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Grey Matters for September 12, 2016; Volume 5, Number 2

posted Sep 11, 2016, 9:33 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:05 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

One of the routines we have at the Shen household is for my wife Melisa and I to spend part of each Sunday reviewing our family’s Google calendar to double check on who’s going to be where, and who’s on deck for driving one of the kids to an activity or practice.  Most of the other weekly routines in our household involve some combination of arguing between the three children, but that’s a story for another day.  This coming week, we have Back to School Night for my wife (she’s a high school teacher) and for our two younger kids, Parker and Addison.  The following week we’ll need to figure out plans for our oldest son’s Back to School Night along with mine - which is also all of yours. RJ Grey’s Back to School Night will be on Thursday, September 22nd, starting at 7:00pm.  For those of you with children who participate in the Band, Drama, String Ensemble 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.  If you also have children at one of the elementary schools and/or high school, here is a sheet that lists the dates of each school’s 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 (the first will be October 17). 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 Monday, September 19th for the ballot. Write-ups can be sent to me at

At Back to School Night, you will see a number of tables hosting a few different school-related organizations, including the PTSO. 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 one reason we are able to continue providing every student with a Student Planbook at no charge, and why we have some great new tables and chairs in the lobby outside of the cafeteria. To learn more about the PTSO, you can visit their site by clicking here.  

Here’s a few other scheduling reminders and notes you might want to keep in mind for the next few weeks:

  • Our annual school picture day is Wednesday, September 21. In the next week or so 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.

  • We have an early release day on Thursday, September 22 (the same day as Back to School Night).  We have three early release days this year (one each in September, February and April) for professional development, and then three other early release dates in December and January for parent-teacher conferences.  On these days, dismissal is at 10:40am, and the regular bus routes are available to students (just at the earlier time).  

  • A friendly reminder that this year our school musical will be “Once Upon a Mattress” and auditions will be taking place this week.  Visit our Theatre Arts page for additional details and information.  

  • Within the next two weeks, most of our after school clubs and activities will have had their first meetings with interested students.  The updated list of clubs and activities will be ready within the next week, 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 we will again be offering Fit Club and Yoga this Fall, but do require students to sign up ahead of time (there’s no cost, just need a head count). To sign up or if you have questions about Fit Club or Yoga, you can email Katy Frey at  

I’m also excited to be sharing with everyone our launch this year of Rise to the Challenge, 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.  This is our pilot year, and so we hope to learn more about how to make this a successful program (and in many ways is a “junior” version of the High School’s Accept the Challenge community service program).  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  

As a school community, we are continuing to place special emphasis on the conversations about the importance of sleep for adolescents.  Last year, Dr. Brand’s Wellness Committee submitted a report about this issue, and we will be continuing to look carefully at school start times and options for shifting start times within our District.  This is a topic that has gained traction both locally and across the country.  This year, all high schools in the city of Seattle do not start earlier than 8:45am. You will all undoubtedly hear more about that initiative over the course of the year.  Along with our efforts around start times, we’ve also made a commitment to educating our students about this topic, 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 an A-B parent)

Kerin Poster.jpghas continued to make 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 returned to RJ Grey last week to deliver a presentation to our 7th grade students and covered a number of topics, two of which I wanted to pass on to you to give you a snapshot of her talk.   First, she highlighted the need to be mindful of the impact that caffeine has on having restful sleep (hint: it really disrupts an adolescent’s sleep when caffeine is in the body).  If caffeine is something you accept as part of your child’s diet, consider not consuming caffeine products after lunch so it has sufficient time to leave your system. Second, being exposed to light and devices that project light have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to fall asleep.  Therefore, think about what it means to be starting into the screen of a digital device (phone, tablet, computer) late at night - and use apps that automatically eliminate “blue light” from screens after a certain time in the evening.  If I’ve piqued your interest on this topic, or if you’ve already been thinking about this issue, Dr. Kerin will also be giving a similar presentation to families at an evening workshop on Wednesday, September 21st (click here for flyer).  Part of our District’s Family Learning Series, Dr. Kerin has kindly agreed host this workshop to help us with generating more dialogue within the community about this important aspect of health and wellness.

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 fouryears 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.  Starting a few years ago, we began a tradition where we schedule the first reading of the year to align with the anniversary of September 11, and select a piece that offers a gentle but sincere acknowledgement of the event.  This year’s selection was a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks entitled, “A Little Girl’s Poem” (click here to read) and offers thoughts and hopes for a better world from the perspective of a young child.  

For those RJ Grey families who this week will be observing the Muslim holiday eid al adha, I hope your celebrations with family and friends are enjoyable and meaningful.  

Have a great week, everyone.