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Grey Matters, October 16, 2017; Volume 6, Number 7

posted Oct 15, 2017, 12:12 PM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Oct 15, 2017, 12:12 PM ]

Hi Everyone,

This past Friday I had the good fortune of attending the opening session of Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) which was being held this year at Northeastern University.  Each year CGI U brings together students and topic experts to discuss proposals and innovative solutions to various global problems, and provides funding to college students who create their own programs that try to address issues at both the local and international level.  As I was driving into Boston late Friday afternoon to attend this event, and observing the stop-and-go traffic on the Mass Pike going westbound, I reminded myself of the commitment I made several years ago to never have a job that involved a long commute and unavoidable traffic.  I worked in Boston prior to joining A-B and whether it was the Mass Pike or Rt. 9, I would get to work irritated, and arrive at home irritated.  A recent article in the Washington Post provided a summary of information from the most recent US Census which notes that the typical American worker spent more than 9 full days last year getting to and from work.  To be sure, the hourlong commute I had back in the day can’t really be categorized as a challenge when compared to the dilemmas that the CGI U students were tackling including the opioid crisis, human trafficking, and dental health in developing nations.  So the opening session offered an important reminder about maintaining perspective when thinking about certain problems and challenges, along with the reminder that work involving change at any level is inherently messy and requires a good deal of patience and resolve.  

At A-B, one challenge (and possible change) that our District has been wrestling with are the early start times of the Junior High and High School.  We’ve reached the point in our work where the benefits of shifting start times is clear and now we enter a critical phase where we have to closely examine the many operational and mechanical demands associated with a potential change.  Additionally we need to think carefully about the collision of various priorities that may emerge, as well as the unintended consequences of the changes we might decide to implement next year.  This community also needs to keep in mind that there is a financial cost for this change, and to weigh that along with other considerations. While I have been fairly transparent (at least through Grey Matters) about my own support for a later start time, I am also well-positioned (I think) to appreciate the complexities that are attached to a shift - there are many, and they aren’t cosmetic .  A number of those complexities contribute to our current focus on a possible start time shift to around 8:00am, rather than 8:30am.  You can read a general progress report of this work by clicking here.  The Superintendent’s Office provided this update to the School Committee at its most recent meeting, and you’ll note in the report that our plan is to submit a final recommendation about school start times to the School Committee on December 7, with a possible vote the following week.  

On Wednesday or Thursday of this week, we will be emailing to families mid-trimester interims.  For those new to RJ Grey, a brief explanation.  “Interims” is the term that we use for what others might call “progress reports”, or “warnings”.  Teachers submit interims for any students who might be struggling in their class - this could be based on performances on tests and quizzes, consistency of homework, or other assessments and observations.  In addition, there are a number of teachers who provide interims as a way to update families, and this could also include feedback about how well a student is performing in a particular class.  This is all to say that there are number of reasons why you might receive an interim from your child’s teachers (note: you may also not receive anything).  If and when you do receive one, please read the information and comments carefully and consider using it as a way to begin a dialogue with your child.  Please also keep in mind that a letter grade is attached to each interim from a teacher, but that letter grade may or may not represent a significant body of assessments and graded work.  I would encourage you to place greater focus on the narrative that the teacher provides and the areas of concern and suggestions for improvement that are offered.  If there is information that you would like clarified, please contact the teacher and begin a dialogue with him or her.  The Fall Trimester does not close until the week of Thanksgiving, so there is plenty of time for students to use this feedback to make adjustments.  

This round of interims is the first time that the Junior High will be moving to electronic grading reports.  Interim reports were previously mailed home vis US Mail and will now be sent by email to the parent/guardian contacts listed on your student’s Emergency Card on the parent portal.  Assuming things go relatively smoothly with our interim reports, it’s likely that we’d also send report cards to families electronically.  Given the sensitive nature of these transmissions, we strongly encourage you to review the email addresses you have provided in the parent portal and that the only email addresses listed are for parents/guardians with joint legal, physical, and/or shared custody and who should have access to these records.  For more detailed instructions on how to verify your email, please click here.  

Halloween is a little over two weeks away, and my guess is that many of your children are thinking about possible costumes not only for an evening of trick or treating, but also for our school’s annual Dress Up Day (which is always scheduled for the day of, or around, Halloween).  I’d like to provide my typical overview of our Dress Up Day to help families with any planning that is currently underway.  We have a tradition at RJ Grey where many students (and teachers) choose to attend school dressed up in costumes on the day of Halloween. Our Student Council officers also organize a fun and lighthearted contest where each homeroom nominates a student/costume and the staff will vote for a winner.  We want to emphasize our intention to keep this light-hearted and good-natured, and to showcase student creativity. We do not want anyone to invest money in this activity.  Please also note that not all students and staff --including yours truly--always dress up, which is perfectly fine.  There are always many students who do not come to school in costume.  

We do have general guidelines that we expect all students to follow when considering their outfit for the day.  Student costumes must avoid props that mimic weapons (swords, firearms, knives, etc.), and clothing that includes profanity and/or might be overly revealing or minimalist in nature. In addition, we must see our students’ faces throughout the day, so wearing a face mask can not be a part of a costume.  We see a restriction on face masks as a reasonable limitation to address physical safety and the fact that lessons are still being taught!  There’s nothing quite like watching a teacher, often dressed in costume as well, providing instruction to a room that includes Mario, Luigi, Harry Potter, a giant bunny rabbit, and Flo the Progressive Insurance spokesperson.  I am asking our parents and guardians to please have a conversation with their children about their costume plans, and to keep the above guidelines in mind.  Halloween Dress Up Day has always been a fun opportunity for our students (and staff) to be playful and maybe showcase another side of their personality.  Our students have always been thoughtful about the event and it makes for one of the more colorful days of the school year.  I’m looking forward to seeing the parade of costumes that enters RJ Grey that morning.  

Finally, we had another edition of Poetry Fridays at the end of last week.  Mr. Malloy read a piece by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins entitled, “To My Favorite 17-Year Old High School Girl.”  This is a piece where Mr. Collins is poking fun at his daughter’s good natured way, but underneath the sarcasm is a father who truly loves his daughter for who she is, even though she may have difficulty cleaning her room.  

Have a great week, everyone.