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Grey Matters for September 19, 2016; Volume 5, Number 3

posted Sep 18, 2016, 10:56 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jul 18, 2017, 11:05 AM by James Marcotte ]

Hi Everyone,

My younger sister Gloria wrote to me last week to let me know that she would be visiting my parents and I (she lives in California) for a few days later this month.  That same day, my social media feed included a link to a 2013 article from The Atlantic entitled, “First Children are Smarter, but Why?”.   The timing and immediate appeal of this article could be, along with those well-placed online advertisements, additional evidence that online privacy is all an illusion.  Or perhaps it's just a case of serendipity where the Universe wanted me to have something meaningful to add to the family conversation that emerges during her visit.  I may be an adult who has outgrown most adolescent habits, but I'll always be an older brother. There of course are also studies and articles about the influence of birth order and how the youngest siblings tend to be the funniest, including this British study released in 2015.  Our youngest son could be a candidate for the poster child of funny younger siblings, though I don’t think humor was his end-goal Friday night when our 8-year old stressfully responded to Melisa’s patient efforts to help him manage a difficult situation with the declaration, “your parenting strategy is not working right now” (which we admittedly found quite funny, and were able to keep a straight face in the moment).    

A couple of important scheduling reminders for the next week or two:

  • Back to School Night is this Thursday evening! The program begins promptly at 7pm, and students will be coming home with copies of the schedule for the evening.  If for some strange reason that form disappears between school and home, we will have another copy for you that evening (you won’t be the only one stopping at our table for this). For families whose children participate in one of our Grey Block electives - Band, Chorus, Drama or String Ensemble, there will be short presentations by those teachers from 6:40 to 6:55pm.  

  • Dr. Kirsty Kerin’s presentation on the Science of Sleep is this Wednesday evening (Sept. 21), 7pm in the High School auditorium.  If you haven’t had an opportunity to hear Dr. Kerin speak, I highly recommend it.  Click here for a flyer.  

  • Picture Day is also this Wednesday.  Students may have have received a picture order form last Friday, others will get them on Monday.  Students who plan to order photos should bring the order form (and payment) on Wednesday.  Regardless of whether students order a package of photos, all students will have their photos taken so they can be included in the yearbook.  If you have any questions, please contact Jim Marcotte at

  • Our first early release is this Thursday, September 22 (same day as Back to School Night).  Students will be dismissed at 10:40am, and the regular bus runs will be available at that time.  Please be sure to connect with your children about your and their plans for this day.  A friendly reminder that the building will not be available for students to remain after school, and the Library will be closed due to professional development activities for the staff.  

  • The vast majority of our after school clubs and activities are up and running.  A few more will have their first meetings in the next week or so.  You can view a list of this year’s clubs and activities on the RJ Grey website (or by clicking here).  Please encourage your students to listen carefully during morning announcements for reminders about meeting times and locations.  

At Back to School Night, we will be asking all families to vote for two 7th grade parent representatives to serve on the School Council.  We have six parents who have expressed interest, and we’re grateful for their willingness to serve.  Ballots will be distributed in the first classroom that you’ll be visiting on your child’s schedule.  Please be sure to review each candidate’s biography and vote for two of the candidates.  Before you leave for the evening you can drop the completed ballot in the ballot box located outside the Main Office.  

Many of you might recall a letter that was sent last Spring to all staff and families in the District (click here if you want to see the letter).  It mentioned some of the challenges that exist in our community due in part to an increasingly narrow definition of success and the intensity of expectations that are seemingly more common and ever-present in high-performing school districts.  Our school district decided to partner with Challenge Success, an organization based out of Stanford University, to help us better coordinate efforts already underway and provide new resources and trainings for strategies that we plan to explore.  As part of this partnership with Challenge Success, all of our students in grades 6 through 12 completed the Stanford Adolescent Experience Survey last April, which covers topics such as stress, homework, sleep, parental expectations, academic goals and integrity, and extracurricular commitments.  

The survey results provide a data set of close to 3,000 current A-B students and offer a starting point for wrestling with some complicated topics.  The district’s leadership team spent the summer analyzing the results and planning opportunities for staff and families to also engage with the data this Fall.  As part of these efforts, Dr. Brand’s office will share messages with families across the district that include recommended readings, some results from the student survey, and timely reminders about upcoming community programs and workshops. This month, that information is coming in the form of a short newsletter  focused on the importance and value of what Dr. Denise Pope of Challenge Success calls “PDF:” Playtime, Downtime, and Family time.  Additionally, you can learn more about our school community’s efforts by way of my weekly Grey Matters, and Dr. JoAnn Campbell’s blog postings, which you can access here.  JoAnn (principal of the High School) and I will sometimes distribute messages that we craft together (like these past two paragraphs), as well as ideas and reflections that might be more specific to our respective schools.  

Finally, I want to make sure families in Acton and Boxborough 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. William James Interface is a local initiative in Massachusetts intending to maintain an extensive, frequently updated website listing of available mental health resources by geography and type, and provides a free, confidential mental health and wellness referral line Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm, at 888-244-6843. 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 visit the Interface website here.

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.  Please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself if we haven’t had an opportunity to meet in person.  

Have a great week, everyone.