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Grey Matters, September 21, 2015; Volume 4, Number 3

posted Sep 20, 2015, 11:36 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 24, 2016, 5:32 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

Three out of the four Back to School Night events on the Shen family calendar have come and gone, and one remains (ours!).  Along with the annual (and important) tradition of Back to School Nights, our family’s September has also witnessed the traditional onslaught of other commitments, events, celebrations, obligations, appointments, and invitations that I am pretty sure many of you also face.  Our shared family Google calendar looks like a rainbow imploded given all the different colored events and reminders about each child’s practices, lessons, and social events.  On the weekend radio show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, the frenzy that accompanies this back to school period was highlighted during last week’s (September 12) broadcast, as part of the Bluff the Listener segment.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Bluff the Listener is when each of the three panelists on the show recounts a fairly outrageous story from the news (that all share some common theme -in this case “Back to School”).   One of them is actually true, and the listener who called in has to pick which one it is.  I encourage you to listen last week’s segment, not only for the humor, but also because the last one includes reference to Acton-Boxborough!  Interestingly, it’s probably the one that most of us can relate to most immediately.   You can listen to the clip by clicking here.  

We had a smooth Picture Day last Friday.  If your child forgot his/her order form, or your family has now decided that you’d like to order photos (I always waffle back and forth every year), you can still fill out and/or drop off an order form to the main office and we will pass it along to the vendor.  If your child was absent last Friday, we have a make-up/re-take day scheduled for October 27. For any additional questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at  

A few other calendar items that are worth highlighting:  

  • There is no school this coming Wednesday, as it is Yom Kippur.  For those who observe this holiday, we wish you an easy fast.  

  • We have our first early release scheduled for Thursday, October 1.  On this day, Junior High and High School students are dismissed at 10:40am, and staff participate in professional development activities.  The regular bus routes will still run, but at 10:40am instead of 2:06 (and school still starts at 7:30am).  As an FYI, the next scheduled early dismissal is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 25).  

  • As I mentioned last week, Dr. Kirsty Kerin will be visiting us this Thursday, and speaking to both 7th and 8th grade students about the science of sleep, and its connection to our overall health and wellness.  

Back to School Night is this Thursday evening at 7pm (6:40pm if your child takes the Band, Chorus or Drama electives and you want to meet their teachers).  Your children will bring home a schedule for you to follow.  Just in case your teenager is the first 13-year old to ever forget to share something with you, we’ll have a copy of each student’s schedule available in the Lobby, but I am sure none of you will have that issue.  If you did provide the PTSO an annual $40 donation this year, you can pick up your copy of the Student Directory at the PTSO table (in the Lobby).  For those who are still interested in contributing to the PTSO this year, you can still do so that evening.  

During the Spring of last year, we announced our plans to offer a trip to Washington, DC for 7th and 8th grade students interested in traveling to our nation’s capital during the week of this upcoming April Break.  This is a first for RJ Grey, and we’re excited about the prospects of this becoming an annual tradition (though admittedly we’re mostly focused on making sure this first trip goes smoothly!)  We will depart RJ Grey early Sunday morning for a flight to Washington, spend four days there as part of the Close Up Foundation’s Washington Middle School Program, and return to Acton on Wednesday night. In DC, students will visit the famous monuments, memorials and museums that connect the ideas of our Founding Fathers to how our country works today, as the trip focus on the ideas of active citizenship that are a central focus of our 7th grade social studies curriculum. Some of the highlights of the trip include a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, a walking workshop of Capitol Hill, a mock Congress debating timely political issues, and an afternoon at Arlington Cemetery and the National Archives.

We first offered spots last Spring to our then 7th graders (now 8th grade students) and we have over 65 students currently signed up.  Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program, and within the next few weeks, we will be scheduling an additional information session for families (7th and 8th grade) who are interested in learning more about this opportunity and maybe joining us on the trip.  I am currently involved in sensitive high-level negotiations with my wife about my own interest in attending the trip, and leaving her at home with our three maniacal energetic children.  Marc Lewis (, 7 Green Social Studies teacher, is organizing this trip, and will be coordinating our efforts to educate families about the trip and all that is involved.  

Finally, I want to make sure families in Acton and Boxborough families are aware of a service that focuses on mental health services, and through a partnership between the school district and several local organizations, is available to everyone in our two communities.  MSPP Interface is an initiative of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP)'s Richard and Joan Freedman Center. In addition to maintaining an extensive, frequently updated website listing of available mental health resources by geography and type, MSPP INTERFACE provides a free, confidential mental health and wellness help line Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 617-332-3666 x1411 or 888-244-6843 x1411. Callers are matched with licensed mental health providers that meet the location, insurance, and specialty needs of the caller.  Each referral is provided with follow-up assistance. For more information, you can download this flyer for an overview, and this flyer that answers frequently asked questions.

We look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday night.  I’ll be traveling from class to class, and hope to engage with many of you throughout the evening.  

Have a great week, everyone.