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Grey Matters, April 10, 2017; Volume 5, Number 29

posted Apr 9, 2017, 7:23 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:05 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

If I owned a Hawaiian shirt like the one to the right, I’d definitely plan on wearing it this coming Tuesday since the weather forecast predicts temperatures in the low 80s.  I don’t own any tropical shirts, so I might just wear sandals to celebrate what is hopefully a permanent shift into the Spring season.  Even though there are some days that have rain in the forecast, hopefully the warmer overall temperatures will allow our Spring sports programs to begin practicing and playing in earnest.  Par for the course, our Spring Track program has over 200 RJ Grey students on the battalion team, and our softball, baseball and volleyball teams have taken shape. I’m excited for our students participating in these programs to have a fun and enjoyable season. As we enter this Spring sports season, both at school and through community and club programs, I would encourage all of us (me included) to be continually mindful of how to be a supportive and thoughtful sports parent.  There is an intensity to youth sports today that can unfortunately dilute the many benefits that would typically be a part of the experience of being on a team and participating in lively competition.  Here is a recent Washington Post article where the managers of the New York Yankees (Joe Girardi) and St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Matheny) share their perspective about the secondary and less vocal role that they want to encourage parents to adopt in service of their kids who might be competing on the field or sitting on the bench.  Last May, I shared an excerpt of a letter written by the father-in-law of a good friend to the players assigned to the Little League baseball team that he was assigned to coach in the Spring of 1977.  As we enter this next season of Spring sports, I wanted to again share a portion of it in case it might resonate with you: “I do not care how many games you win or lose; I hope you win at least one game so that you and your teammates can experience the satisfaction of winning as a team, but I also hope you lose one so that you will experience the shared disappointment of a team loss...The purpose of the program is to give you and your teammates an opportunity to learn something about competition, sportsmanship and team play by actually playing on a baseball team, in the belief that, if well taught, the lessons learned on the baseball field will be valuable to you as you continue to grow up.”

Here are some reminders and acknowledgements for you to review this week:

  • Registration forms from current 7th grade students for their 8th grade year were due last Friday.  Thank you to the many families who submitted those forms.  If you’ve still got that form, please send it in with your child or bring it to the main office right away.  

  • For any 7th grade families considering a math override, please remember that the deadline for that request is this Thursday, April 13th, and the override form must be submitted by that date.  We will not be able to accept requests after that date.  

  • We had about 250 8th grade students join us last Friday night for a fun Spring Fling social event in the gym.  We hope everyone had a great time, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time together that evening.  Many thanks to our parent volunteers/coordinators who provided food and drink, and some much needed help during the evening.   

  • We have completed our initial round of MCAS testing for 8th grade students.  There are no MCAS tests scheduled for this week except for the students who were absent last week.  When we return from April Break we will begin the English Language Arts portion of MCAS for 7th grade students that Tuesday, April 25th.  I’ll be sure to provide a reminder to families that Sunday before we return.  

As we still have about nine weeks of school remaining, I want to remind everyone of the Junior High’s Rise to the Challenge program, which is our way of recognizing student involvement in community service.  Students who complete 10 hours of service within the school year will be recognized for their efforts, and it’s definitely not too late to submit that information.  Please visit the community service page on our website that provides all the details for this program.  If you have any questions, please email Debbie Brookes at  

April Vacation is next week, and so a couple of things on that.  First, Thursday is a full day of school and then we have no school on Friday in recognition of the Good Friday religious holiday that falls on that day.  If your travel plans involve your child missing some school this week we would appreciate your letting us know ahead of time so we can manage the attendance process a bit more easily.  Secondly, I wanted to continue offering a reminder and encouragement to use the vacation period to prioritize “playtime” and/or downtime for your kids.  Remember, there’s no homework assigned over the vacation periods, and that’s so families can comfortably attend to other activities and interests.

During last year’s April Vacation we had our first ever RJ Grey school trip to Washington DC, where 100 7th and 8th grade students and ten staff members, including yours truly, spent four days exploring our nation’s capital.  We departed RJ Grey early Sunday morning for a flight to Washington, and participated in the Close Up Foundation’s Washington Middle School Program, and returned to Acton-Boxborough on Wednesday night. In DC, students visited 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, but not all, of the highlights of the trip included a visit to the National Air and Space Museum, a walking workshop of Capitol Hill, a mock Congress debating timely political issues, a visit with Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, and an afternoon at Arlington Cemetery and the National Archives. As the Principal, the most satisfying part of the trip was of course going with 100 students and returning home with the same number, and having avoided any engagement with hotel security or the Secret Service.  

It was an incredible experience for both the adults and the students on the trip and it certainly left us with an interest in returning with another group of students in the future.  Because of the significant amount of planning involved, and the need to ask teachers to give up a good portion of their vacation, our current plan is to offer this trip every other year during the April Vacation.  That means we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a student trip to Washington D.C. for next April 2018.  Up to 150 students will be able to participate in this program. We will first offer spots to our current 7th graders and then in September open remaining spaces to our newest class of students, as well as those who may not have signed up this Spring. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity (financial cost, logistics, and programming) for your child, please considering attending an informational session at the Junior High on the evening of Wednesday, May 3 at 6:30pm in our auditorium.  This trip will again be coordinated by Mr. Marc Lewis, Social Studies teacher on 7 Green, and will eventually serve as the point of contact for parents and students wishing to learn more about this opportunity.  

Finally, an update on an exciting project that we dreamed up last year.  Last Spring we began discussions about creating a community garden at RJ Grey.  Many of you know that there is at the Junior High a pretty big enclosed courtyard that used to have some large trees that shaded the bulk of the space.  Two years ago, the largest of those trees fell down and because we discovered quite a bit of rot we needed to remove the remainder of those trees.  That untended land has for two years looked a bit like a nuclear wasteland, but has enormous potential and is screaming out for some attention.  There is quite a bit of flat land and we have finally reached the stage where we are installing our first raised beds where we can, among other things, grow a fair amount of vegetables and herbs that can support not only our cafeteria, but where both the growing and use of the food can be folded into classroom activities and other programs like our Cooking Club.  Earlier this Spring we met with Fresh Start Food Gardens, an organization based in Westford, to partner with us in developing a plan for our garden space and ideas for involving teachers and students in building the beds, planting, maintaining, and harvesting.  On Thursday, a few of our teams will be working alongside staff from Fresh Start to finish building the beds, filling them, and completing our first inaugural planting which will hopefully be ready to harvest before the end of the school year.  I’ll be sure to include photos of this work in the next edition of Grey Matters.  As our work on this garden evolves, we’ll hopefully develop additional ways for students and families who have an interest in this work to become involved.  

Have a great week, everyone.