Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012 - A Giant is Lost: Fortunato (Fred) Rubino

UPDATE: Previous Ed Notes on IS 318: Ed Notes Online: In Defense of IS 318

Fred Rubino -- captured from video at Success Charter Hearing, April 2011
I am truly saddened to inform you all of the passing of our Superintendent and brother Fortunato  "Fred" Rubino.   Freddy was truly THE BEST our city has to offer! ----- Email sent to District 14 principals, April 2, 2012

I received the call early this morning from a teacher at IS 318 with the news that former principal and current District 14 Superintendent Fred Rubino had died of a heart attack early this morning. Shock waves are reverberating throughout the Williamsburg/Greenpoint community and beyond.

Why do I feel like I did the day John Lennon died?

I knew Fred more by reputation than personally since his early days as a teacher at IS 318 in the 80's but got to chat with him in later years when he was an AP and then principal. Fred had been offered numerous principal jobs and often was pulled from the school for months at a time to help fix schools in trouble. But he was loyal to the school and waited years for his mentor Al Fierstein to retire before taking the principal job.

When District 14 Supt James Quail retired 6 weeks ago, Fred was appointed as Superintendent --- as a matter of fact on Feb. 16 the night of the 2nd co-location hearing at MS 50. People in the district were so relieved that Fred was appointed and would be able to offer the district some cover from the attacks of the privatizers.

A major going away party was thrown for Fred by the IS 318/District 14 community. I am now kicking myself for not going to honor him.

Fred was a behind the scenes voice opposing ed deform. We have lost possibly the only Superintendent in the NYC schools who would have been willing to defend us against the onslaught of the privatizers. He was opposed to co-locations and to the closing of schools.

We not only lost a great guy, a wonderful family man and one of the more decent people but also a great educator and a warrior on the right side of the ed wars fence.

IS 318 was a school in great demand because of the array of programs the kids were offered. The chess team won the national championship beating out even the top private schools. A film about the team was premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, a very big thing. Here's the site: and an article: Greenpoint Gazette:Chess-in-the-Schools: Brooklyn IS 318 National Champs

The school not only has chess, but robotics, sewing, yoga and more. One of my friends who was attacked over her low TDA in fact teaches these special programs full-time.

When slime bags from the Daily News went after the school and Fred a few weeks ago for the fact that IS 318 doesn't score as high as others and has a higher % of teachers with low TDAs, they naturally ignored reality.

Whereas most schools would never have extensive programs like yoga and sewing and robotics but use the time for test prep, IS 318 is into educating the entire child. Which is why it is so popular among the parents in the district.

Is it a surprise that the press would attack an outspoken principal who defends teacher union rights as this Gotham Schools piece from last March points out?
  1. With tenure decisions under scrutiny, a principal tapes his own .
    Mar 21, 2011 – Last year, when Fortunato Rubino, the principal of a high-performing Williamsburg middle school, wanted to grant tenure to one of his teachers, ...
I looked for some video of Fred. Here is a very brief clip of Fred challenging Success public relations flack Jennie Sedlis at a co-location hearing when she claimed they had 1400 signatures --- very brief at 3:17-20 of this video I caught him calling out:

You can also see Fred applauding Brian De Vale when Brian tried to present Cathie Black with a teddy bear at her Dist 14 appearance in Feb. 2011: at 6:27 of this video: 

I grabbed a still of Fred applauding with delight.

I have a 30 minute clip where Fred challenged Tweedies at the same meeting at the 28 minute mark where he questions whether Tweed listens to the community and asks the CEC if they are ever listened to.

It turns out that my yoga teacher is best friends with Fred's sister-in-law. She was equally shocked when I told her this morning. "Every one of the people in that family were known for giving so much to people. Whatever someone needed they were there for them," she told me this morning. His sister-in-law who I know always spoke of Fred with reverence. He always went beyond the call of duty.

At a recent meeting, Fred came over and whispered, "Norm, you're ruining me. I  waste an hour a day reading your blog with all the links. Keep 'em coming."

I will Fred.

We have not only lost a great man but warrior in the battle for public education.

Follow-up stories:

Fred (Rubino) and Frank (Freeman)

Assailed Teacher didn't know Fred at all but writes a moving tribute:

Fortunato Rubino: Profile of the Possible



Anonymous said...

Heyy.. Im a Student from I.S.318
Today when Mr.Windley came around to tell all of us that we lost a great hero everyone in my class was very sad... Some of us didnt want to believe it at first I was like no way this cant be true his to young.. he just left... This cant be true but then I realized that I wasnt dreaming and this was true. Today was a horrible day at 318 .. all of are prayers and love go out to him and his family.. We Love You Mr.Rubino <3

Rich O'Connell said...

The John Lennon reference is about right. I am stunned. Here is a message I emailed to some old freinds this morning after hearing the awful news. It was titled "Fred's music..."

Hey all,

I clipped this very appropriate thought and link from my site. When you have a moment this week have a listen to his music. -roc

"If the St. Cecilia Center scene of the mid-1970's were a nation these guys would be the founding fathers and Fred Rubino would be George Washington. This is what it's all about. Check out their site."

Rich OConnell said...

Pam curcio said...

Fred was a great leader and a great man! He made my job as chapter leader the easiest in the city. It was my pleasure and an honor to have collaborated with Fred for 22 years. He was truly a man of his word!

Lou Pastina said...

Fred was a great man. He loved bluegrass music, taught many people to play including myself. He was also a really good basketball player, playing against the likes of Ernie Grunfeld in High School. He was a dedicated Dad and Husband and Brother, and above all the best friend one could have. His influence through all his associations is wide and far. I will remember him all the days of my life, everytime I pick up a guitar. I will miss you Fred.
Lou Pastina

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carolyn (Peters) said...

The youth center which Freddie started at St. Cecilias is the reason many of us are here today.
We could of went down the wrong road. Instead Freddie kept us all involved in playing the guitar and various activities. I remember actually walking home from Central Park over the bridge to Greenpoint. Freddie and all the Rubinos hold a special place in my heart. Oh, how sad this loss is for everyone he has touched and those who he could have.
With Deepest Sadness,
Carolyn (Peters)

Ellen Klein said...

Fred believed in me and my vision for education in the teaching arena. I loved this man. Under his watch, I think I felt free to really hone my skills. His joyous personality, his love of children, his love of his teachers, his love of his family are some of the loves that I will always remember about him. Know that we at IS318 will carry on his mission.

Anonymous said...

One of the best men I ever knew just passed and there are pieces of shit like you walking this earth. Of course you are Anonymous you fucking pussy. Have some respect!!!

Anonymous said...

Freddy is a second cousin of mine who I only saw during our summer picnic reunions. It was touching to see a side of him I didn't know in this blog. I will always remember him as the cousin who made me laugh.

Anonymous said...

What a fucking asshole ,cant even show some respect. fucking assholes like you shouldn't even be alive on this earth. A great man just passed away today and your fucking celebrating over it

Ann Marie Ragone said...

I am saddened by the news of Freddys death. I have had the privilege of knowing him & his family for many years. When they need someone, to sit with their Mom & keep her company I was there. Had great respect for her. RIP Freddy, you are with Mom now.

My Child is NOT a Test Score said...

At a time when public education is under complete assault and D14 is one of many districts at a serious crossroad, this loss is staggering. We are losing a man who has served his community, understood its people and advocated for their needs. He had just stepped into a position to be of magnificent service and his death will be felt so deeply by many. May his friends and family be comforted during this time and may great numbers of community members in D14 step up and work together to fill this tremendous void. Let us be inspired to serve in ways Superintendent Rubino would have, and hold his memory in our hearts.

Kate Yourke said...

He was a true gentleman, and a leader of tremendous potential. This wonderful man left us on the brink of extending his leadership, at a moment when we truly need his expertise. It will take many people of talent and experience to fulfill the work he leaves behind. But the real void he leaves cannot be filled.
His authenticity and credibility felt like some kind of protective garment for these challenging times. Perhaps we all can try to fill his shoes, to embody the principles of successful -truly public- education

Anonymous said...

To anonymous from yesterday. Obviously you are a coward and out of respect for Freddy I am not going to say the things u would like to say to you. Freddy was the most loving caring humble man I have ever met. He always put other people before himself. I would like you to stop by our school for a day and just see all the people's lives he has touched and changed for the better. He has made me a better man teacher father and husband. You have some nerve you piece if dirt and while you are at 318 stop by my room252 and I will educate you a little more on the great man we just lost. Fred I will miss you with all my heart and you will never be forgotten.

ed notes online said...

Note to commenters: I removed that dumb comment. That person I believe also commented when I wrote a pro- IS 318 piece a few weeks ago.

Diana Merced said...

When i found out i could do nothing but sit in shock and great sorrow. Mr. Rubino was an awesome human being, he will be sorely missed. I am a parent of 2 graduates from I.S. 318. My daughters and i had the pleasure of working together with Mr. Rubino . As parents we knew that our children were in trusting and caring hands. We appreciated that. He looked over our children as if they were his own. I also had the honor of working with him on different committees. From the first time i set foot in his office we were always greeted with such a warm smile! It was a pleasure to have known and work with him.

Anonymous said...

I knew Freddie because he was the brother of a dear friend of mine. I have fond memories of speaking to and laughing with him at the Giglio for years. My deepest sympathies to the whole Rubino family for their loss of this wonderful man.

Cookie Ennis

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rubino took my hand and encouraged me to have my son attend his school IS 318 which was the bset thing I ever did. My son graduated the top of his class and we will miss him!! RIP Mr. were always outside when the kids left school for the day to make sure they were safe..

R J SPERANZA said...

I have not seen Freddy since we graduated from St. Cecilia's in 1969! It is my misfortune! Because I remember Freddy, and his family, and they were and I am sure still good people, salt of the earth. It only goes to reason that people would admire and praise Freddy, HE DESERVES IT!!!!
GOD rest his sole

Dug said...

I am sick inside...didn't want to believe this when I first read it. Fred was simply a great guy, a mentor and a friend. Every educator should have a little of Fred inside. Nice tribute Normy.

Ed Imparato said...

I have great memories of playing basketball as a kid for St. Cecilia's. Fred was our coach and leader. He was a compassionate, caring individual. A person who gave of himself for the benefit of others. My deepest sympathy to the Rubino family. May God comfort you.