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Grey Matters, September 11, 2017; Volume 6, Number 2

posted Sep 17, 2017, 10:07 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Sep 24, 2017, 9:37 AM ]

Hi Everyone,

As we begin our first full week of school and you discuss and negotiate with your kids about the best habits for developing a healthy rhythm to start each day, be aware of the reports of a recent study out of Japan whose results suggest that eating ice cream for breakfast may improve mental performance and alertness.  I don’t know much about this study, which made the online news rounds last year, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t think it’s a stretch to accept that a dose of milk and sugar in the morning might jump start the day.  Whether eating this creamy treat each morning constitutes a healthy eating practice is a bit more questionable.  If any of your kids get a hold of this article you might want to gently point out to them that the study was conducted in partnership with an unnamed company that manufactures sweets, though I am not necessarily sure that tidbit will change their minds about the legitimacy of the results.  While many of you are adjusting to the earlier schedule (compared to our elementary start times) I would encourage all families to prioritize their kids eating something of substance in the morning.  Some of our later lunches are scheduled closer to noon and it can be a long morning on an empty stomach.  I myself have, on occasion, eaten my lunch at around 9:30am given how early we start our days.  I hope that you and your kids had a successful start of this school year and that our 7th graders, and students new to AB, are feeling good about their transition to RJ Grey.   

One of the weekly 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.   This coming week, we have Back to School Night for Melisa (she’s a high school teacher) and then two separate ones for our three kids. Our family’s fourth and final Back to School Night later this month is mine - which is also all of yours. RJ Grey’s Back to School Night will be on Thursday, September 28th, 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.  

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 6:30pm (the first will be October 16). We are looking for 7th grade parents who are interested in serving on the Council.  If you have any interest, please submit a short (5-7 sentence max) paragraph about yourself by noon on Monday, September 25th 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.  

If you’ve had an opportunity to visit the Junior High and come through the main entrance, then you’ve walked alongside or under the rotunda area.  Each year, art teacher Holly Vlajinac designs an installation that is created by 8th grade students in her Art 2 class and is then hung in the open space.  This year’s installation features mobiles in various shades and tints of specific colors and provides the entrance of the school with some much needed color and a celebration of student (and teacher) work.  This year we have the added benefit of a time lapse video (also created by the talented Ms. Vlajinac) that offers the viewer an opportunity to see the space evolve into what you’ll now enter each time you visit the school this year.  

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 20. 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 David Lawrence at Each year, we have worked with our vendor to find ways for any family who wants a set of photos to receive one.

  • A friendly reminder that this year our school musical will be “Singin in the Rain” and audition workshops 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 - the current list on the website is not completely updated.  This year 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 continued efforts to promote Rise to the Challenge, which is something we started last year as a 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.  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 the District’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.   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 A-B parent) has 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 is returning to RJ Grey on Monday to deliver a presentation to our 7th grade students and covering a number of topics on the importance of sleep and strategies that are readily available to all of us to achieve better sleep each night.  I’ll be sure to provide a summary of Kirsty’s talk in next week’s Grey Matters.  

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 five years 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 that was composed by elementary school students in a New York classroom the year after September 11 and is entitled, List of 'Don't Forgets' and 'Remembers’.  Click here if you’d like to read the poem.  

Have a great week, everyone.