Saturday, June 22, 2024

Fred Fantini on Cambridge’s School Committee in 2020. (Photo: Derek Kouyoumjian)

The Cambridge School Committee’s longest-serving member, Fred Fantini, said Tuesday that he is retiring after serving for 40 years.

“I leave as the longest-serving elected School Committee person in Cambridge history, serving on the oldest school board in America” and has over the years applied values to his service that came from growing up in Cambridge, Fantini said in an email.

First elected in 1981, Fantini said he enjoyed working with 15 mayors and seven superintendents.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui called Fantini “a great public servant” whose longevity provided a unique perspective, but who was supportive of her as a new leader in 2019 – especially in the “very scary time” when Covid arrived and he pushed for putting together a group of people to become committee health and safety advisers. “He was outspoken, and we were able to put a great team together to reopen schools,” Siddiqui said. “I will miss him.”

The longest-serving member of the committee was also one of its greatest champions for youth, superintendent Victoria L. Greer said. “I deeply admire his commitment to ensuring our students have the best possible education. Member Fantini has been a committed and supportive partner to the educators and administration,”.said Greer, hailing Fantini’s “unparalleled passion in service to the City of Cambridge and Cambridge Public Schools”

“I will miss working with and learning from his rich experience. I wish him the very best in retirement,” Greer said.

A lifelong Cambridge resident, Fantini matriculated through Cambridge Public Schools – “My public school education was the foundation of my work to make [the committee] a strong force for democracy,” Fantini said Tuesday – and has long been active in the civic arena. Though retired for several years, he spent 30 years as deputy treasurer for the Town of Arlington, was treasurer for the labor union chapter SEIU 888 and sponsored Cambridge Little and Major League baseball and girls’ softball teams. He was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees after being nominated by fellow committee members in 2012 and honored for “advocacy and courage during times of great change” over what were then 30 years of public service.

He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Bentley College and a master’s degree in management and earned a specialized graduate certificate in diversity from Cambridge College in May 1999. Fantini continues his education with courses and conferences, including parent advocacy training from the Federation of Children with Special Needs. As a committee member, he was often responsible for taking the lead at the collective bargaining table, using experience representing management during committee labor negotiations and workers as president of the SEIU/NAGE local 113.

“It has always been a pleasure and honor to serve this great city,” Fantini said, thanking “all the residents of Cambridge for returning me to elected office 20 times” in addition to family and friends who “helped, inspired me and were always there for me during this wonderful opportunity.”

As he prepared to step away in January after elections Nov. 7, Fantini reminisced about one of his favorite rituals as a candidate: knocking on doors, “starting on July 1 of each election year and going on until Election Day, hardly ever missing a day. My goal was always to reach 10,000-plus doors – old-school,” he said.

“I have many memories from those who consistently invited me in for tea or coffee, allowed me to freshen up and have some good conversations,” Fantini said. “I would say that I had the pleasure of knowing most folks that voted for me.”

Fantini said he was leaving the committee in good hands, “with a caring team of colleagues.”

His departure means there will be one new face for certain on the committee in January, and so far there is a single challenger for the body: Eugenia Schraa Huh, who had a fundraising launch for a campaign June 15.

Among School Committee incumbents, Ayesha Wilson has been fundraising for reelection since the spring and vice chair Rachel Weinstein says on her website she is running. Other incumbents have yet to announce.

Fantini is not the only longtime educator departing; deputy superintendent Carolyn Turk retires from her role in Cambridge Public Schools in October after 46 years with the district.