Eye on the Junior High



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Good afternoon,


Today while I was at lunch duty in our cafeteria, a student asked if she could go to her locker to get her sweatshirt because she was “freezing!” I had to ask, “really?” She was serious and she returned a few minutes later with her sweatshirt! You have likely heard from your student about their experiences with heat this week at RJ Grey. Many of our classrooms do not have air conditioning. This is the result of ours being in a building built in 1957, and renovated in 1966 and 2002. Some areas of our building, including our cafeteria have air conditioning…so maybe the student I mentioned above was actually chilly! Regardless, we are very much hoping for a drop in temperature and humidity over the weekend to make next week feel more comfortable for learning. I tend to lean toward the positive when thinking about our students and teachers, but this week, they’ve gone above and beyond. While heat can make me cranky, tired, and all the typical emotions one feels when sweating, I so appreciate the positive attitudes that our staff and our students are bringing to school this week. They are all doing an amazing job of making the best of a difficult situation.


Today we had our second session of Advisory of the year. This month’s Advisory theme focuses on Belonging. Today, each group practiced a Community Circle, which is a protocol we use when discussing an important topic. Last year we used a few Community Circles when talking about challenging issues we were facing as a school. Today, the questions in the circle were light - “Ice cream: cone or bowl?” And “if you could time travel, where and when would you go and why?” By having these types of light questions now, framed in a pretty prescribed way, we are hoping to have students start to feel comfortable sharing and talking. We know that at some point, we’ll need a Community Circle to deal with something more heavy. Advisory and the work that we do in our classrooms focuses on lots of things, but to start the year thinking about Belonging is intentional. When we intentionally include all kids in various classes, including Homeroom, English, Grey Block, and all the others, we are hoping that all students find a sense of belonging in one or more of those groups. We know life is much more fun when we feel included and a part of something. I hope your student is starting to feel a part of something at RJ Grey.


The Acton Food Pantry has always been a strong partner of the AB Schools. If you or someone you know could benefit from the resources available through the Food Pantry, please be in touch with them. Please see here for some information. Another strong partner of ours is Danny’s Place. They are moving into a new space and having a celebration; please see below for more information.


Join the community celebration for Danny’s Place on Sunday, September 17th, and tour its newly renovated expansive space at 543 Mass Ave in West Acton. The event will begin at 11am with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house!  We invite the community to meet the staff and learn more about the exciting upcoming program offerings.  At 12:30pm, join the celebration on the Gardner Field lawn for family-friendly activities, music, food and beverage for purchase from sponsors True West and West Side Creamery, and an all-ages cornhole tournament fundraiser. For more information and to register for the tournament, please visit dannys-place.org/cornhole.


Upcoming Dates

  • Monday, September 11: Library closed to students after school

  • Wednesday, September 13: Ribbon Cutting at the AB Resource Center

  • Monday, September 18: Early Release at 1 pm

  • Tuesday, September 19: School Picture Day at RJ Grey

  • Wednesday, September 20: iReady ELA Diagnostic Assessment

  • Monday, September 25: No School, Yom Kippur

  • Thursday, September 28: RJ Grey Back to School Night: 7 - 8:45 pm


The following flyers have been approved for distribution by our Superintendent’s Office: 


Take care and have a great weekend!
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Sep 07, 2023 at 3:36 PM
  

Good afternoon,


You are receiving this email because your email is listed as a parent or guardian for a student at RJ Grey. However, going forward, this version of Eye on the Junior High will only be sent to individuals who request it. If you were signed up in a previous year and haven’t unsubscribed, you’re still on the list. Click here to sign up for the Eye on the Junior High and Daily Announcement emails.


In this weekly memo, I tend to write about things going on at RJ Grey and I often share a bit of an anecdote from the week at school or from my own family. I always end the memo with a list of upcoming important dates. While I happen to think it’s a worthwhile memo to sign up for, I will not feel bad if you choose to streamline the email you receive and not subscribe. If you choose not to receive the email, you can always check out our website to locate back issues of this memo. 


I am writing this edition of Eye on the Junior High after we’ve welcomed our 7th graders yesterday and our 8th graders today! So far, we’ve had a really smooth start to the year - I hope the same is true in your home. We are well aware that team placement can be a struggle when students don’t immediately recognize a good friend on their new team. As the parent of a 4th grader, 1st grader, and preschooler, I saw this happen on a smaller scale with my own kids this summer. Because my kids are young and don’t have their own technology, it was left to the parents to text and figure out which friends were assigned to which classrooms. While my own kids were content with their placements and teachers, there was still a bit of trepidation as they went on their first days of school this week. It is completely normal if the same was true for your 11, 12, and 13 year olds!


We’ve already held assemblies with each grade over the past two days. We introduced them to important adults, we reviewed expectations for behavior, the lunchroom, buses, and other items. I talked to them about the value of community and asked them to really go out of their way to welcome students who are coming to school at AB for the very first time. We have new students from neighboring towns here in Massachusetts, but we also have students from different states and different countries. I applaud those courageous souls who are starting in a brand new school this week. I hope you will all encourage your students to be brave and reach out to someone new and include them. Having each student feel like they belong at RJ Grey is a huge goal for us. When you have small moments with your own kids, ask them about some of the students in their classes and encourage them to include someone new. I appreciate your help with this.


During the spring and summer, we did a lot of hiring of teachers, assistants, and office staff. There is a great energy within our staff this week and we are very excited to include our new staff in our ongoing work. A very important person that I need to highlight works in our Main Office. If you were with us over the past two years, you may have gotten to know Eileen Matarese. This summer, Eileen found a different position to meet her needs and we wish her the best of luck in her new role. We are very fortunate to welcome Ms. Christine Hanley to the role of Main Office Receptionist. She is the one who will answer the phone if you call, will write your child a dismissal pass if they come in with a note, and she will welcome students when they arrive after 8:00 am. Christine worked at RJ Grey for many years as a teaching assistant, then moved on to roles at McT and Conant before returning to us this summer. We are very grateful for Christine’s presence and her positive attitude. Please welcome her when you get the chance!


There is a lot happening to start the year, so please read below for important upcoming dates.

Upcoming Dates

  • Monday, September 4: No School, Labor Day

  • Monday, September 11: Library closed to students after school

  • Wednesday, September 13: Ribbon Cutting at the AB Resource Center

  • Monday, September 18: Early Release at 1 pm

  • Tuesday, September 19: School Picture Day at RJ Grey

  • Wednesday, September 20: iReady ELA Diagnostic Assessment

  • Monday, September 25: No School, Yom Kippur

  • Thursday, September 28: RJ Grey Back to School Night: 7 - 8:45 pm


The following flyers have been approved for distribution by our Superintendent’s Office: 


Take care and have a great Labor Day weekend!
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Aug 31, 2023 at 11:57 AM
  

Good afternoon,


This will be the final edition of Eye on the Junior High for the year. I hope you’ve found it informative and that it has provided a snapshot into the comings and goings of RJ Grey. As we get set to mark the end of the year, there are probably some feelings for your kids about this transition. On the surface, who doesn’t love the feeling that comes when walking out of school on the last day?! I remember my own last days of school growing up. With such anticipation for the year to end, I remember being somewhat disappointed by the few days that followed until whatever version of a summer routine took shape. Going from a predictable, scheduled school year, to nothing can be a shock to the system…for educators, too! While I do work most of the summer, the pace changes and I have some vacation time built in. But if your student is sullen for a day or two, or just not acting normally, that’s okay! Encourage them to connect with friends, read a book, or help pick up the house! Those three tasks are on my own kids’ lists for once school lets out!


Next Friday, our students and staff will gather in the high school auditorium (a location able to hold us all), and mark the end of the year. We’ll give out a few awards, hear from our Jazz Band and Select Choir, recognize our retiring teachers, and watch the end of year slideshow. This tends to be one of my favorite events of the year. I’ll share a few words with the students, and while not yet prepared, I’ll thank them for a great year. They embraced our Advisory program for the first time. They supported each other and their classmate when a tragic accident occurred. They spoke up and showed outrage when offensive graffiti and language were used at our school. They were kind to their peers and teachers and made me and our admin team very proud to know them. We have really great students, really strong teachers, and a wonderfully supportive community of families.


If you are with us next year as the parent of an 8th grader, or maybe your current 6th grader is coming to RJ Grey, we look forward to continuing to work with you. If you are moving on from RJ Grey to the next chapter, I wish you and your children all the best this summer and in future years.


On Tuesday, I sent out an email with end of year dates and responsibilities. I received a few replies that individuals got a blank email, while I know plenty of others received it. Just in case you didn’t see my message, I’m copying that info here to offer one more chance to know what’s happening in the next week.

Upcoming Dates

  • Friday, June 9: 8 Red field trip

  • Friday, June 9: 8th grade celebration, 7 - 9 pm. 8th grade students must purchase tickets for $5 before the end of the day on Thursday

  • Monday, June 12: 8 Blue and 8 Green tour of ABRHS

  • Tuesday, June 13: 7th grade field trip to Mel’s Funway

  • Wednesday, June 14: 8 Gold and 8 Red tour of ABRHS

  • Thursday, June 15: 8th grade field trip to Canobie Lake Park

  • Friday, June 16: Last day of school, early release at 11:10 am

If your child is not going to be here through June 16, they are responsible for telling their teachers and returning the items below before leaving for the summer. As parents and guardians, we ask that you let our Main Office know if your student will not be here through June 16 so that we can properly record attendance and student whereabouts each day. Please email us at [email protected] to tell us if your child will not be here through June 16.

Items to Return

All students must return school-owned materials before they depart for the summer:

1.     Return the school-issued Chromebook, Charger, and Stylus. If lost, please do not purchase your own replacement as each item needs to be the same model;

2.     Return any library books that are due to the library;

3.     Return any school-issued textbooks, classroom library books, or other items to teachers;

4.     Pay any remaining balance on your child’s school lunch account.

We will send a bill to families this summer for any item(s) not returned. Thank you for helping your child locate any/all of the items listed above.


The following flyers have been approved for distribution by our Superintendent’s Office: NARA Summer Events, Workplace Safety and Restrictions for Youth


Take care and have a great summer!
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Jun 08, 2023 at 4:41 PM
  

Good afternoon,


We are closing in on the end of the year with lots of classwork wrapping up, alongside lots of celebrations, too. Next Friday, June 9th (7 - 9 pm), we are hosting the 8th Grade Celebration. This event is always one of my favorites of the year. Most students dress up a bit and come spend two hours in our cafeteria which gets transformed into a beautiful venue! The work of the evening is mainly supported by parent volunteers. If you are able to help in any capacity with decorating, cleaning up, or donating food or drink, we’d appreciate you! Below is a message directly from the parent organizers, seeking your support:


The 8th Grade End-of-Year Dance/Celebration is next week -- Friday, June 9th! We still need tons more help in order make the dance a success. Specifically, volunteers are urgently needed to help with decorating on the day of the dance, and clean up after the dance. We also need many more donations of hot appetizers, chicken fingers/wings, Gatorade, watermelon, baked goods, and paper products.  Click here for more info and to sign up to help! Also, please follow the PTSO on Instagram - @abrptso - for updates on the dance!

 

This is a PTSO-sponsored event – if you haven’t had a chance to make a donation to the PTSO this year, please consider donating to support the dance and all of the PTSO’s work. Use the following link to make a Venmo donation: https://www.venmo.com/u/ABRPTSO or visit the PTSO website for additional ways to make a donation.


As we are now officially in June, it’s time to turn our attention to our retiring educators! RJ Grey is wishing our best to three of our long-time educators. In our assembly on the last day of school, I’ll recognize each of these teachers in front of our 800+ students. Each year, when our students bust out a thunderous applause for our retiring teachers, my heart swells with gratitude and amazement for each of these educators. I’m twenty years into my work in education; looking ahead another 15 or 20 years seems daunting. The teachers below have my gratitude and appreciation for careers well spent educating young minds.


Brian Crossman starting working at RJ Grey in 2000, after spending 10 years teaching middle school technology in Lowell. While Mr. Crossman has been positioned at RJ Grey for the past 23 years, he has always actually worked for Minuteman High School in its outreach program; his course has been called Minuteman Tech during that time. Mr. Crossman has taught just about every 7th grader at RJG in all of those years - coming close to 10,000 students. His work with developing a bobsled unit, rockets, and other memory-making experiences for our kids will be remembered always. Aside from teaching, he’s been an AB track coach for many years, leading the boys’ team to over 20 DCL titles, 4 Division 1 state titles, 1 All-state title and developing 25 All-Americans. Brian is planning to retire on Cape Cod with his wife. If you know Brian, you’ll appreciate that he hopes to “work out twice a day and get completely ripped.” We’ll miss Mr. Crossman next year but we are so happy that he gets to enjoy his time with family!


Deb Rimpas is retiring as a Health teacher at RJ Grey, a position she’s held since 2004. Before even that point, Deb worked at AB as a consultant, utilizing skills from her first career as a social worker. She lead parent education programs, worked with Kindergartners and Youth Safety Officers, and facilitated lessons on substance abuse prevention, anti-bullying, and sexual harassment, among others. Since taking on the Health teaching position at RJ Grey, she expanded the nutrition curriculum to include cooking. She developed the after school Cooking Club, something she’s very proud of. She has advised the Ping Pong club, Anime club, and coached cross country for several years. Deb has been an active and involved member of the RJ Grey staff for years, including representing the off-team department as a member of the Leadership Team. Deb doesn’t have a clear plan for retirement, but is looking forward to spending time with family, including her grandson, and traveling. 


Mae Shoemaker is retiring from teaching 8th grade science at RJ Grey, where she has worked since 1998. In addition to her love for teaching science, and making connections with students and families, Mae is a prolific coach at AB. She has coached the AB field hockey team to several state championships, she coaches lacrosse, and serves as a referee for swim meets. Mae has run the Boston Marathon for more than 25 years. While we will see Mae back in the fall continuing to coach and working with kids, she is excited to have more time to spend with her own children and their growing families. Summer happens at her family home on the shore in New Jersey. While summer is always exciting for teachers, this one will feel extra special for Mae, who wraps up a career well-spent, educating RJ Grey students in the field of science.


To all three of our retiring educators, I wish them a hearty congratulations and my deepest respect for their work affecting all of our students, our staff, and many families over the years.


Our last day of school this year is on Friday, June 16. That day is an early release and we will dismiss students at 11:10 am. If your vacation plans start a bit earlier, please be in touch with our Main Office to let us know. We do expect students to return all school-owned items before they leave: this includes library books, textbooks, Chromebooks with charger and stylus, and any other materials loaned to students. We will send out bills for items that are not returned prior to the end of the year. 


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Thurs, June 1: Empty Bowls Event, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

  • Fri, June 2: ABRHS Graduation

  • Mon, June 5: Library closed after school

  • Wed, June 7: Performing Arts field trip

  • Fri, June 9: 8th grade Celebration, 7 - 9 pm

  • Tues, June 13: 7th grade field trip to Mel’s Funway

  • Thurs, June 15: 8th grade field trip to Canobie Lake

  • Fri, June 16: Last day of school, dismissal at 11:10 am


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Jun 01, 2023 at 4:30 PM
  

Good afternoon,


Since February, (which seems like years ago, and not only 3 months) I have been involved with the District’s Leadership Coalition to Eliminate Hate and Bias Speech. These meetings have involved a broad group of educators, some junior high and high school students, and several representatives from our families. We’ve spent time trying to narrow in on the real problem we’re trying to solve. In our last meeting, we feel like we got closer to identifying the things, that, if we improved, would help to eliminate some of the hate and bias language and actions that we’ve seen increase in recent years. 


Our group has developed a statement of the problem:


There is an underlying culture that exists in Acton-Boxborough school community which allows hate and bias speech to be perpetuated that includes the following characteristics:


  • Individuals engage in a range of hate and bias speech or behaviors that serve to dehumanize members of our community who belong to marginalized groups. These include:

    • Jokes and slurs that ridicule or reinforce stereotypes

    • Behaviors that target, demean or harass individual(s)

    • Public displays of hate

  • Hate and bias speech takes place in different settings, and is often influenced and amplified by the use of social media

  • Some individuals minimize, dismiss, or normalize the existence of hate and bias speech in our schools and community.

  • There are inconsistent and/or insufficient responses by educators and students to interrupt the hate and bias speech in the moment enough to modify behaviors and culture


The first step, and an important one, was to identify the problem. The next steps are to identify action steps we can all take to help make progress. While there needs to be a mutli-pronged approach, one of the steps RJ Grey is taking, is to introduce the A World of Difference program at the junior high next year. We’ve been working with the Anti-Defamation League since the winter and are making steps to move forward with this work. A World of Difference is a program that uses a peer-leader model whereby a group of student leaders are trained to recognize and challenge bias and bullying; practice anti-bias facilitation skills; and take on a leadership role in our school. We’re excited to roll out this program in the fall and recruit next year’s 7th and 8th graders to take an active part in learning about how to accomplish this work. We anticipate working with the ADL in the fall to train our peer leaders, and then push the work into other parts of our school day to impact all of our students and staff. Our admin team and teachers will also consider what other steps we can take here at RJ Grey to help in this important work. More to come next year!


Thank you to everyone who supported their 7th grader who attended our celebration last Friday night. From fancy dresses and sport coats, to shorts and sweatshirts, they wore it all! The almost 300 students who attended seemed to have a great time in our gyms. Before leaving for my own middle school dances, my mom would always tell me and my friends, “If someone asks you to dance, you have to say yes!” Knowing the courage that it takes to ask someone to dance, she felt it would be devastating to hear “no” as an answer. I didn’t get asked to dance a lot, and that was okay, but I always said yes if asked! Most our own celebration didn’t involve couples dancing at all, which I’m okay with. For many of our kids, there was some nervous energy for the first few minutes, not knowing what to expect. After a few minutes and a few bags of Doritos, they settled in and had a great time. Thank you to the adults who helped set up for the celebration, helped serve snacks, and endlessly refilled gallon jugs to keep our students hydrated. Durga Nirgudkar, Elise Calisi, Melissa MacGillvray, Pooja Garg, Sujatha Kapoor, and Caitlin Hazelgrove all assisted in a big way and I thank them for their help! The 8th grade end of year celebration will be on Friday, June 9th from 7 - 9 pm. We hope for an equally fun time for our students before they head off to high school. 


We have been collecting student permission slips for our upcoming end of year trips. Our 7th graders will go to Mel’s Funway on June 13th. Our 8th graders will go to Canobie Lake Park on June 15th. If you haven’t yet signed a permission slip or turned in a check, please send those in with your student as soon as you can. If the fee is any trouble for you, please just let us know and we’re happy to help out. We always find that these trips are great ways to close out the year and have our students experience their community one last time before leaving for the summer.


However you choose to spend this Memorial Day Weekend, I hope you enjoy it! 


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Mon, May 29: No School, Memorial Day

  • Thurs, June 1: Empty Bowls Event, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

  • Fri, June 2: ABRHS Graduation

  • Mon, June 5: Library closed after school

  • Fri, June 9: 8th grade Celebration, 7 - 9 pm

  • Tues, June 13: 7th grade field trip to Mel’s Funway

  • Thurs, June 15: 8th grade field trip to Canobie Lake

  • Fri, June 16: Last day of school


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On May 25, 2023 at 4:48 PM
  

Good evening,


This week’s message covers several important reminders and invitations; thanks for reading on!


  • You are invited to our Empty Bowls Event on Thursday, June 1 from 5:30 - 7:30. If you like ice cream, plan to be here! This event is put on by our visual and performing arts departments. You’ll have the chance to buy ice cream in a handcrafted clay bowl designed by our 7th grade art students. You can also catch our Select Choir performing, and you can see some of our student art on display. This is a fun, lowkey event that I would love to see many of our families attend! The event costs $5 per person, with a $20 cap per family. All proceeds benefit the Acton Food Pantry.

  • One of our Advisory groups has organized a food drive, also benefiting the Acton Food Pantry. Students and adults are welcome to bring non-perishable goods through May 26. We have a drop-off location in our lobby. Thanks for your support!

  • On Monday, I emailed all of our families with a request to complete two surveys. All schools in the District are having families complete the Panorama survey on Family Engagement. At RJ Grey, we wanted to include two open-ended questions for families to answer, as well. If you haven’t already done so, we’d appreciate your response on these two surveys for RJ Grey families: Panorama Survey, RJ Grey Open-Ended Questions

  • Finally, we have 7th grade end of year celebration tomorrow night, from 7 - 9 pm in the gym. It helps all of us when students know exactly how they’re getting home after the event. The fun ends promptly at 9:00. We will stay with any student who is awaiting a ride, so to save your child the potential embarrassment of hanging with me until their ride comes, thanks for being on time!

  • Finally, the Acton Food Pantry has asked us to share that their Chef Challenge Fundraiser is back on June 11. Please check out their site for how to participate and get tickets. 


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Fri, May 19: 7th grade Dance, 7 - 9 pm

  • Wed, May 24: Spring Band Concert, 7 pm

  • Thurs, May 25: Math iReady Assessment

  • Thurs, May 25: Spring Chorus Concert, 7 pm

  • Mon, May 29: No School, Memorial Day

  • Fri, June 2: ABRHS Graduation


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On May 18, 2023 at 6:19 PM
  

Good evening,


Our theme for Advisory this month is Gratitude. On Wednesday, most of our advisory groups watched a brief video on the health and brain benefits that come when we focus on gratitude. Many of our students were thankful for friends, pets, and you, their families. Students wrote what they were thankful for and folded those into tiny hearts or stars. After a bit of trial and error, we got our fingers into origami-mode and made it happen.


Every Friday, the RJ Grey administrators share the responsibility of sending the weekly update for the next week to our staff. On a rotating basis, we also include a message about something going on in our own lives, or something that we’ve seen in school that week. Last week was my turn and I wrote about three of my own most memorable and important teachers over the years. I told the staff about my 3rd grade teacher, 6th grade teacher, and high school Spanish teacher. I recalled these teachers’ kindness, humor, passion, and other reasons why they are memorable to me. One of them quite literally influenced my decision to become a Spanish teacher.  I don’t always show or practice gratitude, but according to the video we watched this week, doing so could make me healthier and happier!


We are coming up to the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. If you have a minute this week, or next, and you can write a quick note of thanks to one of your child’s teachers, it would be most welcome. Our teachers and staff at RJ Grey work really hard to provide excellent learning experiences for your children. They prepare lessons that will stretch your child. They grade work with your child’s face in mind and know when they’ve mastered something they previously struggled with. They plan field trips to Boda Borg or the Peabody Essex Museum to expose your students to something different, fun, and important. Saying thank you and showing gratitude is most appreciated by our staff.


Here are several items that have been approved for sharing by our Superintendent’s Office:


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Mon, May 15: Early Release at 1 pm

  • Tues, May 16: iReady ELA Assessment

  • Fri, May 19: 7th grade Dance, 7 - 9 pm

  • Wed, May 24: Spring Band Concert, 7 pm

  • Thurs, May 25: iReady Math Assessment

  • Thurs, May 25: Spring Chorus Concert, 7 pm

  • Mon, May 29: No School, Memorial Day


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On May 11, 2023 at 7:13 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope you are all well. If you’ve planted grass seed, plants, or fertilized recently, you hit the jackpot with this cool and rainy weather! I am eagerly looking forward to this weekend when this dreary pattern is supposed to let up a little. 


In last week’s message, I referenced meeting many of our current 6th grade families last Wednesday night. One of the topics I shared with them was the importance of school attendance. I said, “daily attendance is important.” Many of you might be thinking I spend most of my day making obvious statements! I do…but sometimes I say more profound things, too. My point in sharing this with incoming families, and today, sharing with you, is to remind all of us that when students are absent, learning continues to happen at school, and those experiences are hard to replicate. Entering 7th grade is a good time to assess whether your child can tolerate the missed in person learning while on a trip to Disney or a cruise to the Bahamas during the school year. Entering the junior high years means that learning continues to happen while families are away, and it is then necessary for the student to work harder to make up that lost learning.


Since Covid, we’ve all placed much more importance on checking in with our own bodies. We are much more cautious with a stuffy nose, a cough, or a mild fever. I want all of us to continue with those precautions as they keep us all healthy. The thing our team has noticed over the past few years is that the frequency of long weekends away, or entire weeks of vacation, during non-school vacation times, has increased. We have only 180 days per year with our students. We do our best to fill each one of those with engaging lessons, interesting topics, hands-on science labs, and some joy and friendship. Students will be sick, will need to attend a funeral, and will need to travel out of state for a weekend. Those things are all necessary and important. My point in talking to the families last week was to say, if you travel to Disney, the Caribbean, or another continent, your child will be missing out on what’s happening in the day-to-day. No amount of extra help after school or checking Google Classroom will make up for the missed experience of being in school. Our teachers will do their best to make sure your child knows what they missed and how to access ways to make up some learning. But, nothing can replace being in the room when the learning took place.

 

This message is not to shame anyone, nor to make anyone alter plans for these next 6 weeks. I am just starting to socialize that daily attendance is important, especially starting in the 7th and 8th grades. If you ever write to us and ask, “can we take a trip to Minnesota for an extended weekend?,” I will answer, “Sounds fun, and you should make decisions for your family.” I would likely let you know that your child will have some work to make up when they return and they can check in with their teachers about when to make up any assessments or other learning. But if you are planning an important experience for your family - do it! Just be ready to support your child with their learning when they return.


This is a more weighty topic than I tend to write about. But with this particular column, I think it’s important to share school-wide topics that are on our minds. However this lands for you, thanks for considering the message. Please reach out if you have any questions.


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Fri, May 5: 7th grade Math MCAS Session 2

  • Fri, May 5: Student Council applications due

  • Mon, May 8: School Council Meeting at 7 pm on Zoom

  • May 8 - 12: Teacher Appreciation Week

  • Tues, May 16: iReady ELA Assessment

  • Fri, May 19: 7th grade Dance, 7 - 9 pm


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On May 04, 2023 at 5:38 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope you all had a nice vacation. My family did a few activities close to home, including cleaning out parts of our home. If you’ve ever had a time when you’ve deeply purged, you probably agree that it feels great. Our living areas aren’t necessarily picked up after because, well, life continues to happen. But you have a good feeling when the dark corners of the attic, basement, and garage feel less jam packed. Aside from manual labor, we got to see some friends, visit some restaurants, and spent some time in Portsmouth, NH. I hope you had a good week with your friends and family.


Last night, our team had the chance to welcome more than 350 parents and guardians of 6th graders to RJ Grey. I was shocked at the turn-out; we exceeded attendance from any year since the Pandemic, and I would even venture to say we surpassed pre-Pandemic crowds. If any of those new families are reading this today, thank you for coming and welcome to your first Eye on the Junior High!


Today was our first day of Math MCAS for 8th graders. We’ll continue tomorrow with Session 2 for 8th graders. They will take the Science test next Tuesday (May 2). Our 7th graders will take their Math tests next Thursday and Friday (May 4 and 5). Thanks for reminding your child to check if their Chromebook is charging the night before each of their tests. This makes the administration of the grade level assessments go more smoothly.


If you’re thinking about the summer, like many of us are, I want to let you know about an opportunity to apply for a scholarship for summer programs. The Doli Atamian Campership Program provides scholarships to summer camp programs for children in Acton and Boxborough based on family income. The application process is simple, and each child may receive up to $300 towards a summer camp program or classes of the family’s choice. For more information about the Campership scholarship and an application form, go to www.doliatamiancampership.com or call (978) 515-3227.


The Superintendent’s Office has approved two community-based flyers for us to share with you: Hope at Bat and the AB Senior Art Show.


Here are some dates to be aware of:


Take care and have a great weekend,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Apr 27, 2023 at 4:43 PM
  

Good evening,


Today was the first day since probably October that I didn’t need to wear a coat during the morning drop-off. With the bright sun and above-average temperatures, it’s hard to believe we’re only entering the April vacation and not the summer vacation! However you’re spending the next week, I hope it’s enjoyable. My family will spend at least part of the week loading up the dumpster that we’ve rented with our neighbors. I’m actually looking forward to this work to be able to walk through the basement and attic without tripping over long-lost items. I hope your week is a bit more fun and exciting than mine!


I want to preview some of the events that happen as end-of-year celebrations at RJ Grey. We’ll host a 7th grade dance/social on Friday, May 19th in our gym. This casual event is the first dance that our students will attend while at RJ Grey. We’ll work with them ahead of time about what behavior is expected in an event like this. We’ll host our annual 8th grade dance on Friday, June 9th. This event is a bit more dressy, but by no means need to be fancy! Both of these fun events are nice ways for students to be together at school but not in their normal routines. We’ll share more info about tickets and expectations as we get closer. Both of these events are for RJ Grey students, only. Best friends from other schools are not invited, unfortunately.


As we approach our last week of school, both grades will take an all-grade trip. On Tuesday, June 13th, our 7th graders will head to Mel’s Funway Park for a day of fun, complete with lunch, go-karts, mini-golf and other fun activities. Our 8th graders went to Mel’s last year and had a great time. On Thursday, June 15th, our 8th graders will head to Canobie Lake Park for the day. Canobie has been an annual tradition until last year when buses and park hours didn’t quite line up for us. We are excited to be planning these trips for our students to celebrate with their classmates at the close of our year. We’ll send home permission slips at the beginning of May.


Bringing us back to the near future…on Wednesday, May 3rd, AB will partner again with Cartwheel Care for another caregiver webinar. This webinar is entitled Caring for Kids, Caring for Parents: Fostering Resilience in Our Kids and OurselvesOver the last three years, parents and caregivers have had to navigate increasingly complicated parenting challenges and questions related to how best to support kids and teens. Please see this flyer for more information and how to register. 


Finally, I wanted to share a quick moment from today. As I was finishing lunch duty for the last lunch today, our custodian Kevin and I were walking out of the cafe at the same time. Unprompted, Kevin said, “We have some really nice kids here, Jim.” I said, “Yes, we do.” It is good to reminded often that our students are typically kind, courteous, friendly, and usually hilarious. Thank you for sending us your really nice kids! 


Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • April 17 - 21: School closed for April Vacation

  • Mon, Apr 24: Schools reopen

  • Tues, Apr 25: Town of Acton election in the RJ Grey Gym

  • Wed, Apr 26: 6th grade Family Information Night, 6:45 pm

  • Thurs, Apr 27: 8th grade Math MCAS Session 1

  • Fri, Apr 28: 8th grade Math MCAS Session 2

  • Fri, Apr 28: Applications for Student Council available

  • Tues, May 2: 8th grade Science MCAS

  • Thurs, May 4: 7th grade Math MCAS Session 1

  • Fri, May 5: 7th grade Math MCAS Session 2

  • Fri, May 5: Student Council applications due


Take care and have a great vacation week,
Jim






Posted by jmarcotte  On Apr 13, 2023 at 6:19 PM
  
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