Fred Fantini

Fred Fantini
2003 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
4 Canal Park
Cambridge MA 02141

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Education: Earned a Master's Degree in Management with a specialized graduate certificate in Diversity from Cambridge College in May 1999. Holds a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Finance from Bentley College in May 1999.

Experienced municipal finance processional as Deputy Treasure for the Town of Arlington since 1979.

Experience on both sides of the collective bargaining table having negotiated many contracts for the management side (Cambridge Public Schools) and as Vice President of Local 134, National Association of Government Employees (now Local 888-SEIU).

President of Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) which, this year was awarded Best in the Nation for Overall Excellence Public Access Programming.

Role of the School Committee:
School committee roles focus on three areas under the law, but more broadly in practice. Under the educational reform act, the responsibilities of the school committee are to hire and evaluate the superintendent, approve the budget, and establish policy for schools. These areas are very broad in terms of what they mean for a school committee's work. Key to our roles is having a strong, trusting relationship with the superintendent. The school committee members should also see their role both to act as a cheerleader and promoter for the public schools and, acting as policymakers, to put their attention on student achievement. This means using the information from our assessments (e.g., MCAS) and other places where we get our data to hold administrators accountable and to make our policy and budget decisions on the basis of what will lead to improvements in student achievement.

Elementary School Consolidation:
The school opening in September went well and convinces me that we can move ahead and not need to look back. The consolidation process made clear how passionate and supportive parents were of their schools, and this was heartening even though we had to face up to very difficult decisions. We hope to capture that same passion and commitment for the newly created schools. We have some real challenges and hope that the dollars we will save by the mergers can be spent helping us move us forward. We need to keep focused on the goal of academic achievement for all children. This is a huge opportunity to see some of our newly reorganized schools meet the challenges of the accountability laws and use the opportunity to move forward.

Restructuring of the High School:
When we talk about using data and holding administrators accountable for high standards, we should look very closely at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

A new high school principal and a new team of administrators will continue the work to restructure and strengthen our high school. It's the most important work we will do in the next 12 to 18 months. As our new superintendent said, and I agree with him, "How the high school goes, so do the Cambridge Public Schools." We have one high school in this city and it has the potential to be a really unifying force. It must be a school that holds high standards for all our children. I want the focus on the following:

  • establishing more rigor in the Freshman and Sophomore years, 
  • establishing legitimate Advanced Placement courses, honor courses, support structures that prepare students to enter advanced placement courses, and
  • heterogeneous grouping classes where appropriate.

Excellent high schools ensure that children are not only educated well, but also that they are safe physically, emotionally and academically, ready to take on the challenges of a very fast changing world. We need to make sure children coming from our elementary schools are high school-ready. We have the resources, commitment and talent to make our high school an exemplarily one.

Academic Excellence and Goals for the Cambridge Public Schools:
Academic excellence is our primary goal. Cambridge has a higher percentage of students taking college board exams than most schools. We encourage students to succeed and accept the challenge of college, but it also means that we won't exclude any student because we fear a low score will bring down the city's averages. Still, recent assessments-MCAS results for 2003 and SAT scores are showing a positive trend. This must continue, and it must be one of our most important goals. Schools must continue to review the data from the assessment tools that are used to measure academic progress (i.e. MCAS, English Language Assessment, Algebra Assessment, Superintendent's new quarterly assessment) and learn and adjust instruction when needed to further increase achievement.

School Budget:
We have a $116 million budget that supports our school system. This is a large investment in our children and our future. Over the years, I've demanded accountability and proof that these dollars generate quality services for a school system whose students range from the wealthiest to the poorest in the state. Here are some examples of how we demonstrate our commitment.

  • This budget includes $10 million to place special needs children in out of district placement schools.
  • The budget also includes $8 million to cover the debt and interest on the new schools we recently built and renovated-a budget item usually seen on the city side of the ledger.
  • We provide an Assistant Principal in each of our elementary schools to help service students.
  • We budget for a strong group of instruction aides throughout our system.
  • We are among the few districts that offer universal, full day kindergarten consisting of a junior and regular kindergarten program for very young boys and girls.
  • There is a Reading Recovery program in each school as well as Special Start and Home-Based program services.

Critics of public schools always accuse the school committee of spending too much. As a trained financial manager, I have always believed that we need to be vigilante in finding ways to save funds, but the programs I mentioned above are good ones that I would not want to cut. When people suggest that there's a lot to cut, remember, it's these programs that they want to eliminate.

Last year, as the Budget co-chair with Nancy Walser we were able to make reductions of close to 1.5 million in administrative reductions so we continue to look to make reductions in areas that will not harm children's education.

MCAS is an assessment program required by the State that all public schools and public charter schools must comply. It's controversial and along with the Federal No Child Left Behind act is part of a standards movement that is nationwide. The courts will determine if the MCAS graduation requirement meets legal and constitutional standards. While I don't appreciate the punitive nature of the state and federal assessment systems, we do have opportunities to use this information in positive ways - to help guide our budgeting, to help improve classroom instruction, and to provide guidance to parents and students.

Civic participation:
As the current president of Cambridge Community TV, no one appreciates more than I the importance of having the public participate in civic affairs. Cambridge has a long tradition, and I'm very proud of our history of empowering parents in our Cambridge public schools. For more than two decades, I have prioritized the active involvement of parents and students, and even citizens at large. School Councils, a new element of education reform, is a powerful way for parents to be involved. I have demanded that these councils operate actively.

Also, the schools should be available to the community at large to help rebuild decades of declining public participation. A few years ago, I read Robert Putnam's book called "Bowling Alone" about how people are pretty much disengaging from public and even social activities. We see it in the smaller number of candidates for public office as well.

That's another reason that I support public access to our school facilities, including the auditoriums, gyms, and meeting rooms.

Cambridge Candidates