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Grey Matters, January 1, 2018; Volume 6, Number 17

posted Jan 1, 2018, 7:41 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

Welcome back from Winter Break, and welcome to 2018 (imagine fireworks here).  Put me in the camp that would prefer to have a two-week Winter Break, and then a week off in March (in place of February and April).  That would be accompanied by my idea that involves shortening summer vacation a bit and inserting more three-day weekends into the school year.  This is clearly a debate for another day when nothing else is going on and we have the time and energy to talk about different visions of what makes an ideal school calendar.  The School Committee has the unenviable task of reviewing and determining the school calendar for each year, and it has recently voted on the 2018-2019 calendar and you can download it by clicking here.  Our family didn’t go anywhere for this recent vacation - which was intentional and much preferred. We filled a few days with our extended families, a few trips to the movie theatre, and activities that centered around having the kids burn off a good deal of energy.  I’ve noticed that our motivation for planning activities has become less centered around avoiding “boredom” and instead to fill their time and space with alternatives to having their faces buried in their digital devices.  A noble parenting goal from a father and mother who, along with other adult family members, also gave our kids a number of presents that fed the technology beast. This definitely continues to be an area of modern parenting where my choices and strategies are full of contradiction.  When we were at my parents’ house last week my dad tried to go a bit retro and introduced them to his first typewriter, and a slide rule that he’s kept from his graduate school days.  It was a great effort by my dad, and created almost three whole minutes of museum-visit-worthy entertainment and curiosity.  While all three of my kids are quite tethered to their iPads and Xbox consoles, none of them have developed any interest (yet) in social media and so our household hasn’t needed to navigate that messy world as much, nor have we had the need to set rules for use of social media sites.  For those parents who are knee-deep in it, I read this New York Times article from last January where the author took a peek at the rules that kids themselves establish for how and what to post as they develop and cultivate an online persona.  It offers prompts and questions that you might consider if you have an opportunity to talk with your child about their experiences with social media - perhaps a reasonable new year’s resolution/goal for a few of us?  Whether you had an opportunity during the break to get away on a relaxing adventure, focused on taking care of someone who needed attention, or maybe a bit of both, I hope all of you feel satisfied with how you spent the Winter Break.   

Those who did stick around over the break are now quite familiar with the extremely cold temperatures that have settled into the area, and will likely continue through this week.  This means that I’ll be dressed in full winter gear during morning drop-offs, which often creates an interesting image as I am at times greeting students who are arriving in not a lot of clothing, including shorts.  Please know that you are not alone if your child wants to head outside in shorts or without a jacket.  While I typically joke around about this phenomenon with kids and parents, I would like to make a more sincere and serious request that parents hold the line, at least for this week, with their kids in terms of appropriate clothing choices as it relates to the single-digit temperatures we’ll be experiencing in the morning.  The frigid temperatures are leading us to postpone the start of this year’s Ski Club, which was originally scheduled to have its first session tomorrow (Tuesday) after school.  Ski Club families should have already received notification from Lynne Kondracki, but this is another important reminder that we are now planning to start on Tuesday, January 9 instead.  

An important note about this week: our last set of parent-teacher conferences is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, January 4, from 5pm to 8pm.  This is our first year with an evening session and I want to provide a reminder of what this means for our school schedule on Thursday and Friday.  

  1. Thursday, January 4 is a full day of school from 7:30am to 2:06pm.  

  2. Parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday, January 4 will be held during the 5pm to 8pm window.  

  3. The following day, Friday, January 5, is an early release day for all students and staff.  School will be from 7:30am to 10:40am, and buses will be available for their “regular routes.”  

Here’s additional updates and reminders for the first few weeks of January, and then a bit of important information about an upcoming school initiative:

  • There is no school for all Acton-Boxborough students on Monday, January 15 for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  

  • The RJG Winter Band Concert is scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, January 9, and the Winter Chorus and String Ensemble Concert is scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, January 17.  Both events begin at 7pm and taking place in the RJ Grey auditorium.  

  • Yearbooks are still on sale through January 19.  Instructions for how to order a copy can be found by clicking here.

  • A friendly but important reminder about our community service recognition efforts via Rise to the Challenge.   For 8th grade students, please note that any service hours that you complete between now (January 2) and the rest of the school year can be counted towards the High School community service program since their calculations are recorded based on the calendar year.  In other words, service hours that 8th grade students fulfill moving forward can be included in the hours they complete as a 9th grade student next year.  Be sure to review information about the High School’s program and tracking forms. You can learn more about the High School program by clicking here.

Finally, I want to provide families with a preview of a letter that families of 7th grade students will be receiving later this week by email as well as US Postal Mail, that discusses our school’s implementation of the Signs of Suicide (SOS) lesson and mental health screening tool.  

Most of you are familiar with the incredibly difficult and challenging year our schools and community experienced last year with the suicides of current and former students.  Along with pursuing additional staff training and partnerships with outside professionals and local agencies, Acton Boxborough made the commitment to conduct annually the Signs of Suicide lesson and the Brief Screening for Adolescent Depression to students in 7th and 9th grade. The Signs of Suicide Prevention Program is a universal program for middle and high school students that has proven effective in helping students who are concerned about themselves or a friend.  It is the only school-based suicide-prevention curriculum listed by the Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) in its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression.  

At RJ Grey, the program is scheduled this year to take place in 7th grade team classes during the week of January 22 and January 29, with two teams scheduled per week.  For parents and guardians who would like to preview the Signs of Suicide lesson and the video used during the lesson, we are hosting an information session on Monday, January 8 at 6pm in the Junior High Library.  Joining us that evening will be Dr. Larry Berkowitz who is the Director and co-founder of Riverside Trauma Center.  At that session we will provide an overview of the program and answer questions that parents/guardians might have. Families of 7th grade students will be receiving a letter about the SOS lesson and mental health screening tool, along with a consent form that we need parents and guardians to return by Friday, January 12th.  Families will receive a copy of the letter via email this Wednesday, and another copy of the letter via US Postal Mail on Thursday or Friday.  The consent form allows you to select your child’s level of participation in the program.  Thank you in advance for your assistance with our continued implementation of this important program.  

Finally, before the start of conferences on December 19 we had our annual Staff Appreciation Luncheon which was hosted by our amazing PTSO. Educators are no different when it comes to our stomachs being the quickest way into our hearts.  Par for the course, the food that was made and donated by our families was much appreciated and quickly consumed.  Many thanks to parents Tracey Estabrook and Mai Nguyen for taking on the coordination, planning, and set up of this event, and the many families who contributed to an inviting and filling spread.  

Have a great week, everyone.  Welcome back.