Ed Cafasso and I met for coffee at Cafe Dolce recently to discuss his to the three questions.
FM - Tell me a bit about yourself, your family and your life here in Franklin?
EC - We moved here from Walpole.13 years ago. It was just before Halloween, we moved here to Franklin. It has been a great place to raise a family. On November 2, 2004, I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the School Committee. I ran for my first full term a year later in 2005. So, if I’m fortunate enough to be re-elected, it would be my fourth full term. Between work and family, I keep a pretty busy schedule. The School Committee for me fulfills a sense of public service. I like being involved in the community and trying to help. We are fortunate to have a lot of great friends here. It has been interesting to see how the city has changed. It is becoming a city now where it really was more of a town before.
FM - What experience or background will help you to serve in this role? or What do you think makes you a good candidate to fulfill this role?
EC - I started my professional career as a reporter. I covered city government in Newton and other local issues for three years for a suburban newspaper chain. I then spent eight years at the Boston Herald, where I covered (Boston) City Hall, the State House, and the White House. So I got a look at government from the perspective of a reporter and an analyst. Following that, I spent five years as communications director for a progressive activist Attorney General. That gave me a great education in the various stakeholders in government and the need to stay in touch with the different groups who are touched by what government does.
Since then, as a communications professional, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of large complex and sprawling enterprises that have multiple stakeholders. That experience, combined with the fact that I am a parent and a taxpayer who cares about what goes on where I live, has been a good training ground for the School Committee. This is a substantial school system. So I come at this position from multiple perspectives. As a parent, as a taxpayer, as well as one more akin to a management consultant.
I do happen to believe that education is a big part of the answer to societal problems. I think that was something I experienced very much at the Attorney General office where it became very clear that where the people that got off to a better start to their lives, they were less likely to wind up on the wrong side of the law. The experience I bring to the position is as one who can see the forest for the trees.
FM - What do you see as your role’s biggest challenge and do you have any suggestions on how we can resolve it?
EC - I am not sure that people understand essentially, that the School Committee serves as an active Board of Directors for a $51 million non-profit. We serve 6,200 kids, and their parents, guardians, employees, etc. It is a very large enterprise that has a very important mission. I think that one of the challenges is to help people see that although their focus is naturally on their son’s or daughter’s classroom, that classroom is just one piece of a larger organism.
I think that one of the big challenges is to find a way to continue to inform the stakeholders about the big picture. To unify the community around a specific set of facts so they can make some informed judgments about the future of the school district. We have a lot of priorities. The next teachers’ contract is going to be important. The high school project is very important. Getting the schools website up to speed and modernized will be important.
One of my goals, if I am re-elected, will be to do a parent survey. When I first joined the committee, I led an effort to do a survey of all parents. It was more of a communication survey. I’d like to replicate that survey today. We need to get a good pulse from one of our key stakeholders on what they think about how things are going and how can we serve them. We hear things. Sometimes, it is just the loudest voices that get served. I can sympathize. I know what is like to work 12 hours days. It is hard to pay attention when you are just trying to provide for your family.
I think a survey of parents would be important to try and just get a sense of what they see as important -- what they would like to see more of, would like to see less of, what they would like us to do better. The PCC attendance is not high. The surveys conducted by individual schools are based pretty much upon the school environment and are very specific to each school. I think it would be instructive for everyone to be able to hear from the parents on what they think of Franklin Schools; what the parents think of the issues that hold the most significance for them.
The answer to this question then is the issue of creating a two-way dialogue and being able to engage people. It is very difficult here; partly because of the nature of modern life. They are busy working; they are commuting’ taking care of elderly parents; they have a lot of things going on in their lives. So I think that if I could come away from this term with anything, I’d like to see what the results will tell us to do. I am not sure what it will say.