Editor’s Note: This story was originally posted in the run up to the Sept. 20 preliminary city election. It has been reposted in the days before the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general city election.
The following are responses are from School Committee candidate John Graceffa, to questions posed by Waltham Patch. They have been edited for clarity and readability only.
Several other candidates are on the ballot: incumbent and , , and (the son of City Councillor Ed Tarallo).
The election will eliminate one candidate and leave two for the November ballot.
I am currently Dean of Students at . This gives me an opportunity to remain in education and keep abreast of current educational issues. My dedication to Waltham and especially its youth is second to none.
I have dedicated 38 years to the Waltham Public Schools. I was a teacher, coach, housemaster (a term used in Waltham for an assistant principal), and principal of for 23 years. As principal of a major high school, I served many functions from hiring and firing staff, evaluating staff performance, developing and reviewing curriculum. I also developed, reviewed school policies, managed a large facility, developed and implemented a large operating budget , as well as served as a liaison to central administration and the Waltham School Committee in all of these areas.
Why are you running for School Committee?
As a lifelong resident of Waltham, I have a great affinity for this city and its public schools. I was born and raised in Waltham and attended Waltham Public Schools. My family has resided in Waltham for over 90 years.
After attending Springfield College, I returned to Waltham as a teacher and my wife Judy and I immediately made Waltham our home and raised our three boys.
My 39 years as a teacher, coach, administrator and principal of Waltham High School has given me a wealth of knowledge and experience that I can utilize to contribute to and support the Waltham Public Schools. As a parent of three boys who attended Waltham Schools from kindergarten to graduation, I gained an understanding of what it is to be both an educator for 39 years serving our students and as a parent advocating for my children. These perspectives give me valuable insight in making important educational decisions.
Lastly, I have devoted my life to the education of the children of Waltham. As a school administrator, I strove to create a climate that every child in my care could reach his or her potential. I am extraordinarily pleased with the progress Waltham High School has made in recent years and the recognition it has received for these gains. I want to stay in the process as the Waltham Public Schools makes even greater progress and with my experience in the school system and my knowledge of its needs and concerns, I know I can best serve the parents and children of Waltham as a member of the Waltham School Committee.
How are my skills useful to being a School Committee member?:
Obviously, my experience as an educator has afforded me the opportunity to participate in virtually hundreds of professional development programs, conferences, workshops and educational leadership trainings. To be candid, some have been very useful and some have not, but all have made me conversant in all vital issues in today’s educational world. Without these experiences, I would have no true grasp of the intricate problems modern school committees face.
Additionally, as one of the most seasoned administrators and the most experienced principal, I was able to use my knowledge and experience to assist the School Committee in making decisions and reviewing and developing policies.
If elected what issues would be biggest priority?
I believe there are a few key issues to deal with.
Assisting in the transition of leadership in the system's central administration with a new superintendent is of great importance.
Increasing the effectiveness of our Special Education Department issue is a priority. The school district has been for special education compliance issues, and we continue to be a program under review.
The appointment of a is a vital responsibility of the School Committee and they need to act. Special Education represents a large part of the school budget and it is therefore crucial to get our house in order. Placing students out-of-district placement can cost more than $80,000. That money can be saved with an effective special education program. With my personal and professional experience in this area, I would try to provide the leadership necessary to affect a positive change.
Finally, we need to analyze the education of our students from kindergarten through grade twelve. We need to look at improving student achievement especially in the elementary grades. It is so important to lay the foundations of key learning objectives in order to prepare our students for the academic expectations of middle and high school. We need to move a greater number of students into the state proficient and advanced categories in this testing.
I look forward to taking on this challenge, and I am committed to the goal that each and every child in our city deserves the ability and resources to reach his or her potential.