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Grey Matters, February 1, 2016; Volume 4, Number 21

posted Jan 31, 2016, 11:31 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:27 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Two years ago, Melisa and I went out to dinner with good friends of ours as a way to celebrate Melisa’s birthday.  For reasons I can’t remember, I was noticeably cranky or cynical (or both).  To encourage me to get out of my funk, one of our friends challenged me to think about, and share, five things that I love.  After thinking about it for thirty seconds, I listed my five items, with “cheese” and “hash browns” being first and second, respectively, on the list.  The fact that no family member, including my wife who was at the time sitting to my left, was included anywhere on the list, resulted in the entire table concluding that I had pulled my own Hilary Swank moment -when she forgot to acknowledge her then-husband in her Oscar acceptance speech.  In my defense, I didn’t think the goal of the question was so much to generate deep, soulful answers, but fun and light-hearted responses about material things.  Even if it was focused on the former, I think we need to be honest and accept that cheese really is that amazing. (Side note: it has not escaped me that many editions of Grey Matters over the past few years have included countless references to foods that are less than friendly towards one’s cholesterol count)  I was recently reminded of this moment for two reasons.  One, those present at that dinner have, on occasion, felt compelled to make reference to it.  And two, my love of cheese was, in my opinion, validated and given legitimacy by a few recent news articles that took a deep and creative dive into the heavenly nature of this dairy product.  My favorite one was in last Tuesday’s Boston Globe, which looked at the wonders and qualities of macaroni and cheese through a scientific lens, highlighting the chemistry involved with creating the perfect mac ‘n cheese dish.  

I was drawn to the Globe article because I appreciated and enjoyed the effort to explain in fairly accessible terms the science behind something that, while a spectacular thing in many ways, is also fairly common to many of us.  If you also enjoy opportunities to learn about the science of things that we might witness and experience on a daily basis, then I hope you have made arrangements to join us this Wednesday night to hear Dr. Abigail Baird speak to the Acton-Boxborough community.  Dr. Baird has a real talent for sharing research on the development of the adolescent brain in a manner that is helpful for those of us without advanced degrees in neuroscience, and connecting it directly to our work with, and/or parenting of, our kids.   I’ve checked the weather forecast for Acton and for Poughkeepsie, New York (she teaches at Vassar), and there’s no sign of any snow that could interfere with the event.  The event starts at 7pm in the Junior High auditorium, there will be time for questions and answers, and a dessert reception sponsored by the Metrowest Behavioral Health Center and Danny’s Place Youth Services.  If there’s time, I may ask Dr. Baird if she has any information on why teenage boys insist on wearing shorts on cold winter days, which was the topic of a Today show story a few weeks ago.  

Here’s a couple of reminders for the next two weeks:

  • We have an early release for students this Thursday, February 4.  Students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and teachers will be remaining to participate in professional development (in this case, hearing Dr. Baird present).  Please be sure to connect with your child about after school plans.  Buses will run their normal routes at dismissal.  

  • Our February Vacation is coming up in two weeks.  Friday, February 12 is indeed a full day, and ends with our annual Blue & Gold Day assembly.  

  • The R.J. Grey Junior High yearbook is offering you the chance to send your love, pride and congratulations to the graduating 8th grade R.J. Grey student in your life.  You can purchase one of two advertisement formats to relay a message that your 8th grade student will cherish. Please click the link for more information.  You can also contact Vicki Weeks ( with additional questions.  The deadline to submit ads is Friday, February 12.  

Another reminder to 8th grade families that on Thursday, February 11th at 7pm the high school will be hosting an evening for the parents of 8th graders. The goal of the evening is for parents to get an overall feel for the high school - including the class offerings available to ninth grade students. The night will begin in the high school auditorium with a welcome by principal Dr. JoAnn Campbell followed by a brief presentation by each department leader focusing on the classes available to ninth grade students. Immediately following the presentation parents may join department leaders in the East Commons where they will be available to answer questions.   Please also note that this event is geared specifically for a parent/guardian audience, and not for the students themselves. In early March, the 8th graders will participate in a series of workshops that provide them with a comprehensive overview of course registration, requirements, and opportunities.  These sessions are led jointly by our counselors, and staff from the High School.  Rest assured that I will send out additional information about that process, most likely after February Vacation.  

Finally, our District has identified three finalists for the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services position.  This position was more commonly known as the Director of Pupil Services, until Dr. Brand recently proposed a change to better align the title to the roles and responsibilities that he envisions for that position.  This position is charged with providing leadership in the areas of special education, counseling and psychological services, English language learner education, nursing services, and social and emotional wellness education. You can read more about the finalists by viewing this announcement, and members of the community are invited to meet with all three candidates on Monday, February 8 between 7:00pm and 9:15pm in the Junior High Library.  Each candidate will have an opportunity to introduce themselves and answer questions that member of the community may have for them.  

Welcome to February.  Have a great week, everyone.