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Grey Matters, September 18, 2017; Volume 6, Number 3

posted Sep 17, 2017, 10:08 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Sep 24, 2017, 9:37 AM ]

Hi Everyone,

My oldest son is a 7th grade student student this year.  Not at RJ Grey, at another school - for both his and my benefit and well-being.  We have a pretty good relationship (I think), but he’s 12-years old, I’m the Principal, so I see avoiding this collision of worlds as a wise decision.  This is the first year that one of my own children will be the same age as your children who attend RJ Grey, and I feel an elevated sense of kinship with all of you as we journey through this school year and all of the changes and growth that comes during this particular stage of adolescence.  I’ve recently thought about how it will be important for me to commit this year to embracing an even greater level of vulnerability and share some of those inevitable moments when my own parenting choices and instincts deviate a bit completely disregard from the best practices and strategies that get highlighted in Grey Matters. Maybe I’ll institute a color coding system where anything written in red font is something that I think is worth considering but where a hidden camera in my home would reveal a father (me) who might on occasion forsake what he knows might be best in order to achieve a short-term fix or cease fire (Exhibit A: moments where I allow more time on technology than I think is healthy because it affords me a bit of extra peace and quiet).  To kick things off, I am recycling an article in the Washington Post that I shared last Spring and offers suggestions for how parents (and guardians) can stay connected and engaged with their teenage sons.  This was probably my favorite one from last year, as it offered me practical suggestions that I’ve found to be effective (use car rides for conversations) and some important reminders about exercising a bit more patience in certain circumstances, and leaving room for silence.  That last strategy was, admittedly, hard for me to heed last night when my son told me the reason he was continuing to argue with me despite my declaration that our argument was over because “what I’m saying is right and what you said was wrong.”  

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

  • Picture Day is this Wednesday.  Students should have received a picture order form last Friday, some might 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 David Lawrence at  

  • There is no school this Thursday as it is Rosh Hashana.  A happy new year to those of you who observe that holiday.  There will be no homework or assessments scheduled for the following day (Friday).  

  • 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 an updated 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.  

  • Later this week RJ Grey families will be receiving two separate letters/email messages from me.  The first will be about our plans to offer a Late Bus option for Junior High and High School students, and details of this option will be outlined within the letter. The second message will be about our upcoming plans for students and staff to participate in a practice drill of our ALICE protocol.  Given the nature of the protocol I want to make sure families have an understanding of the scope and goal of the exercise.  That letter will likely be sent on Wednesday.  When you receive each of them I would ask you to take a few moments to read them.  

Another important reminder/Save the Date is for RJ Grey’s Back to School Night which 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. Rest assured that schedules for that evening will be coming home.  We will also have a copy of your child’s schedule available at the school in case the copy that your child is supposed to give you somehow gets lost in transit.  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

For those who are new to RJ Grey I want provide you with an introduction to our RJ Grey community garden, which is currently comprised of eight raised beds in one of our enclosed courtyards.  Throughout the summer I may have singlehandedly eaten a few hundred cherry tomatoes that I plucked right off of the vine.  We continue to think about different ways the garden can be incorporated into the curricular and extracurricular programs at our school, and excited about involving a wider range of students in both the care of the garden and the consumption of the food that’s grown.  This past Friday, our Food Service staff made a kale salad with feta cheese and craisins from a recent harvest, serving this year’s first “farm to table” option for our students.  I hope some of your kids who included that salad as part of their meal last week found it to be a nice addition to their  lunch.  

It’s now time for the first reminder of the year about our District’s Challenge Success initiative, now entering it’s second full year and hopefully gaining some momentum.  Challenge Success is an organization based out of Stanford University, and we partner with them to coordinate many of our efforts already underway to champion strategies that encourage the healthy self-development of our students. As a District we share the concerns that many have expressed about the increasingly competitive, pressured, and hyper-focused environment in which we seem to find ourselves.  The emphasis on encouraging a student to do one’s best has often been overtaken by messages about needing to actually be the best.  As a result, there exists an intensity of expectations--on behalf of many parents/guardians and educators alike--that have emerged because of perceived risks if our kids do not pursue an increasingly narrow definition of success.  Our recent and ongoing work around homework practices at each of our schools, as well as discussions about sleep and start times, are just a few examples of our attention to this arena of our work.  In addition, I want to highlight two resources that are focused on outreach to the parent/guardian community on these topics.  First is the AB Wellness website which serves as a clearinghouse of information and resources on topics related to our Challenge Success work.  The second is our annual Family Learning Series which partners with several community organizations to schedule workshops and seminars throughout the year on child development and learning.  With a focus this year on developing resiliency in children, the next Family Learning Series event will be on October 11 at 7pm (in the JH Auditorium) and features Dr. Rob Evans those presentation is entitled Raising Resilient Children in Challenging Times.  I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and work with Dr. Evans and I would strongly encourage you to attend this presentation if your schedule will allow it. If you can’t make the Dr. Evans event, please take a look at the other events scheduled throughout the year.  

As many of you know, Massachusetts passed a comprehensive law in 2010 to address incidents of bullying and harassment in schools.  Among other aspects of the law, it called for every school to implement a research-based curriculum that addressed bullying prevention and prosocial behavior. This year, we are continuing our use of a curriculum created by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), an organization based at Bridgewater State that has been heavily involved in the state’s recent efforts to address bullying and harassment in school. This curriculum will be delivered through our RJ Grey Discussion Group meetings, the first of which is scheduled for next Monday the 25th.  These groups are used to introduce our ongoing goals of having conversations with students about healthy communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution.  

Similar to previous years, we will also continue to incorporate speakers and presentations that we feel can complement and expand our work in this area. For 7th grade students, we have again scheduled a great presentation by MARC specifically on cyberbullying and internet safety.  The presentation by MARC will take place for 7th grade students on Tuesday, October 24th and will again be led by Meghan McCoy (from MARC) who has worked with our school for several years, and is very familiar with our student audience.  

Our Fall sports programs are now in full swing. For families of students participating in our athletic programs: for away games and meets, students should expect to travel to and from those events using school transportation.  There are times that families will need to take their children immediately after the event.  For those situations, parents and guardians need to complete and submit an Athletic Transportation Use of Private Vehicles form. Your student should submit the form to the Main Office in the morning and pick it up later in the day, as it needs to be handed to the coach of the team.  Please note that we’re only allowed to release students to a parent or guardian, and can not allow another individual (friend, neighbor, etc.) to serve that role.  We know that there may be times when that option may be helpful, but we’re not permitted to accommodate those requests.  

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.

Have a great week, everyone.