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Grey Matters, January 4, 2016; Volume 4, Number 17

posted Jan 3, 2016, 11:04 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:28 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back!  I hope you are all returning from a Winter Break that was relaxing and enjoyable.  Perhaps for a few of you, the time was punctuated by some exciting adventures and travel.  My family and I stayed local over the Winter Break, and spent some time with various friends and relatives, including my wife’s cousin Linda.  None of you know Linda, but perhaps each of you has a family member similar to Linda - the relative who doesn’t think a family gathering is complete without a little bit of mischief.  Linda’s the one who convinced the deejay at my wedding to play “Who Let the Dogs Out” after learning that I had made a point of placing that musical masterpiece at the top of the “Do Not Play” list.  Now that we have kids, she’s the family member who buys them presents that have the greatest likelihood of creating the largest noises (see: drum set, Christmas 2012) or the biggest mess (see: the Pie Face! game, Christmas, 2015 - photo to the right).  I adore Linda, but a little nervous about what future gifts await us when the kids hit middle school and high school.  

The first Ski and Board Club session is taking place on Tuesday.  Reports from Wachusett is that everything’s a “go” and they continue to make as much snow as they can.  A friendly reminder to families whose kids are participating that skis and snowboards are not allowed on the buses during the morning pick-up routes, so an alternate plan is needed on these Tuesdays.  For those parents/guardians bringing kids and equipment during the morning drop-off process, please (please!) have the skis, poles, boots, etc. put together in a way that will help us keep things moving (and safe) down there in the parking lot.  Some families also choose to drop off ski/boarding equipment to the school later in the day (we store it all in the auditorium).  

A few other reminders to bring to your attention:

  • Our last set of parent-teacher conferences is scheduled for this Thursday, January 7.  That means all students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and conferences begin at 11:30am.  Please check in with your kids about plans and expectations for that day.  

  • There is no school for all Acton-Boxborough students on Monday, January 18 for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  

  • The RJG Winter Band Concert is scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, January 12, and the Winter Chorus Concert is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, January 20.  Both events begin at 7pm and taking place in the RJ Grey auditorium.  

The District is currently engaged in the process of presenting to the School Committee and the community at large, its proposed budget for next year (2016-2017).  Glenn Brand made two initial budget presentations in December, and will be making another introductory presentation at the January 14 School Committee meeting.  Then on Saturday, January 23rd, a more comprehensive overview of the proposed budget will be shared and discussed.  If you have any interest in reviewing the materials, you can visit the District’s School Committee website by clicking here.  Our District’s budget proposal for next year has been designed to continue our multi-year plan to meaningfully address the needs of our growing English Language Learner (ELL) and special education populations, and strengthening our mental health services for students at all grades.  As part of this proposed budget, RJ Grey is looking to add special education positions in anticipation of a significantly larger cohort of students receiving special education services that will be moving from the upper elementary grades to the Junior High next year.  Along with addressing those important areas of need, we are also pleased to be advancing a proposal to establish a stringed instrument program as part of our Performing Arts offerings.  The plan would be to introduce the program at the Junior High and High School next year, and then expand into the upper elementary grades the following year.  I know that many in the community have been eager for an expansion of our music program to include stringed instruments, and we’re hopeful that this proposal is received positively.  If we are able to move forward next year, we would expect to include the string ensemble option alongside our Band, Chorus, and Drama electives that meet during our Grey Block period.  I’ll be sure to pass along updates if and when they are available.  

Before the Winter Break, I briefly highlighted two upcoming community presentations that are scheduled for the near future, and I offer another reminder to all of you about them.  The first is an evening with David McCullough, Jr., who will speak at the High School this Thursday, January 7 (click here for PDF of the flyer).  Sponsored by the ABRPTSO, ABUW and Danny’s Place Youth Services, Mr. McCullough’s talk will be based on his recent book You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements, which is based upon his commencement speech at Wellesley High in 2012.  

The other event that I hope you’ll attend is scheduled for Wednesday, February 3 at 7pm.  That evening, we will be welcoming Dr. Abigail Baird to Acton-Boxborough. Dr. Baird teaches at Vassar and conducts research on adolescent brain development.  Dr. Baird is a neuroscientist who specializes in adolescent development, and has made an effort to make herself available to schools and parent organizations throughout the country.  That’s how I was able to see her speak last year when she visited Lincoln and spoke at one of their PTO events.  She’s wonderful at explaining the current research on adolescent brain development to those of us who do not have advanced degrees in that field, and helping us identify ways that this information can guide our practice as parents and educators.  Dr. Baird will be speaking to Acton-Boxborough families on the evening of Wednesday, February 3, and then speaking to the Junior High and High School staff the following day (we have an early release scheduled).  If you aren’t busy that evening, I really want to encourage you to attend (click here for the flyer).

Finally, today marks an interesting anniversary for the Grey Matters newsletter.  A year ago today, I introduced to readers my youngest son’s love of bacon, his request for a “box of bacon” for Christmas, and all the bacon-inspired presents he did receive from relatives, including the infamous Bacon Bowl.  At the time, I thought it was going to be a one-time reference to Parker’s love of the greasy breakfast meat.  Instead, those of you who were at RJ Grey last year will recall (hopefully with some fondness) that this story was the beginning of a 6-month dialogue with families about all things bacon.  Apparently, there was and is a large contingent of families in the Acton and Boxborough communities who share my son’s fixation with bacon, and I was inundated with hysterical emails and links to other bacon-themed presents (thank you, by the way).  Rest assured, I don’t plan to begin another prolonged discussion on the topic.  The “bacon affair” had its moment in the sun, and it’s best that we move on.  However, to mark this particular Grey Matters anniversary, I do offer you all a link to a home video that has gone viral (over four million hits), showing a baby’s first bites of bacon during this past holiday season.  

Welcome back.  Have a great week, everyone.