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Grey Matters, September 30, 2013; Volume 2, Number 5

posted Sep 29, 2013, 6:10 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:17 AM by James Marcotte ]

The elementary school that my two older children attend had their Back to School Night last week, and my wife and I visited classrooms, bought clothes with the school logo plastered all over it, and signed up for parent-teacher conferences.  During the presentation in my son’s 3rd grade classroom, while sitting in those miniature chairs, a wasp began buzzing around us a bit too long, and wouldn’t go away. So… the wasp met a quick end courtesy of my wife and my son’s writer’s notebook.  The next morning, I made brief mention of the wasp and his notebook to my son, at which point his eyes got big, and he exclaimed, “you killed Stinger!!??” My initial thought was to reply, “I didn’t, your mother did” but I refrained.  Apparently, the wasp has visited before, and was lovingly given a name by my son and his classmates.   I think this might mean we are out of the running for parents of the year.  On to this week’s notes….

Our food services department has had a busy start of the year, and they wanted to provide families with some updates and reminders.  If you have a moment, please read their updates by clicking here. Another reminder to 8th grade families - Minuteman Technical High School will be making their annual visit to RJ Grey this Wednesday and Thursday to deliver a short presentation about their curriculum, and answering questions from any students who might have an interest in visiting and applying to the school.  If you’d like to learn more about their program, you can visit their website at, and view their admissions and application material by clicking here.  

We have reached the point in September where many of the clubs and after-school activities that we sponsor are starting to meet.  Along with long-standing programs like MathCounts, Speech and Debate, the School Store, and the Ski Club, there are a number of clubs that started last year and are returning again, along with a few that are in their inaugural year.  Last year, for example, we started a brand new Ping Pong club and a Yo-Yo Club - which had its first session last Thursday.  This year, there are some new groups, including “Take Action!” and “Girl Up” - two organizations that encourage civic engagement on a variety of topics.  A handout listing and describing this year’s clubs and activities can be found on our RJ Grey website by clicking here.   In that listing, you will see information about meeting days and times, along with the name of an advisor who can be contacted with any questions.  

During my Back to School Night welcome, and perhaps during some of the presentations given by your child’s teachers, there was mention of how students this age are capable of extraordinary acts of kindness, leadership, and generosity.  In an effort to celebrate and put a brighter spotlight on these behaviors, we started a small recognition program last year called “Everyday Leaders.”  Twice a trimester, each team (and each grade’s exploratory, elective, and physical education teachers) will identify a student who they have observed modeling some element of good citizenship within their classes and team. What was great about last year’s cohort of Everyday Leaders is how it included an incredibly diverse group of students. Along with students who are comfortable with the spotlight, there were also many students whose kindness and great attitudes are often more subtle and nuanced, and it helped to emphasize that leadership can be modeled in many different ways.  

The students who are selected will join me for a small lunch in my office.  As I confessed last year, in many ways the lunch is probably more of a reward for me, as it gives me another opportunity to meet and interact with more students at RJ Grey.  Our first round of Everyday Leaders selections will take place at the beginning of next week, and I look forward to sharing more about this recognition activity then.  

You may have noticed that in the world of public education, there are a lot of acronyms - DESE, MCAS, AYP, etc.  I need to take a moment and tell you a bit more about another acronym that has entered the landscape- PARCC.  PARCC stands for "The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers".  There is a consortium made up on 20 states, and they have committed to creating a shared assessment system that would be used in all those states.  In Massachusetts, PARCC would replace the MCAS exams, and be implemented in English/Language Arts and Math in grades 3 through 11.  The consortium, and our state’s Department of Education are currently planning to begin using PARCC in 2014-2015 (next school year), and would be administered using a computer-based platform.   

In preparation for using PARCC in 2014-2015, the Department of Education has announced plans to field test the PARCC assessment this year at numerous schools throughout the state.  Every school in APS and AB has been selected to pilot one or more of the PARCC assessments this year.  We don’t currently have all the details of what will be involved in the pilot. When we do, I’ll let all of you know what it means for the students and teachers who are involved.  

Finally, and because I don’t want to end this week’s newsletter with details of a standardized test, I want to mention that  the late Jim Henson (creator of the Muppets) would have turned 77 last Thursday.  He was 53 when he died in 1990.  Before he passed, he wrote a letter to his family, and to  his children, both of which were opened and read after his death.  I thought I’d end this week’s Grey Matters with the last paragraph of the letter to his children; I am going out on a limb and assuming he expresses quite well what many of us think and hope as parents, so here’s a friendly reminder from Mr. Henson:

“Life is meant to be fun, and joyous, and fulfilling. May each of yours be that -- having each of you as a child of mine has certainly been one of the good things in my life. Know that I've always loved each of you with an eternal, bottomless love. A love that has nothing to do with each other, for I feel my love for each of you is total and all-encompassing. Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it.”

Have a great week, everyone.