Q&A With District 4 School Committee Candidate Adam Freudberg

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Adam Freudberg

Occupation: Senior Advisor for Innovation & Collaboration at Hanscom Air Force Base. In this role I work with colleagues to pursue and implement collaborative, fiscally responsible approaches, workforce training programs, and new partnerships to benefit the Air Force, educational institutions, and the region.

Do You have child(ren) in the Framingham Public Schools: Yes

Why did you decide to run for re-election School Committee: I am excited to announce my goal to continue to serve on the Framingham School Committee from District 4.  As the Chair of the School Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic I teamed up with my colleagues and Superintendent Dr. Tremblay to navigate through the crisis and massive puzzle which shook up our community. The challenges of the 2020 and 2021 school years were immense, and continue on in different ways. In my leadership role, I have worked hard to support the students, staff, and community on PreK-12 initiatives with a focus on health and wellness, student achievement, transparency, ethics, and fiscal responsibility. Equity, anti-racist practices, clear communication, and long-term strategic planning are factored into, and prioritized across all areas. I am the father of three young children who attend or will attend our public schools during the next two decades. Due to them and all other students, my interest and commitment to remain as a School Committee member has grown stronger in two ways. First, the pandemic’s detrimental impact and the need for experienced leadership to help recover has pushed me to run again. And the second reason is due to the Mayor’s chronic series of six separate reductions to the school budget since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Website or Facebook page link: https://www.facebook.com/AdamforSchoolCommittee/ and
@afreudmass on Twitter

The best thing about the Framingham Public School District is commitment

What letter grade would you give Superintendent of Schools Bob Tremblay? A-

What letter grade would you give the new busing system for Framingham Public Schools?  C

What was the last Framingham Public School event you attended: Opening of the Chris Walsh Performing ArtsCenter at the New Fuller Middle School on 10/1/21

What was the last Framingham High athletic event you attended: Gridiron Club Cornhole Tournament 8/21/21

Should there be more recess time? (yes or no) Yes

Do you support free preschool for all 4 year olds? (yes or no) Yes

Should police officers be at Framingham High? (yes or no) Yes, under the reformed MOU plan between FPS and the Police Department

Should the school year start after Labor Day every year? (yes or no) No

Should February vacation be eliminated from the calendar? (yes or no) No

Would you support virtual classes at Framingham High on snow days? (yes or no) No

Framingham teachers are Resilient

I would never cut money from Health & Wellness in the budget.

School cafeteria food is awesome, okay, needs improvement (pick one) Even more salad

Should Framingham High students complete 25 hours of community service before graduation? (yes or no) 25+

I would bring experience to the School Committee in my next term as a parent in the district, as someone with a background in education policy at the federal, state, and local levels, and from serving on the School Committee during the pandemic.

Should teachers and staff be mandated to have the COVID vaccine? (yes or no) Yes through the federal government’s mandate, which is on track to cover school districts. The local impact by law would need to be bargained.

Should students be mandated to have the COVID vaccine like they are mandated for measles, mumps etc vaccines? (yes or no) Yes, through statewide action by the MA Department of Public Health

When elected, I would want to serve on the Buildings and Grounds subcommittee.

If I was asked to read to elementary students, I would want to read The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt

Question #1) Specific criteria is used to measure a Superintendent. Criteria is used to evaluate a teacher. How should you as a School Committee member be evaluated? In 2019 you told SOURCE readers “attendance and professionalism.” How do you feel you have accomplished that in the last two years?

As Chair of the School Committee I have often focused on rules, ethics, logistics, agenda
planning, and compliance. As elected leaders in the community I am a big believer that we must be examples to others and follow required processes such as the state’s ethics and open meeting laws, Framingham specific policies and procedures, and committee operational best practices recommended by the MA Association of School Committees. Additionally, I have worked to ensure that we do all we can in order to have productive and respectful dialogues even when there are policy disagreements.

Regarding Attendance, I looked up my attendance during this term 2020-Present and have a
100% attendance rate:

o 54/54 School Committee Open Session Meeting
o 38/38 School Committee Executive Sessions Meetings
o 23/23 School Building Committee Meetings
o 18/18 Subcommittee Meetings

o 32/32 Union Bargaining Sessions

The results of each individual can also be reviewed. So much of the committee’s work requires a team. There is not much that any individual can do alone. I am proud of the many efforts where I feel my focus added value to the group’s accomplishments. This includes:
 Advocacy for funding at the state and local level
 Seeking compliance by bringing in outside experts to review financial, equity, and Title IX athletics topics, and adding reviews to the agenda to keep these items at the forefront
 The grand opening of the Fuller Middle School through a robust and transparent construction management process, that has resulted in an on time and currently under
budget new building
 The naming of the new Fuller’s auditorium as the Chris Walsh Performing Arts Center
 Careful review, public engagement process, and immediate deployment of funding from the federal funding for education as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to help students and staff now, this school year to combat the ongoing detrimental impacts of COVID-19
 I drafted a COVID-19 Testing Policy now in effect to require that FPS offers in school tests, resulting in schools and classrooms remaining open, fewer quarantines, and the required publishing of data online so stakeholders know what is going on in each building.

Question #2) Even with a new contract and a new bus company, the transportation system is not working at an A+ level. Some students are consistently late for school due to buses, and some children have hour-plus bus rides home. It is a complicated issue, but in the end the School Committee is responsible for the busing contract. Tell readers 1-2 ways you would work to fix the problem.

I gave the new vendor NRT Bus Inc. a slightly higher grade than I gave Durham School Services, the former vendor with ongoing legal actions. At least NRT is transparently providing data and reports, not overpromising and withholding data like Durham did, are accepting of subcontractors to help until they hire new people, and are working together with FPS Transportation in a productive fashion to attempt to resolve the problem.

I have proposed that FPS and/or NRT:
 Offer meaningful signing bonuses, retention bonuses, and good attendance bonuses to
bus drivers. NRT says the problem will be 99% solved if drivers show up to work. I have
no issues offering a meaningful amount of money for employees if it solves a problem
impacting 6700+ plus students and 20,000+ residents. In this case, there is also federal
funding available.

 I made sure that the new contract has performance measures and clawback provisions to
recoup money if the terms are not being met. Additionally, I have encouraged the use of
Article 6 and/or Article 11 in the contract that allows subcontractors to be used when the
vendor cannot fulfill the staffing obligations. I am pleased that recently that these sections of the contract were finally used to bring in National Guard drivers, as well as another company to help with athletic transportation. Ideally we have one vendor, but this additional support is welcomed, and comes at no new cost to the school district and city because of our successful contract negotiation strategy.

 Build a new neighborhood school south of Route 9. This is expected to reduce the amount of buses, which in turn will help reduce the amount of time some students are on buses, as well as improve traffic in the city.

 Provide data in a report at every School Committee meeting so we can know the reality of the impacts, track progress, and have information if future decisions are ever to be
made. Here is an example of the latest report: https://www.framingham.k12.ma.us/cms/lib/MA01907569/Centricity/Domain/81/2021%
20Packets/10.20.21/SC%20Transportation%20Update%2010.20.21.pdf

Question #3) There are significant achievement gaps in the Framingham Public Schools. Name three things you can do as a School Committee member to help close those gaps by 2024.

Implementing a common backbone of curriculum, after school programs and other services with principles of equity and equality among our city’s schools is a challenge. It is an area we have worked to support over the last few years. Recently, multiple school’s math and reading scores have risen a good amount for the 3rd and 8th grades. And the independent equity audit’s recommendations from 2020 are being implemented throughout the district. Yet the progress made is not enough, and is never made fast enough in my mind with my own high expectations.

To answer the specific question, I will support resources for these three topics to help make
continued progress to close the gaps:

  1. We need to continue the current progress under the 2020-2023 FPS Strategic Plan, and
    ensure the next Strategic Plan builds on these efforts with more metrics.
  2. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) is one of many proven
    pathways towards success. It can light a spark, cause students to become curious and
    inquire about things they never thought about before and gain motivation resulting in
    achievement. Specific after school STEAM programs such as robotics programs have
    data showing they close the achievement gaps, especially with female minorities. I
    support removing barriers to entry for any of these programs as well as bringing their
    curricular principles to the school day when possible.  
  3. I believe the approach to solve these kinds of challenges must continue to be backed up
    by data, educator education/training and a robust grant application process to take
    advantage of all possible non-city funding sources – all done in support of ensuring equal
    opportunities for student achievement across all schools.

Question #4) Prior to the pandemic, many Framingham middle and high school students were stressed. The MetroWest Health Foundation studies show an alarming rate of suicide attempts. But mental health issues significantly increased during the pandemic. What can the school system and the school committee do to help the mental health of students? Identify 3 specific steps. 

  1. Increase resources for more school counselors and social workers. Ensure they are
    balanced based on the real need each school population’s data reflects, as well as the
    pandemic related impacts.
  2. Through the District’s new Code of Character, Conduct, and Support, put forward a
    continued focus and a better communications plan to provide information to students
    and parents/guardians on the impacts of screen time, bullying, social media usage,
    drugs, alcohol, vaping, sleep, public health recommendations, etc. Additionally, we
    still need to do more work to adjust the curriculum to start teaching students about
    these topics more often and at earlier ages than it is currently done.
  3. Increase the time students have for choice time, recess (at least K-3), and for non
    academic course requirements that teach life skills.

Question #5) How should the 9-member School Committee spend the ARPA funds over the next two years? Be specific. 

In order to meet deadlines and begin recovery initiatives in advance of the current school year,
the committee approved the multi-year spending plan in August after soliciting community
feedback. This plan allocates federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in a
compassionate, structured, and fiscally responsible way to maximize this critical allocation in
order to support students and staff through a variety of pandemic related recovery efforts over
the next three school years.

Each area is focused on mitigating the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting items such as learning loss, employees, social-emotional behavioral health, recreation, financial responsibility, and healthy school communities.

As we approached this topic, I asked us to consider how can one time investments reduce future operating budgets and accelerate pandemic recovery? What nonprofits can the city work with to creatively receive direct specialized services for recovery? What kind of mental health and substance use prevention initiatives can the schools and health department work on together?

After a rough year with remote, hybrid, in person, masks, quarantines, COVID-19 testing, Zoom,
Google Meet, and so many challenges, how can the district use this funding to help students and educators immediately this fall?

My focus was on the following items that eventually made it into the final plan; expanding free
summer programming, implementing the equity audit’s recommendations aimed at those most impacted by the pandemic, enhancing pandemic ventilation and air conditioning upgrades, creating an innovation recovery grant opportunity for every school, creating a nonprofit grant opportunity for community partners, adding new mental health supports, and funding three new playgrounds. 


I am grateful to the District leadership, staff, and community members who provided input into
the plan, and thank the entire School Committee for the total team effort over multiple months
alongside staff to develop a shared vision for how to best utilize this funding. Finally, thank you to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, in particular Senators Warren and Markey, and
Assistant Speaker of the House Katherine Clark, for their advocacy to secure this funding.
The full plan can be found here:
https://www.framingham.k12.ma.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInsta
nceID=15101&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-
3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=16326&PageID=1

Question #6) One of the responsibilities of a School Committee member is to evaluate the Superintendent of Schools. What three things will you hold him accountable for over the next two years?  

The state template has the committee evaluate a Superintendent in the areas of Instructional
Leadership, Management and Operations, Family and Community Engagement, Professional
Culture, and a series of individual goals established each year.

As I complete the annual evaluation I consider these formal factors, as well as important areas
such as the Superintendent leading by example, striving to make progress on the strategic plan
built on principles of equity, and his oversight of the implementation of policy, rules, and
compliance with all federal, state, and local laws.

It is the responsibility of the Chair to compile an annual summative evaluation for public release and for the committee to vote on. I am proud of the format and process our committee uses in partnership with the Superintendent to develop goals, evaluate progress, and adjust where necessary after each annual review. Click here for the most recent annual evaluation:
https://www.framingham.k12.ma.us/cms/lib/MA01907569/Centricity/Domain/81/2021/06.23.21/Superintendent%20Full%20Summative%20Eval%202021.pdf)

Question #7) One of the major roles of the School Committee is to set policy. Which
policy would you like to change or propose during your 2-year term?

A policy on the role of the Mayor, as well as the role of the Student Advisory Committee Chair
as non-voting members of the committee is needed next term. We have a policy on the role of
the Chair, the Vice Chair, the Clerk, and the group as a whole. A committee policy cannot
supersede the City Charter and make a Mayor do something. Yet a policy can set firm rules,
guidance, and lay out best practices that are recommended for a Mayor to follow in order to best serve our community while also serving as a committee Member.

The last four years with this Mayor has been a chronic challenge. The facts reflect that the Mayor has reduced the school budget six different times just during the pandemic, and in five of those cases there was little to no communication and too many surprises. Funding is unfortunately only one part of a series of challenges in the ways the school department and committee has been treated.

For example, the Mayor and her administration ignored the committee’s required legal
role with a lease, rejected common sense requests to coordinate on enrollment projections with new residential developments to plan for growth, skipped critical meetings, ignored emails resulting in the Finance Subcommittee Chair having to submit public record requests to get information, and the Mayor filed a request resulting in $411,000 meant for education to be taken back to address the administration’s fiscal mismanagement in water and sewer accounts. I voted for the Mayor in 2017, so this was all unforeseen and my high hopes unfortunately were too hopeful.

If just one or two of these items happened it could perhaps be excused. Yet all together this
makes up a pattern of shutting out our school system from key municipal operations, and in turn creates ongoing negative effects. If a voting member of the School Committee acted in this non-collaborative way, they would be in violation of current policies. How to proceed with attempts to make improvements would be addressed through an outlined process. It is time to define a process through policy – the way we govern our committee’s operations.

Question #8) Recently an equity audit was taken of the school district. In your opinion, what is the #1 issue that must be addressed in your term that was identified by the audit? Why?

During my time on the School Committee I have been part of many equity related actions such
as:

 Creating the FPS Office for Equity, Diversity, and Community Resource Development, and elevating the leader to the level of an Assistant Superintendent. I will always remember this important decision as one of my first ever votes as an elected official.

 Supporting a newly revised budget process to review each school allocation from a lens of equity, and ensure that PTOs are not inequitably spending funding for items the operating budget should fund. The past practice of some PTOs that could afford it purchasing items like mulch for playground, school supplies, and field trips was stopped and instead funded by the operating budget.

 Renaming Harmony Grove Elementary School from its former, outdated and insensitive
name.

 Requiring anti-racist professional development for staff

 Voting for the District’s strategic plan with equity as the top theme.

 Partnering with the FHS Gender Sexuality Alliance, resulting in the addition of gender
neutral bathrooms, Pride flags, and more inclusive practices in our schools.

 Bringing forward the results of the independent equity and Title IX Athletic audits for
transparency, conversation, and action plans. The independent equity audit of 2020 had many important findings. As the audit said, “achieving equity is an ongoing journey for an indeterminate time that will require the engagement of all FPS staff, students, and community members.”

Picking just one top issue is a tough question. I believe the answer is broadly to build upon known strengths and align resources to meet the needs of the diverse FPS student body, staff, and community. We can make progress by following the list of specific actions (view a list of ongoing equity audit actions here https://www.framingham.k12.ma.us/cms/lib/MA01907569/Centricity/Domain/81/2021%20Pack
ets/10.06.21/Equity%20Audit%20Memo%20and%20Supporting%20Documents.pdf), updating
policies, allocating funding, and continuing the conversation by keeping the topic on the
committee’s long term agenda.

Question #9) Framingham Public Schools has seen an increase in turnover with central office and principals. Why do you think that is the case? What can be done by the School Committee to increase the longevity of leadership in central office and at the school level?

Burnout in so many career fields, especially in education has been exasperated by the pandemic. It has been difficult to see the local turnover in buildings and the central office. I also respect each individual’s choice to do what is best for their health, family, and career.

By law contracts for these individuals are not under the purview of the committee. However we
can (and I have) advocated to the District to strengthen contract language, complete exit
interviews so adjustments can be learned from, and to help staff in a variety of ways to support
morale, retention, and returns on investments.

Question #10) There has been discussion, but no decision or policy finalized, to have all of the PTOs pool their funds and for all the booster programs to pool their funds for athletics? Do you agree with this concept? Why or why not?

I support the ongoing review by the Superintendent to explore how PTO cost sharing could
work. PTOs that raise funding should be able to keep at least a supermajority of what they raise
for their own individual school, however I am open to seeing details on how a proportional cost share of some to be determined form would work.

I am not aware of any recommendation for all booster programs to pool athletic funds. That is
not happening nor would I support it. There is a federal law compliance issue to be addressed to ensure that teams that are not fundraising to the levels they need are supported in other ways.

This may include a recommendation that new funding in the District’s operating budget be
allocated to comply with Title IX, resulting in a better athletic system for all. That policy fix has
been made a priority by the committee once the District and the federal government bring forward a draft for review. When that time comes I look forward to closing that out next term.

***

Thank you to the Source for the opportunity to respond to this detailed questionnaire and to all of you for reading this.

Looking ahead, the work never ends when it comes to educating youth and supporting educators. It has been a difficult last two years for our community. Going forward, I am confident that my background and experiences during the first years of our city government will continue to serve the community well. I pledge to draw on my record, seek continuous improvement in all I do, and contribute to the capable, professional, and transparent leadership Framingham deserves from its School Committee. 
Feel free to contact me through my Facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/AdamforSchoolCommittee/ or at afreudberg@yahoo.com

Credit: Framingham Public Schools/LaRueBoweRs Photography

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176