Joe Grassi

Joseph Grassi
2009 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
393 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02141

Contact information:
Tel: 617-491-5240
Web site: 

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

16 years of proven School Committee accomplishments, leadership and improvements in academic achievement.

14 years of direct service experience working with children for the Department of Human Services at the Frisoli and Gately Youth Centers.

25 years of community activism successfully advocating for the creation and renovation of youth recreation facilities, open space and the creation of youth sports leagues.

Small business owner of a real estate appraisal company, specializing in residential valuations.

Volunteered time to the following organizations and causes to improve the quality of life for residents throughout Cambridge:

Frisoli Youth Center, Founder
Frisoli Youth Center Design Committee, Member
Cambridge Girls Softball League, Founding Member, Board Member
Cambridge Pop Warner Football, Founding Member, Advisory Board
East Cambridge Little League, Coach
Cambridge Girls Softball T-Ball League, Founder, Coach
Cambridge Youth Sports Commission, Member
Green Ribbon Open Space Committee, Member
Donnelly Field Renovation Committee, Member
Russell Field Renovation Committee, Member
Successfully advocated for Danehy Park Olympic Track
Successfully lobbied for Gately Youth Center renovations
East End House, Board Member Emeritus
Cambridge Public Safety Committee, Member

Married, wife Dawn, two children enrolled at the Morse Elementary School
Graduate, Northeastern University, B.S. Public Administration
4th generation Cantabrigian, graduate of the Cambridge Public Schools
United States Army, Veteran Persian Gulf War

Top Priorities:
1. Continual improvement of student achievement for all students
2. Restructuring and reconfiguring our middle grades
3. Reviewing the effectiveness of the Controlled Choice Program

There are many issues that need to be addressed by the Cambridge Public Schools. There are three that need the focus of the Superintendent, Committee and our community during this next term. First and foremost, continual improvement in achievement is the cornerstone of our mission in public education. The small structure and configuration of our middle grades coupled with the complexity of our Controlled Choice Policy has created major obstacles preventing us from being a high performing school system.

School Department Administration and Superintendent:
During the time I have been on the School Committee, I have made the reallocation of funds within the School Department budget a priority. This has allowed the School Department to fund additional programs to assist with academic achievement and help retain small student-teacher ratios. During the past several years we have eliminated approximately 75 administrative positions and cut more than $2 million from administration. The School Committee created a debt stabilization fund totaling more than $11 million for CPS to lessen impact of deficits and capital projects. This has allowed the CPS to assist in the funding of the renovation project at CRLS.

I played a leadership role in the search for a new Superintendent of Schools. My experience in executive searches recognized the need to recruit an excellent pool of candidates and to maintain it to the end of the process. I supported the candidacy of Dr. Jeffrey Young to be the new Superintendent of Schools because of his experience and qualifications. It is also my belief that CPS needs an objective viewpoint at this time. I Co-Chaired the transition team to ensure Dr. Young's arrival and first months went smoothly. I will work to provide an environment that allows the Superintendent to make decisions based upon what is educationally sound and focused on our goals.

School Department Budget and Capital Needs:
This past budget cycle the School Committee trimmed more than $2 million without impacting the delivery of programs and increasing classroom size. CPS has been able to meet its financial obligations and at the same time expand our after school enrichment programs, continue our arts and language programs and as well as maintain a no fees policy. The School Department is projecting budget shortfalls during the next several years that will require the Committee to evaluate programs that are not effective while holding the line on additional spending.

I advocated for the renovation of CRLS as a Member of the Buildings and Grounds Sub-Committee. The newly renovated War Memorial, Public Library and upgrades to Lorentz Park will provide students with a state-of-the art campus in the center of our City. The School Committee will face the issue of selecting elementary schools to be renovated as part of the School Building Assistance Program. CPS will have to evaluate our space needs, enrollment and building conditions to develop a short and long range facilities plan. Future issues include; moving central administrative offices out of rental space, maintaining vacant buildings for swing space for future elementary school renovations and right-sizing our buildings to the number of students enrolled in CPS.

Controlled Choice, Student Assignment Policies, and the "Achievement Gap":
The Cambridge Public Schools have for far too long revolved around the Controlled Choice Policy rather than the policy supporting the educational goals of the district. Desegregating our schools is one of my core beliefs and is supported by research that students learning in a diverse environment is directly correlated to closing the achievement gap. The current Controlled Choice Policy has not desegregated Cambridge elementary schools. We have schools that are racially and socio-economically imbalanced far beyond system-wide averages and approved variances within the policy. All parents want a quality school in close proximity to their neighborhood. This concept is extremely different from neighborhood schools where parents want access to a school in close proximity to their house. Most Cambridge neighborhoods are not diverse enough to support neighborhood schools while supporting a desegregated school system. Therefore we need a reasonable alternative that could allow families the ability to choose schools within a large geographic area. This would allow some choice, give CPS the ability to balance classrooms as well as allow us to close the gaps in afterschool programming.
Our core beliefs as a community must be aligned with our practices.

I believe the issue that is most critical to CPS is student achievement and in particular closing the achievement gap. A critical need is to evaluate all of our intervention programs to ensure that the programs are working seamlessly and are successful. More importantly we need to be proactive in identifying students before they become at risk. The majority of our students are achieving at grade level and a large number are also accelerated learners. The upcoming challenge for us is for all students within the spectrum of achievement to achieve proficiency and to be challenged. Our elementary students need to equally access high quality accelerated classes at all our schools.

Enrichment Programs:
This past term I dedicated much time and effort to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Out of School Time. The Commission, Co-Chaired by my colleague Nancy Tauber and Vice-Mayor Sam Seidel, produced a report detailing gaps in services for middle grade students. The findings uncovered were troubling but provide us one of our greatest opportunities to improve the lives of students in this vulnerable age group. My experience working with this age group coupled with my grasp of middle grades provides me the ability to work with my colleagues to develop and implement solutions to a very complex problem.

Elementary Schools and Curriculum:
During this next term the School Committee must focus on the elementary schools. Cambridge doesn't have to create stand alone middle schools to create successful middle grades. This model is only one option. There are several other potential models including K-8 schools or a combination of K-8, K-5 and/or stand alone middle schools. The improved configuration of middle grades needs to include 2-4 classrooms of each grade, with fully enrolled classrooms. One issue we cannot avoid as a direct result is that the reconfiguration will be a reduction in enrollment at the remaining schools to a level where schools will not be viable alternatives. Therefore, we have to deal with it openly and head on as middle grades, K-8, and a system-wide issue. CPS has too many schools and classrooms coupled with too few students.
I feel we may have an opportunity through the middle grades to improve the flexibility of changes to the schedule and delivery of curriculum. There may be a possibility of scheduling longer blocks of time for instruction as well as additional opportunities for art and language.

High School Programs and Curriculum:
Boston Magazine named Cambridge Rindge and Latin as one of the top 20 high schools in Massachusetts. There is a renewed spirit at CRLS where four small learning communities are unified as one school. The CRLS four-year graduation rate has steadily improved from 78% to 88% during the past five years but must be pushed to an acceptable level of 95% or better. A critical need is to evaluate all of our intervention programs to ensure that the programs are working seamlessly and are successful. More importantly we need to be proactive in identifying students before they become at risk.

MCAS and Measuring Student Achievement:
Cambridge Schools rely on a number of assessments including MCAS scores, passing course completion and graduation requirements as well as portfolios. Cambridge has a multitude of class offerings in art, music, foreign languages and a number of electives that is unparalleled in any community in Massachusetts. Cambridge has always been a School System that has never and will never completely prevent the innovation and diversity of curriculum. Let's be clear that students need to pass the MCAS in order to graduate from high school. Our goal is for students to become proficient in the curriculum. Challenges on the horizon are ensuring middle school students are achieving proficiency at higher rates and we need to support CRLS students master the new MCAS science requirement for the Class of 2010.

Teacher Evaluation and Performance Measures:
Teacher evaluations are a critical component to providing a quality school system. The performance measures developed several years ago has assisted CPS in creating consistent standards for quality instruction. Professional development is a crucial component to supporting teachers. I also believe the Superintendent of Schools must be in the schools each week to visit classrooms. I also believe principals must also spend time in the classroom outside of the regular evaluation process observing teaching and learning. This is essential to ensure that teachers are dedicating the appropriate time on task, ensuring that the curriculum is being taught and that it is happening at the appropriate sequence. This is the only way for management to support and mentor teachers and to assure the quality of instruction in every classroom.

School Safety and Student Behavior:
I have always focused attention to the area of school safety and student behavior. Children must feel physically and emotionally safe as a key foundation for students to learn. It has taken me several years to ensure that our schools zones at our elementary schools are safe. I successfully lobbied the City to fund design changes to pedestrian walkways and traffic calming measures around the CRLS campus. My experience of working with children helped identify the issue of class cuts. This was a safety issue that had severe academic impacts on students not being in class. I authored the class attendance policy that included consequences for class cuts as well as daily notification to parents. The School Committee annually reviews trends in incident reports to monitor the safety of our students.

Parent Involvement and School Councils:
Parent involvement is critical to the success of our schools and school councils. I encouraged the Superintendent to hold city-wide school council meetings to get feedback from a district-wide perspective as well as hearing the concerns of individual schools. I have always supported the family liaisons to encourage family involvement in all aspects of school improvement. School Councils provide a key factor and we need to develop additional ways to seek their
input. I will continue to monitor the implementation of Ed-Line and other web-based communication tools connecting schools, teachers and parents.

Enrollment and the Marketing of Public Schools vs. Charter and Private Schools:
Kindergarten enrollment has increased for the past two years creating a positive trend for CPS and reversing a 10-year downward trend. This shows a renewed confidence in our schools. The challenge for the Committee is to stay focused on the goals by closely aligning our budget and agenda on academic achievement. Continual improvement to student achievement, a challenging curriculum and a professionally managed school system will provide families with confidence in CPS. This will effectively market our schools to families that may consider charter or private schools as an alternative.

The Cambridge Public Schools have greatly improved during my service on the School Committee. I take great pride in my ability to work with my colleagues on the Committee and in the administration. I have also been critical when needed. I have not only challenged practices that are not educationally sound but have changed them. We have a school system today where students are achieving at a higher rate, the system is professionally managed, the budget reflects our educational priorities, the School Committee has established goals and the agenda has been depoliticized.

All candidates will tell you what they plan to do if elected. I have clearly stated my vision, but I am also asking you to look at my accomplishments and improvements that have been made to our schools. During the past 16 years, I have made many difficult decisions to change the direction of CPS to improve student achievement. There are items of courage and integrity that do not come out in a stump speech, literature or a web site. These qualities can only be proven by action and I have done that since I have first been elected to the Committee. Although my roots are deep, no other candidate for School Committee has the track record of advocating for change and improvement of our schools.

This is a pivotal time for our schools and the City. We are at the point where we have to move forward with continuous improvement, and we are poised to meet the challenge of our middle grades and our Controlled Choice Policy. The timing is critical because not only have we reached a tipping point where the community understands and supports the need to change. I supported the candidacy of new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jeffrey Young, who can provide CPS with an objective look at the way we have been doing business.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you on the Cambridge School Committee. I am asking for your #1 vote on Tuesday, November 3rd.

Candidate's 2007 responses

CCTV candidate video 

Page last updated October 03, 2009 Cambridge Candidates