Leafing through articles that depicted the public education system in impoverished areas, Cassandra Tognoni ’05, then in her Upper year at Andover, expressed outrage at the lack of opportunities available to students attending public schools in these regions. Tognoni said she felt the immediate urge to find the solution towards improving the quality of the public education system.
Featured on this year’s Forbes’s “30 Under 30” list, Tognoni was recognized for her company BookReport. BookReport creates financial analysis and reports for school districts so they can better allocate their resources. Prior to co-founding BookReport, Tognoni graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, worked at Goldman Sachs in healthcare banking, taught at KIPP public charter schools and founded a charter school in Austin, Tex.
“I think that I have always been obsessed with improving public education, and I think at any given moment I sort of just look around and say, ‘What can I have the biggest impact doing?’ ” said Tognoni in an interview with The Phillipian.
Still in the early stages of BookReport’s development, Tognoni does not have an established daily routine. Rather, her days range from answering emails to researching potential investment partners and mapping out software products.
“Our goal is really to change the national conversation about education and education spending,” she said. “Right now, when we talk about education, because we don’t have great data [on education], we either talk about [only] the education side or the spending side.”
Tognoni said she is currently focused on fundraising and developing software products to be piloted in more charter schools.
“We don’t have those conversations really at all in education, and that is what we are trying to empower districts themselves,” said Tognoni.
“We are also trying to empower the public to understand where [tax] dollars are going,” she continued.
Though flattered by her “30 Under 30” selection, Tognoni said she seeks to create impact with her work, rather than notoriety.
“In my personal life, I’m very weary about trying to make sure that what I’m pursuing is impact over anything else. Getting named a Forbes’s ‘30 Under 30’ is great, and it’s actually going to help with my fundraising, but it doesn’t really mean anything. I don’t want to be ungracious about it, but I think congratulations are [only] in store when you achieve something, and when you impact something,” said Tognoni.
Currently residing in Austin, TX., Tognoni grew up in Andover, Mass., and attended Andover as a day student. Tognoni credits Andover to helping her foster a passion for writing.
“Before I got to Andover, I was a great student, but I thought I was a pretty mediocre writer… It was at Andover that I really cultivated the ability to write and also the love of writing. It’s really the way that I process everything now. After I read books, I write about them,” said Tognoni. Tognoni worked as the Commentary Editor for The Phillipian, vol. CXXVII, served as the Co-Captain of Andover Girls Volleyball and a high jumper for Andover Girls Track & Field.
Nina Scott, Instructor in English, worked closely with Tognoni at Andover as her advisor and English teacher. “We worked together the way all students do with their teachers… We sat down and talked about her work. We were very involved in talking about how she felt about the work, what inspired her, what was frustrating her and how to blast through all of that. And how to achieve all that she could as a thinker and a writer,” said Scott in an interview with The Phillipian.
Tognoni said she finds solace from her busy days through taking time to read. She urges current Andover students to read more and use technology less.
“I was so happy we didn’t have smartphones at Andover because we played whiffle ball, and we were just doing all these things all the time… We barely used email. I think Andover is such a precious time. I look back on it so fondly, our Class of ’05. We’re all obsessed with each other, and we’re all super weird and love each other, and it scares me to think what social media would’ve done to that realness of our class,” said Tognoni.
Tognoni also advised current Andover students to not blindly follow their passions.
“Pursue impact, pursue skill, which means you have to get good at something,” said Tognoni.
“Everything that I’ve done… has built to exactly what I’m doing now. I didn’t really start off saying I wanted to start a financial software system for student districts. Not at all. [That was not something] I had in my mind when I was 16, but I said, ‘I want to make a positive impact on education in this country,’” said Tognoni.