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Grey Matters, September 15, 2014; Volume 3, Number 2

posted Sep 14, 2014, 11:28 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 6, 2015, 7:00 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

My wife and I attended our oldest (4th grade) son’s Back to School Night event last Thursday, and his math teacher allowed her students to write short notes to their parents on her whiteboard.  She directed our attention to the one that read, “Hi Mom and Dad, Mrs. H and I got off to a really bad start, but don’t worry, she’s great.”  RJ Grey’s own Back to School Night will be on Tuesday, September 23rd, starting at 7:00pm.  For those of you with children who participate in the Band, Drama, or Chorus electives, there is an optional meeting at 6:40pm where you can learn more about those programs. In the past, I tried to squeeze in some opening remarks in the auditorium at 6:45pm, but all that ever did was force parents to scramble and be late for everything else.  So this year, parents should head straight for their child’s homeroom (more info to come) and I am going to travel with all of you to your kids’ classes throughout the evening, and engage with parents along the way.  

At Back to School Night, you will see a number of tables hosting a few different school-related organizations, including an ABSAF and the PTSO.  I want to make quick mention of both organizations, the great ways they support us, and to offer a brief reminder that they are indeed separate entities!  The PTSO is the parent organization that works with both RJ Grey and the high school to facilitate communication between the schools and the parent community, and supports the schools through various volunteer activities and forums.  The JH/HS PTSO is structured a bit differently in that they make a single financial request for the entire year -- a $35 membership donation, and there are no additional school fundraisers that take place.  Along with funding a number of projects, events, and equipment at the Junior High and High School, a membership entitles you to a free student directory.  This year, the funds that the PTSO provided to RJ Grey is also one reason we were able to, for the first time, provide every student with a Student Planbook at no charge. To learn more about the PTSO, you can visit their site by clicking here.  

ABSAF is a separate community-based organization that has also had a long-standing partnership with the schools, and they have made efforts every year to raise funds that support extracurricular activities (athletics, performing arts, clubs and activities) at both RJ Grey and the high school, and help each school with its ability to provide a wide-range of rich and meaningful programs.  One of the main ways that families can and do support ABSAF is by purchasing an annual ABSAF Pass ($175) which entitles you and your immediate family to free admission to many extracurricular events that involve an entry fee.  Some examples of events where an ABSAF Pass gives you free admission are home athletic events (except postseason games), and the annual musical/theatrical productions at both RJ Grey and the high school.  To learn more about ABSAF, you can visit their site by clicking here.

One final note about Back to School Night - on that evening, we also ask parents to vote for two 7th grade parent/guardian representatives who will serve on this year's School Council. The role of the School Council is to review and discuss various aspects of the school's activities and goals, and offer advice and guidance about different topics that may emerge during the year. The Council meets once a month, usually on the first Tuesday of the month at 7pm. We are looking for 7th grade parents who are interested in serving on the Council.  If you have any interest, please submit a short paragraph about yourself by noon on Friday, September 19th for the ballot. Write-ups can be sent to PTSO co-chair Tammy Sarnelli at or to me at

Please note that our annual school picture day is this Friday, September 19.  Starting today, we will be distributing picture order forms to all students. Regardless of whether families order photos, each child will have his/her photo taken so we can include them in the yearbook. If you would like to order photos but the costs associated with the options would present a financial hardship, I would encourage you to contact Jim Marcotte at Each year, we have worked with our vendor to find ways for any family who wants a set of photos to receive one.

Within the next week or two, most of our after school clubs and activities will be having their first meetings with interested students.  The updated list of clubs and activities for this year is now up on our website and can be viewed by clicking here.  Last week, I mentioned our Fall tennis program and our new Yoga club.  There is still space in the Yoga club, so contact Kate Murray at if you want to learn more.  In addition we have a new Fly Tying club with Mr. Biron (you can learn more about it by viewing this document), a morning (before school) weight lifting program with Mr. Maver, and a Bollywood Appreciation club with Ms. Mazonson! These are all in addition to the many long-standing programs that continue to be offered to all of our students.  

We are entering our third year of AB Schools. This is a significant aspect of our District's efforts to engage students and teachers in learning activities that utilize a digital platform. Each student has an AB Schools account that includes a suite of Google Apps for education. This past week, most if not all of our 7th grade students were introduced to their AB Schools accounts during one of their classes, and most students who attended an Acton elementary school or Blanchard Elementary have had some level of exposure to their email accounts. As I mentioned in my summer welcome letter, we purchased enough Chromebooks this year so all 8 teams could each have its own mobile cart, and a number of teams have already introduced them (and the new Google Classroom dashboard) to the students.  If you’d like to learn a bit more about AB Schools in general, click here.  On a related note, if you’d like to see what happens when kids are asked questions about, and introduced to, typewriters (or what one of them refers to as, “antique stuff”), check out this video.  

Finally, we had this year’s first installment of Poetry Fridays this past Thursday (more on why Thursday in a moment).  For those new to RJ Grey, Poetry Fridays is an activity that we started two years ago where every other Friday, a staff member or a student recites a poem during morning announcements that he/she has selected.  This activity is led by Tim Malloy, English teacher on 8 Green.  Over the summer, the New York Times asked a number of individuals to respond to the question, “Does Poetry Matter?” and you can read their responses here.   With the anniversary of September 11 falling on Thursday, we decided to hold Poetry Friday on that morning instead, and Mr. Malloy read a short introduction and then the poem “Making Peace” by Denise Levertov to serve as our (hopefully) heartfelt nod to that event.  

Have a great week, everyone.