" (RTI) program is being implemented in many schools, and coupled with other strategies is having a positive impact. Finally, the Superintendent needs to create a "sense of urgency" 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 Advanced 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.
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
In the last two years our Controlled Choice (student assignment) plan went under a significant review process and many changes were made with the purpose of affirming 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 new Wraparound Zone School at the Fletcher Maynard School will now have their own separate lottery; schools that are not attracting students will be required to change their programs; and parents coming into the system after the second lottery will be assigned rather than have to wait for another lottery. Many changes may not seem significant but they will help schools and parents and we are hopeful that they will create more trust and understanding of our Controlled Choice Plan. Alice Turkell and I chaired the Controlled Choice Subcommittee this year, and Alice deserves special praise for her monumental efforts in moving this agenda to completion.
Curriculum and programs
One significant difference coming at the start of the school year is that we have created leadership position entitled Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction that 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.
Parent should be excited about our K-5 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 program (elementary music) expanding to some additional schools and the implementation of PBIS- Positive Behavior Intervention and RTI-Response to Intervention taking place in our schools has had a positive impact. 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
The changes in structure in the middle grades has proven to be a major undertaking. The middle school grades bring special challenges to any school administer. Our the first year was difficult with the growing pains of any new initiative, but having larger cohorts of children working together in more diverse settings than many have ever known proved to be beneficial and effective. Many of our upper school teachers worked long and hard. The second year, expectedly, has started with more focus with teachers, parents, and leadership showing great enthusiasm and willingness to make the middle schools work. Our goal is to meet the expectations of more rigor that the Superintendent promised.
High School Grades
Our high school continues to be the showcase of our system with capable strong leadership with new 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 is coming off its ten year reaccreditation process by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) -and positive results are expected in this fall. This gave CRLS the opportunity to self assess itself and made make plans for a better future.
Fred Fantini 2013 Candidate Profile - Cambridge Chronicle
Candidate's 2011 responses Candidate's 2009 responses Candidate's 2007 responses
CCTV candidate video (2013)