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Grey Matters, April 4, 2016; Volume 4, Number 29

posted Apr 3, 2016, 7:28 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:24 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,


I took the hit for the last snowstorm and learned my lesson.  I haven’t said a thing that assumes that Spring weather is here to stay.  So that means one of you is to blame this time around for the one-two punch of snow that we are getting today (Sunday) and likely getting tomorrow (Monday).  Perhaps you started setting up the outdoor patio furniture last weekend, or emptied the gas tank in your snowblower?  As I stare out at the falling snow, I am at least grateful that we didn’t experience this weather last weekend, and the annual Shen-Nasella Easter egg hunt was able to take place without any weather-related challenges.  The only challenge we did have was how, in response to Hayden’s request to his grandparents that they buy four hundred chocolate covered mini-eggs, they went and bought one thousand mini-eggs for us to hide.  Wait, one thousand and forty. My wife just corrected me.  It took us four times as long to hide the eggs than the duration of the actual hunt.  I know, I know -- that’s what grandparents are supposed to do - take an indulgent request from a grandchild and go way overboard.  I can, nevertheless, confidently say that our egg hunt went much smoother and had a more joyful tone than some of the drama that made the news last weekend, with stories of community egg hunts that went horribly awry and sounded more like a short story by David Sedaris.  Perhaps some of you read about the egg hunt in Connecticut at the Pez Candy company’s headquarters that had to be canceled due to the total chaos that ensued, or the hunt in Westfield, New Jersey that involved fist fights between parents.  In defense of those who attended those events, maybe they figured it was appropriate to replicate some of the scenes we’ve seen from this year’s presidential campaign.  Back to the anticipated snow for tomorrow - stay tuned for any updates about changes to the school day. The timing and duration of the storm really makes it a tough call at this point, so any announcement may not come until the early morning.  


Here’s some important announcements and reminders for the next two weeks:


  • We have an early release scheduled for this Thursday, April 7.  Students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and regular bus schedules will be available at that time.  Please note that the school will not be available for students to stay after dismissal as the Library will be used for professional development meetings.  

  • We have an 8th grade dance scheduled for this Friday, April 8, from 7pm to 9pm in the JH Gymnasium.  Tickets are currently on sale for students interested in attending.  

  • For current 7th grade students:  students who are interested in running for one of next year’s Student Council officer positions (President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary) should begin to think about the process for “pulling papers” and the election process.  Nomination forms will be available starting Monday, April 25 through Friday, April 29. Anyone who plans to run will need to meet in Room 325 during Grey Block on Friday, April 29.  

  • We just finished our first round of MCAS testing last week, thanks to everyone for their cooperation.  Students who were absent on one of their testing days will be called down during the first part of this week to make-up tests that were missed.  


One more note for current 7th grade families: the registration form for your child’s 8th grade year has been mailed home.  Please review this form, which indicates a math level recommendation and confirmation of current world language choice.  It also asks you (and your child) to indicate interest in any of the Grey Block electives for next year.  When doing so, please be sure to note that some of the electives do have class size limits and are not guaranteed, which is why we need you to potentially indicate more than one choice.  Please also note that we expect to offer the new String Ensemble program for students next year.  These forms are due to your child’s homeroom teacher by this Friday, April 8.  Those families who might be entertaining an override request for math levels must submit that form by not later than Friday, April 15.  Please know that we can not accept override requests after that date.   


As part of this week’s Grey Matters, I also wanted to make sure I included mention of two other topics that will have increasing relevance to our work here in our school district.  


First, I read with great interest two articles on the issue of adolescent sleep and school start times. The first was a New York Times article by a professor of pediatrics in Indiana.  While most of the research he cited has already been discussed and shared in previous reports, this article’s publication demonstrates to me a continued momentum associated with this important topic.  In the article the author does state, “there’s no good reason school has to start this early.” While I do agree that communities have the power to make different choices about school start times, I do think he and others need to acknowledge that there are some legitimate complexities that come with how school systems and families manage competing needs and limits ranging from transportation costs, school schedules, child care requirements (for families), and schedules for inter-school programs and games.  That’s where the next article comes in, sharing what I consider to be pretty substantial (and local) news in regards to exploring solutions to some of the logistical challenges at play.  In last Tuesday’s Boston Globe, there was an article that described how the superintendents of schools in the Middlesex League (including Lexington, Belmont, Watertown) are exploring the possibility of addressing this issue in a coordinated fashion, so that difficulties related to the scheduling of after school games and competitions will no longer be a hurdle.  While this commitment by the Superintendents is significant, the article also acknowledges that good intentions are only the first part of the process, and that “doing what is right for adolescents will mean changing adult schedules and behaviors.”  I know that our Superintendent’s Wellness Committee is continuing to work diligently on their examination of the issue within the context of our school system, and I look forward to hearing what they’ve learned and might recommend as next steps.  


Finally, I want to provide a brief preview to a letter that all families in Acton-Boxborough will be receiving later this week.  Last November, I shared with families our new policy about no homework over vacations.  In that message, I also mentioned that our discussion about homework was only one entry point to what we hope will be a broader conversation about a vision for our schools.  I briefly highlighted the challenges that we continue to see because of continually narrowing definitions of success and the intensity of expectations and demands that shape our students’ experiences. Unintentionally, the timing of this letter coincides rather appropriately with the college admissions season, which we know is a significant factor in how many of us view and measure our childrens’ school (and overall childhood) experience.  If you have time, I would encourage you to read this recent article from The Atlantic about the “arms race” that has consumed a good deal of mental headspace for many parents and schools.  The letter that everyone will be receiving from the District’s leadership team speaks to this topic, and our strong desire to re-frame our conversations to include the many other factors we know contribute to the healthy self-development of adolescents. You’ll read a bit about our plans as a school district to explore this issue more deliberately, including an upcoming survey for students in grades 6 thru 12, the details of which will be provided in the letter.  I’m pretty excited about this endeavor, and look forward to sharing with everyone more details of the opportunities we hope to provide for everyone to participate.  


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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