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Grey Matters, October 2, 2017; Volume 6, Number 5

posted Oct 1, 2017, 9:50 AM by Andrew Shen

Hi Everyone,

I was recently part of a group conversation that ended up including talk of various jobs that each of us held during our adolescent years and led me to think back on my time in 5th grade delivering papers for the Boston Globe (Sundays were brutal), as a fry cook at a snack shack (which, at the age of 13, am now pretty sure broke some labor law), and as part of a house painting crew during the summer before I headed off for college.  The name of the painting company that thought it wise to hire the 18-year old edition of me and three of my best friends to lay brushes on several houses in the Reading, MA area will not be revealed for everyone’s protection.  At some point in my lifetime it would probably be appropriate for me to return to those homes and extend to them heartfelt apologies and offer to scrape the paint off their window panes.  I also thought of these experiences after reading an article (click here) about a recent study that notes a marked delay by current mid to late-teens for when they experience certain “milestones of adulthood” (such as working) and activities that involve greater independence and risk.  Based on four decades of surveys, the report contends that today’s 18-year olds exhibit “similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year olds in the 1970s.”  These milestones include, but aren’t limited to, working, going out without parents, driving, dating, sexual activity, and alcohol consumption.  After reading that list I’m sure many join me in thinking that a delay in some (not all) of those milestones isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The study attributes greater parental involvement in the everyday lives of their children (“parental investment”) and providing greater monitoring and guidance.  I found this study interesting because of how it intersects with the struggles many of us have weighing the benefits and challenges of exerting more parental influence into a situation, and when and how to do so appropriately.  On the one hand, the study notes that the adolescent experience is safer in many regards for more children and a greater percentage of them report positive opportunities at home and a comfort in confiding with parents about problems they might encounter.  A challenge, though, is that more adolescents reach older teen years more unprepared for independence and the responsibilities that typically accompany that independence. How do we appropriately insert ourselves into the lives of our kids while still allowing for healthy levels of struggle and difficult experiences that might serve them well when they do leave the nest? This article doesn’t answer that question, but offers some interesting food for thought.  

Some quick reminders for the next two weeks:   

  • A reminder to 8th grade families that Minuteman Technical High School will be visiting RJ Grey this Wednesday and Thursday to provide students with a brief overview of the school and the application process. Because the town of Boxborough is no longer a member of the Minuteman district, there is a different process for Boxborough students and families interested in a vocational route next year.  Attending the Minuteman presentation still makes sense for Boxborough students given that it could still be the right option for them, and please stay tuned for additional details about the process and options for exploring additional vocational programs.  For any families who want to know more about Minuteman Tech, I would encourage you to email your child's counselors.  

  • A quick heads up to 7th grade families -- starting October 10, every 7th grade team will be traveling to the Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State.  This is a trip that we take every year as part of the science curriculum, and very much emphasizes the importance of communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.  If you'd like to read a bit more about the McAuliffe Center, you can visit their site by clicking here.  Please email your child's science teacher if you have questions about the trip.  

  • One last reminder there is no school next Monday, October 9 in observance of Indigenous People’s Day.  The School Committee voted last year to replace what had previously been observed as Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day on the District’s calendar.  The Junior High and High School also have our first Early Release day on that Thursday, October 12, and staff will then participate in professional learning for the remainder of the day.  Dismissal for students is at 10:40am at the Junior High and all standard bus routes will be available at that time.  Please note that the Late Bus will not be available that day.  I would encourage families to discuss and confirm with their child plans for this early release and expectations regarding transportation and post-release activities.  

With the above mentioned holiday coming up, I wanted to share with families information about homework during long weekends and over school vacation periods. Specifically, that there will be none.  Two years ago, we implemented a school policy that homework would not be assigned for any of our extended vacations (Thanksgiving, Winter, February and April Breaks).  Last year we expanded this expectation to planned long weekends, including this coming weekend, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Memorial Day.  And now those practices are embedded in the District’s new Homework Policy.  Nothing will be due (nor any tests or quizzes scheduled) on the day students return from a long weekend or vacation, and long-term projects that are assigned prior to a vacation will not be due earlier than the Thursday after a vacation.  As I shared with families last year, what lies at the heart of this policy is a belief that these extended periods away from school can and should provide students and families an opportunity to rest and focus on time with each other, free from any school-related obligations. The commitment we (parents and the school) have to academics will be ever-present, and yet I think we would be remiss if we ignored what Challenge Success identified as the need for "honoring the importance of downtime, playtime, and family time."  We hope students and families will see these periods away from school as an additional opportunity to cultivate other parts of their family's life, be it in the form of leisure and social activities, or simply quality time with each other.  

I hope those of you who attended last Thursday’s Back to School Night found the evening to be informative and valuable.  I was able to visit a few classes and it was nice to sit alongside many of you during the presentations.  The level of parent and family support that we have in Acton-Boxborough is no secret, and it’s always exciting to see the wave of parents joining us for the evening to briefly connect and put some faces to names.  Along with following up and connecting with teachers by email or phone, please remember that we have a “team meeting” option that is also available to families.  Teams have, about once a week, a period where parents/guardians can schedule a 20-minute meeting to connect with their child’s team teachers.  This is an opportunity for some families to share information and concerns, and ask questions, and for teachers (and the team counselor) to do the same.  The availability of appointments usually ebbs and flows over the course of the year, so during busy periods the next available appointment is a few weeks out.  If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, you can email our Registrar Lena Jarostchuk ( or call her at extension x3330.  Also, a  “thank you” and welcome to James Dillon and Jack Kline, our newest members of the RJ Grey School Council.  James and Jack are both parents of current 7th grade students, and received the most votes at Back to School Night.  We appreciate their willingness to serve on the Council, and they join 8th grade parents Tom Wolf and Michelle Hanlon, and teachers Maureen Lin and Rebecca Mazonson.  Also, a sincere “thank you” to the other 7th grade parents who put themselves out there and were candidates for the School Council.  

An important reminder that through Tuesday, October 10, all of the schools and programs within Acton-Boxborough will continue to participate in a fundraising effort to support current Red Cross disaster relief efforts.  At the Junior High, our Student Council has been managing a coin drive and collecting donations from students during Homeroom.  Donations from all of the schools and programs will be combined to provide one donation to the Red Cross on behalf of the District. Students and families may also drop off cash or check donations to the Main Office (checks can be made to ABRSD or directly to the Red Cross).  Many thanks to Debbie Ahl (Student Council advisor) and our Student Council officers and representatives for providing leadership for our school’s specific efforts.  Many thanks in advance to everyone for the contributions you may be able to make - be it through our District’s activities or through other channels.  

Finally, many of you may have been following the recent announcement by Amazon that they are interested in establishing a second headquarters for their company, and that Boston is competing with many cities in their efforts to woo the retail behemoth into selecting their community to set up shop.  As interesting as that might be, and potentially a significant development for the area, it’s also important to remind all Acton and Boxborough residents that our community has its own proposed building project to discuss and consider.  I hope by now most of you are at least somewhat aware that we have been studying our District’s long-term building needs, including the current proposal to fund a feasibility study for a new PreK-6 twin elementary school that would be built in partnership with the Massachusetts School Building Authority (partnership = significant reimbursement).  There is a special town meeting scheduled for December 4 where a vote would be taken to fund the feasibility study.  In advance of that, the District is hosting eight informational forums where residents can learn more about the proposal and offer feedback.  The first of these forums is on Tuesday, October 17 at 7pm at the Douglas School.  You can download a flyer with all of the forum dates by clicking here.  While this current plan does not include discussion of funding a heated canopy for my morning traffic duties I would still strongly encourage all of you to play an active role in this process and have your voices heard.  

Have a great week, everyone.