Joe Grassi

Joseph Grassi
2005 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
393 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02141

Contact information:
Tel: 617-491-5240

Send contributions to:
Committee to Re-Elect Joe Grassi
393 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02141

My wife Dawn and I have been married for eight years. Our children, Anthony and Stephanie are both enrolled at the Morse School. I have served on the School Committee for the past 12 years. I worked 14 years in the City's youth centers with children between the ages of 9 - 19. My experience working with at-risk children and their unmet educational needs propelled me into running for and serving on the Cambridge School Committee.

I am a lifelong resident of Cambridge and proud graduate of the Cambridge Public Schools. I am also a graduate of Northeastern University with a B.S. in Public Administration. I have served in the U.S. Army and I am a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. I currently work as a residential real estate appraiser.

Over the years I have been a proven advocate for children in the City both in our schools and our community. I am a Little League sponsor, T-Ball coach, a founder and past Board Member of the Cambridge Girls Softball League and a founder and current Advisory Board Member of the Cambridge Pop Warner Football League. I have advocated for numerous capital projects to meet the needs of children throughout the City including creation of the Frisoli Youth Center, and Danehy Track. I have lobbied for the renovation of the Gately Youth Center as well as Russell and Donnelly Fields. I have been the leading advocate in the City for the creation of additional active playing fields for underserved communities.

Endorsements Carpenters Union, Local 40
Painters & Allied Trades District Council #35

Top Priorities:
1:  Improving academic achievement
2:  Sound fiscal management
3:  Holding school leaders accountable

1.  Improving Academic Achievement
The hallmark of my work on the School Committee has been on improving academic achievement for all of our students and creating a system of interventions to support students not achieving at grade level. We have an obligation to close the achievement gap between different groups of students within our school system as well as between Cambridge students and students throughout the state. I not only want our students to perform as well or better than other students, but I expect it. I know those are your expectations of me and the Cambridge Public Schools.

Curriculum: We need to ensure that the curriculum in our schools is consistent and is reflective of the diversity of our City. The curriculum needs to academically challenge our students to be critical thinkers. Most importantly, the School Department needs to make certain that curriculum being taught in the classroom is aligned with the curriculum outlined in the state frameworks. Recently, the school system has implemented the Literacy Collaborative, TERC math curriculum and a number of science initiatives the district. These initiatives help to maintain consistency across all our schools.

Interventions: The School System has created a number of interventions to help support students in need including the High School Extension Program, Challenge Prep, summer school for high school and elementary school students, AVID, the Springboard Program as well as an MCAS support center at CRLS. We need to create the interventions to support students. More importantly, these supports need to be critically evaluated to ensure they are effective and meeting the needs of our students.

Assessments & Requirements: The School System has created a system of quarterly assessments to give teachers the needed feedback about student and teacher progress. The assessments utilized by the system need to be valued by the Committee and the entire community. I have supported the MCAS as a measure of assessment as well as the early literacy assessment. I have been clear that I want all of our high school seniors to pass our high school graduation requirements and continue to push for a reduction in course failure rates. This past year I introduced a motion that was supported by the School Committee for the Superintendent to review and recommend changes to the current practice of utilizing 60 different report cards throughout our elementary schools. I am proud of the fact that I placed the spotlight on the issue and challenge the fact that this is not an educationally sound practice. Common sense tells me that 60 report cards have 60 different outcomes and there is no way to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with state frameworks.

Results: I believe in full disclosure and discussion of our successes and failures. The MCAS 2005 results of 10th graders showed 80% of Cambridge students have passed English/Language Arts and 70% passed math. The State averages 89% for ELA and 85% for math. We must do better especially in the area of math. The graduation rate for 2005 was 90% which improved from 80% for 2004. This area has seen improvement, but my expectation is that 100% of our seniors graduate in 2006.

2:  Sound fiscal management
The School Committee has made great progress over the past several years with redirecting budget resources within the budget. The School Department has eliminated 83 administrative positions equating to a $5.8 million savings during the past three years. This has allowed the School Department to fund additional programs to assist with academic achievement and helped to retain small classroom size and small schools.

During the past several years I have initiated and supported efforts to consolidate programs and schools to redirect funding to the classroom. I have been supportive of our changing the budget process to revolve around the academic goals of the district so that the budget funds the education plan. This has been a major shift in strategic planning.

The Superintendent of Schools this past budget process provided the public with a detailed analysis of the budget of the Cambridge Schools as compared to surrounding communities. The analysis detailed the number of additional services that is provided by the Cambridge School Department far above and beyond the level of services provided by competing school districts. Some of these extensive budget items include foreign language, art, music and physical education, free extra-curricular activities, small class and small school size, extended day activities, school improvement funding as full day kindergarten and the earliest kindergarten entrance age in the State. Cambridge also boasts a full school choice program that includes a family information center, busing and family liaisons.

3:  Holding school leadership accountable
Evaluation: The evaluation of the Superintendent of School is paramount to the success of our schools. Throughout my service on the Committee, I have taken this responsibility very seriously. I successfully included a provision to the current contract of the Superintendent to prevent any discussion of a contract extension until one year prior to the expiration of the contract and only take place after the yearly evaluation. This approach ensures that goals are reviewed and performance is evaluated prior to the discussion of contract extension.

Agenda: The School Committee recently adopted my motion to create a yearly schedule of educational topics to mirror our goals. The agenda of the School Committee and work of the Superintendent needs to focus around our goals. I have continued to have results and evaluation of programs to be discussed in public meetings. I have also sponsored the motion to create a series of workshops that give members the opportunity to have in-depth discussions around educational issues.

Roles of the School Committee, the Superintendent, Parents, and the Public:
The role of School Committee is clearly defined as responsible for hiring and evaluating of the Superintendent of Schools, development and approval of school system policies and responsibility for the development, approval and oversight of the budget. The Superintendent of Schools is the educational leader of the School System and is responsible for the day to day operations of the Cambridge School System. The Superintendent of Schools in conjunction with the School Committee develops the Goals of the school system and the Superintendent is responsible for implementation of these goals that include:
1. Focus and align school improvement and individual department goals to raise achievement for all students and to close the achievement gap;
2. More fully develop the system for evaluation of student learning and personnel;
3: Support the high school principal to strengthen the CRLS educational community towards a goal of student achievement and safety comparable to the top urban high schools in the state and nation;
4. Establish a data base system to provide the information necessary to measure the achievement gap and support better decision-making.

The public has an important role in the school system and are the strength of our schools and our City. Parents are partners in our schools and are encouraged to voice concerns to the School Committee, to the principal and school council. Cambridge families are encouraged to volunteer in a number of ways including serving on school councils and hiring committees. The School Committee is an important link between families and the school system by evaluating programs, policies and issues. We need to ensure that our schools are responsive to the needs of families.

Elementary School Programs and Administration:
During the past budget cycle we have increased the amount of school improvement funds that have been directed to the elementary schools to fund school improvement plans. We have continued to maintain the lowest student to teacher ratio, 18:1 in the state. During this past budget cycle I lobbied to ensure that the grade structure throughout our elementary schools remains stable and that classrooms not be combined disrupting students, staff and families.

High School Programs and Administration:
I am happy that this year Cambridge Rindge and Latin School is off probation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The high school has successfully implemented the block schedule to improve learning and instruction. I have proposed and supported support programs for high school students such as the creation of the High School Extension Program and the restructured Challenge Prep Program. At my suggestion and urging the CRLS has implemented a computerized attendance system to track and notify families of attendance issues. I have placed the appropriate spotlight on making sure that all our high school seniors graduate. I have also supported the Rindge School of Technical Arts through a change in leadership and restructuring of the program to meet the needs of Cambridge students who want to pursue a career in vocational education. The block schedule will be instrumental in strengthening our vocational education program.

School Department Administration and the Budget:

Teacher Evaluations and Teachers Contract:
During the past several teacher contracts I have fought to include provisions for professional development opportunities and to clearly support an improved evaluation system for all teachers. The provisions recently adopted by the School Committee make teachers more accountable through the evaluation system. The Cambridge School Department and the Cambridge Teachers Association have a great working relationship that has had a positive impact on the school system. As we are nearing contract negotiations, I want ensure that the goals are aligned with language included in the upcoming contract.

State/Federal Role in Local Education:
The State and Federal Governments have important roles in local education. The Education Reform Act of 1993 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 set standards for achievement as well as methods of interventions to assist school districts in meeting the academic needs of students. I urge the public to focus on the achievement. There are candidates that will blame standards, curriculum, unfunded mandates or state and federal office holders for issues with public education. It is easy to deflect criticism. I want the Committee and the Superintendent to be held responsible for student achievement.

Declining Enrollment:
The issue of declining enrollment is an issue that has plagued the Cambridge Schools over the past 10 years. The decline stems from several different factors that including rising housing costs and the existence of three charter schools in Cambridge. The existence of the three charter schools has a direct correlation with public confidence in the public schools. CRLS is off of academic probation from NEASC and is making great strides. The School Committee has restructured the elementary school system. We have moved popular programs into buildings that can effectively and efficiently accommodate more children while keeping schools small. We have also kept a small teacher to student ratio. We have also maintained a stable grade and school structure reducing disruptions that have been a major concern to families over the years. During this past year the School Committee responded to an overwhelming kindergarten response at the Haggerty School by creating an additional kindergarten. This resulted in 20 more families receiving their #1 kindergarten choice. We have to creatively look at other ways to meet the needs of families. I believe that enrollments will increase and public confidence will grow as the school system improves academic achievement.

Charter Schools:
Charter Schools are a creation under Education Reform and give families an additional choice of education. The funding formula continues to pose great challenges to our public schools that have to redirect funding to fund these schools. The most effective way to combat the competition for students and funding is to improve the achievement level of students in the Cambridge Public Schools.

Page last updated July 01, 2007 Cambridge Candidates