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Grey Matters, September 14, 2015; Volume 4, Number 2

posted Sep 13, 2015, 8:32 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:32 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

My wife Melisa is a high school teacher in a community near A-B, and our three kids currently attend two different schools.  So this month the Shen clan will be focused on managing the four Back to School Night programs that are on our family Google calendar, and which of course all collide with some
combination of soccer practices.  Back to School Night for our younger two (1st and 3rd g
rade) took place last Thursday, and I only heard about thirty references to the fact that this event was scheduled for the same night as the first Patriots game of the season.  Full disclosure, I might have made about twenty of those thirty references.  However, I was pretty sure that my daughter Addison would understand some of the itchiness that this scheduling conflict created when I came upon this piece of classwork (image to the right) that was hanging on her classroom wall.  #ProudDad #FreeBrady

RJ Grey’s own Back to School Night will be on Thursday, September 24th, starting at 7:00pm.  For those of you with children who participate in the Band, Drama, or Chorus Grey Block electives, there is an optional meeting at 6:40pm where you can learn more about those programs. Parents should head straight for their child’s homeroom (schedules for that evening will be coming home) and I am going to travel with all of you to your kids’ classes throughout the evening, and hopefully we’ll have a few moments here and there to connect.  

At Back to School Night, you will see a number of tables hosting a few different school-related organizations, including 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 $40 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 (which you pick up that night).  This year, the funds that the PTSO provided to RJ Grey is also one reason we are able to continue providing 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 will meet seven times this year, on Monday evenings 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 18th 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 18.  This week, 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 few weeks, most of our after school clubs and activities will be having their first meetings with interested students.  The updated list of clubs and activities will be ready within the next week or two, and we’ll post it on our website.  Last week, I mentioned a few of our new Fall programs, and I wanted to mention that there is still some space available for our Volleyball Club (limited to 30 participants), and the Fit Club, both of which do have a slightly different sign-up process.  Sign-ups for Volleyball are due (tomorrow) Tuesday, September 15th and the first session is on Thursday the 17th.  Fit Club will be on Fridays at 2:30pm, and begins this Friday the 18th.  Those interested in Fit Club can contact Kate Murray at  

A friendly reminder that this year our school musical will be “Bye Bye Birdie!” and auditions will be taking place the week after this one. Audition workshops will be held this week, on September 16th and 17th, and the actual audition sessions will be on September 21st, 22nd, and 24th (for call backs).  Visit our Theatre Arts page for additional details and information.  

I know many of you have been following recent conversations centered around the importance of sleep for adolescents, and the challenges that many of them face with getting enough of it.  A good deal of the national dialogue has focused on school start times, with organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control each taking positions on this question.  To be sure, Superintendent Brand has articulated a desire to design a process for our school community to begin dipping our toes into understanding this subject (which as you can imagine, has some operational complexities attached to it) and I’ll be sure to pass along information when it is available.  In the meantime, we at RJ Grey have an interest in educating our students about the importance of sleep, and helping them develop a better understanding of how sleep affects their development and overall health.  To assist us in this process, we are fortunate that Dr. Kirsty Kerin, a Boxborough resident (and A-B parent) has made herself available as a resource to our students and staff.  Dr. Kerin is a sleep researcher and has expertise in the science of sleep.  She met with our staff last Spring and was extremely well-received (and not just because she was a welcome change to hearing yours truly drone on and on), and now our goal is to bring some of this information to our students.  On the morning of September 24th, Dr. Kerin is going to deliver presentations to our 7th and 8th grade students (in two separate sessions).  I have very little doubt that it will capture their attention given that Kirsty is not only a very accessible speaker, but also because it’s on a topic that is immediately connected to their daily experiences.  

Finally, we scheduled this year’s first installment of Poetry Fridays for the end of last week.  For those new to RJ Grey, Poetry Fridays is an activity that began three years ago where every other Friday, a staff member or a student recites a poem during morning announcements.  This activity is led by Tim Malloy, English teacher on 8 Red. Last 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.   Given the eloquence that poetry offers us a medium for expressing the many aspects of the human condition, we began last year what we hope will become an annual tradition of offering a heartfelt nod to the anniversary of September 11 with a Poetry Friday reading that spotlights our continued optimism for a better world.  This year, Mr. Malloy read a piece by poet Mary Oliver entitled, “Franz Marc’s Blue Horses.” If you’d like to hear Mary Oliver herself reading this poem, you can find an audio recording here.  

Happy new year to those families who observe Rosh Hashonah.  

Have a great week, everyone.