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Grey Matters for October 12, 2016; Volume 5, Number 6

posted Oct 12, 2016, 8:30 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:03 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

So how was everyone’s October Break?  I’ve been calling it an extra-long long weekend, but I think that would only be accurate if it was four days off.  Since the time away from school totaled five days, and thus more time out of school than in, it’s going to be known as October Break.  In some ways it’s not really important what we call it since I think it’s unlikely to happen again for a long time.  

My October Break was rewarding and special for two reasons.  The first is that I had two days where some combination of my three kids had school when I didn’t.  This was great, not because I could tease them about it (I might have a little, but in a loving way), but because I was around in the morning to make them breakfast and help them get ready for school.  It was quite satisfying being part of a typical school day for each of them.  The second highlight from the break is a bit farther away from a “typical moment”, as I had the good fortune of bringing my son Hayden to Game 3 of the Red Sox’ Division Series against Cleveland.  As most of you know, the Red Sox lost and the game ended up being the final one of David Ortiz’s career (picture to the right is of his final at bat).  There was some in-game excitement in the later innings as the Red Sox tried to come back from being down 4-1. Then of course there were the bittersweet moments at the end of the game, and after the game, when Big Papi came out for one last farewell.  I’m glad that Hayden and I got to experience the game together, and share what will hopefully be a lifelong memory.  This was the second Red Sox playoff game I have attended in my lifetime, the first one was in 2003 when my father-in-law Henry brought me to Game 3 of the ACLS against the Yankees.  That game was also punctuated by a historic moment, though a wee bit less noble and uplifting, as it involved Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez grabbing then 72-year old Don Zimmer by the head and throwing him to the ground during a benches-clearing brawl (and then they lost).  The Red Sox seem to have more luck when I watch them from my couch, so I might just do that moving forward.  

Here’s just a few updates for what is an extraordinarily short week:

  • If you visited RJ Grey last week during the school day, you will have noticed that we have begun the shift to having the front door locked.  There is now a buzzer system in place though we are still currently working on ironing out some of the hiccups and mechanical glitches that always accompany the implementation of new technology.  Once you’ve pressed the buzzer, please wait a few moments and you’ll hopefully hear a definitive “click” that indicates that we’ve unlocked the door.  It’s also entirely possible that we may have a conversation with you through the speaker system if we don’t immediately recognize you.  Once you’ve entered, please continue to check in at the Main Office and sign in.  We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work on these changes, and many thanks to Ms. Frey whose role as Executive Director of Office Affairs has now absorbed this additional responsibility.  

  • For families of students participating in our athletic programs: for away games and meets, students should expect to travel to and from those events using school transportation.  There are times that families will need to take their children immediately after the event.  For those situations, parents and guardians need to complete and submit an Athletic Transportation Use of Private Vehicles form. Your student should submit the form to the Main Office in the morning and pick it up later in the day, as it needs to be handed to the coach of the team.  Please note that we’re only allowed to release students to a parent or guardian, and can not allow another individual (friend, neighbor, etc.) to serve that role.  We know that there may be times when that option may be helpful, but we’re not permitted to accommodate those requests.  

  • 7th grade teams are going on the Challenger field trips starting next week.  Don’t forget to check with your child(ren) about which day they are scheduled to attend (as it may involve bringing a lunch).  For families who are eligible for Free & Reduced lunch, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about how lunch would/can be provided for these trips.  

  • Interim reports for the Fall Trimester are scheduled to be sent around October 19 or 20.  I will include in next week’s Grey Matters a summary of the intent of interims and what families might expect as part of those forms.  

  • Halloween is Monday, October 31 and so I’ll include in the Grey Matters for October 24 a note about our school’s Halloween Dress Up Day tradition.  This will include a reminder about how to help your students enjoy the event (should they choose to participate) while also being thoughtful in their choice of costume/outfit.

As we make our way into October, I want to remind everyone of the Junior High’s new Rise to the Challenge program, which is our way of recognizing student involvement in community service.  We know that many students are already participating in service activities outside of school, and we hope to celebrate those efforts along with encouraging more students to become active in service opportunities.  Students who complete 10 hours of service within the school year will be recognized for their efforts.  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  

It’s now time for my weekly plug of A-B’s Challenge Success work, and reminding all of you to mark the evening of November 8 on your calendars so you’ll remember to attend Denis Pope’s presentation to our community.  Dr. Pope is going to play an important role in our continued efforts to do some important self-examination and reflection about the benefits and challenges of being a high-performing school district.  Please remember that this initiative is not simply focused on identifying strategies for managing stress, which is certainly an important topic of conversation.  It's also about engaging in some rigorous dialogue (and maybe some debate and disagreement) about how we define success, the expectations that we think are appropriate to hold for our students (academic and extracurricular), and how those ideas can and should shape the decisions we make at school and at home.  I mentioned last week how our conversations about the role of homework can be seen as a very tangible example of this work.  In an effort to provide ongoing communication and updates to families, our school district has developed a website ( that will serve as a clearinghouse of information and resources about this subject and the overall healthy self-development of our students.  In addition, here is the October version of their Challenge Success update, which also includes some short video clips from Denise Pope.  November 8, 7pm, High School auditorium.  Cast your ballot for President, and then come and join us for this important conversation.  

Two weeks ago, we had our first session of RJ Grey Discussion Groups, which are used to introduce our ongoing goals of having conversations with students about healthy communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution.  We’ll have our second session (which are scheduled during Silent Reading periods), in another two weeks.  As many of you know, Massachusetts passed a comprehensive law in 2010 to address incidents of bullying and harassment in schools.  Among other aspects of the law, it called for every school to implement a research-based curriculum that addressed bullying prevention and prosocial behavior. This year, we are continuing our use of a curriculum created by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), an organization based at Bridgewater State that has been heavily involved in the state’s recent efforts to address bullying and harassment in school.  

Similar to previous years, we will continue to incorporate speakers and presentations that we feel can complement and expand our work in this area. For 7th grade students, we have again scheduled a great presentation by MARC specifically on cyberbullying and internet safety.  The presentation by MARC will take place for 7th grade students on Friday, February 10th and will again be led by Meghan McCoy (from MARC) who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.  

Four years ago, we began a small recognition program called “Everyday Leaders”  as one way for us to celebrate and put a brighter spotlight on students who, in a variety of ways, demonstrates leadership through daily acts of kindness, enthusiasm, and being respectful towards peers and teachers. Twice a trimester, our teams (and each grade’s exploratory, elective, and physical education teachers) identify a student who they have observed modeling some element of good citizenship within their classes and team. Every year, the cohort of students who are identified by the teachers is incredibly diverse in terms of the qualities that are being celebrated.  This past Thursday, I met with our first group of Everyday Leaders for a small lunch in my office, disrupting the notion that you’re only ever in the Principal’s office for something less-than-pleasant.  Well, at least I hope they saw lunch with me as something that rose above that less-than-pleasant threshold.  Congratulations to the following students who were part of this first group: Tycho Dickerson, Nicholas Dovnar, Bobby Dunakin, Ryan Edmunds, Rohan Muralidhar, Mukundh Murthy, Isabella Oliveira, Owen Simpson, and Keane Timbol.  

Finally, our most recent edition of Poetry Friday took place at the end of last week right before we entered this super-extended long weekend.  Our most recent reading comes from American poet B.H. Fairchild, whose writings often focus on pleasures and satisfaction that can be found in the “small moments” of one’s day and life’s activities.   Mr. Malloy read “Groceries” and you can also read it by clicking here.  

Have a great (shortened) week, everyone.