Eye on the Junior High



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Good afternoon,


I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing Thanksgiving! My family and I had a great Thanksgiving. My three daughters participated in a few performances of The Nutcracker with their local dance studio over the long weekend. It was fun watching them participate in something new for the first time. I admittedly googled the premise of The Nutcracker during intermission of the first show since I had never seen it before. The wikipedia description and my viewing of the second show really firmed up my understanding of the ballet. I’ll be much more prepared for next year.


I have several items to share with you, so I’ll cover each briefly.


We are headed into a bit of choppiness with our school schedule. There is a bit of a perfect storm happening in December and early January, leading to several early releases for our kids.

-Monday, December 13: early release at 1 pm for professional learning
-Thursday, December 16: early release at 11:10 am for parent conferences

-Tuesday, December 21: early release at 11:10 am for parent conferences

-Thursday, December 23: early release at 11:10 am for the beginning of winter break (district-wide)

-Monday, January 3: early release at 1 pm for professional learning

-Friday, January 7: early release at 11:10 am for time given back to staff for evening conferences the night before

I do feel bad listing all of these days out for you, especially those who juggle work schedules and childcare needs. The 1 pm early releases are new to us this year and weren’t really considered when we laid out our traditional December conference times. And the December 23 dismissal came as a recent change from the central office. I will work to make a plan for next year so that December doesn’t feel as disruptive. Thank you for your patience with us on this.


We host an annual Coat Drive at RJ Grey, organized through our Student Council; this year’s drive starts on Monday, December 6th and runs through Thursday, December 16th. We collect warm coats from you - any size - and we donate them to Anton’s Cleaners, who cleans them and distributes them to local organizations. We’ll have a drop-off location in our lobby - please send your students in with some coats, or if you’re driving in the area, you can ring our doorbell and we’ll have you leave the coats, too. We also host an annual Toys for Tots drive. You are welcome to bring us any new, unwrapped toy that we’ll donate to the local Toys for Tots. The timeline is the same: December 6 - 16 and the drop-off process is the same, too. I thank you in advance for your generosity with both used coats and new toys!


I’ve written a few times this year about transitions in our main offices. Today, I’m letting you know that we’ll have a transition on Monday in our Counseling Office. Mrs. Christina Pharo will assume the role of Counseling Assistant and Registrar. Christina has worked at RJ Grey for several years as a special education assistant and has also worked in our elementary programs, too. She’s a parent in our community and has a really good handle on how our system works. Among her responsibilities, she’ll welcome new families and register them for the Junior High, she’ll help families navigate the private school or technical school application process, and she’ll support students as they utilize our counseling center. We were looking for a kind, friendly person to assume this role...and we found her! Be in touch with Christina if you need anything related to the counseling office. 


And while we happily welcome Christina, we sadly say goodbye to Lena Jarostchuk. Lena is in her 8th year in the counseling office. Luckily, she is only moving across the street to the Central Office. Lena has welcomed new families over the past 8 years, always with patience, a smile, and an understanding of how it must feel to be new. Coming to RJ Grey for the first time from another district, another state, or another country must be a trying time for our families. I was always very confident that Lena took on that responsibility of welcoming our newest families as a serious task. We’ll miss Lena’s humor, her attention to detail, and her really good chocolate chip cookies that are filled with Nutella, topped with sea salt. Personally, I’m losing another colleague and friend who I have always been able to count on. I continue to tell myself, “I’m not the reason they’re leaving!” Lena’s position in HR is a significant change for her and I only wish her the best!


Finally, I wanted to mention that we’ve become aware of several Covid cases at RJ Grey - 4 this week, alone. We’ve alerted the families of any students who are close contacts. My greater message is this: please help us by being vigilant this week (and next) with monitoring your students for symptoms (see our checklist here). We are very fortunate that 88% of our students are vaccinated. I know this is why we’ve had a good run this fall with only a handful of cases. I’m imagining the return from the Thanksgiving holiday could be a reason for this week’s uptick. So for that reason, I’m asking you all to pay attention to the symptoms listed above. If you have any questions, please be in touch with Mrs. Doherty, our school nurse ([email protected]). We really appreciate your support with this.


Here are some important dates for the coming weeks:

-Monday, December 13: early release at 1 pm for professional learning
-Tuesday, December 14: Trimester 1 Report Cards emailed home

-Thursday, December 16: early release at 11:10 am for parent conferences

-Friday, December 17: Formal Dress Day!

-Tuesday, December 21: early release at 11:10 am for parent conferences

-Thursday, December 23: early release at 11:10 am for the beginning of winter break (district-wide)

-Friday, December 24 - Sunday, January 2: School closed for vacation=

-Monday, January 3: early release at 1 pm for professional learning

-Friday, January 7: early release at 11:10 am for time given back to staff for evening conferences the night before

Take care,

Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Dec 02, 2021 at 4:36 PM
  

Good afternoon,


It’s about 70 degrees outside my office window at the moment, reminding me that not that long ago we were enjoying warm weather and the relaxed pace of summer. We’re quite far removed from that pace here at RJ Grey, but things continue to go well. 


If you didn’t see my email yesterday about Parent/Teacher conferences, please check your inbox for an email from me some time around 7 am yesterday (11/17/21). If you need some additional information, or need me to resend an email, I’m happy to do so - please just email me.


As my messages come out on Thursdays, I’m going to take next week off from sending a message due to it being Thanksgiving. I’m hopeful that this Thanksgiving feels more typical for us all, compared to last year when we were in a surge of Covid cases. My wife, who is an educator, and I were being super cautious about Covid last year. It felt too risky for us to be out and about, with three small children and our work in schools. Instead of being tempted by both of our large extended families to join for Thanksgiving dinner or dessert somewhere, we escaped! We rented an AirB&B on the Cape and had a few great days by ourselves with our kids. We walked on the beach, I picked up a fully prepped Thanksgiving meal from Roche Bros in Mashpee, we rode our bikes, and we had a great time just being away. This year we’ll return to visiting both sets of our family at scaled down versions of a traditional Thanksgiving.


Since the beginning of the month, my family has had a plastic table cloth-style tree hanging in our kitchen. Each night, or as regularly as we think of it, our kids fill out a leaf with something they’re grateful for. We’ve had their dance teacher a few times, their school teachers, some of their aunts and uncles, grandparents, and good friends from school. We had a favorite TV show appear once. It’s a nice thing to stop on occasion and practice gratitude with them. 


As I continue into my fifth month in this Interim Principal role, there are a huge amount of things for which I’m grateful, so here are just a few:


I’m grateful for your children! They make our days full of life, excitement, and joy. They’re kind, helpful, and generally happy. I recognize that life in a middle school can be chaotic at times, but our kids make this a pretty great place to be most days.


I’m grateful for our staff - teachers, assistants, counselors, custodians, cafeteria workers, and others. I haven’t yet come upon a group of people who just go with the flow as much as these people. Everyone just seems to get that, at times, the ground beneath us doesn’t feel quite solid, but they keep moving forward with patience, flexibility and a positive attitude. I will be forever grateful to our staff for how they put our students first and keep doing the hard work in a year that has many challenges.


I’m grateful for you - our parent and guardian community. You are so supportive of us. I’ve gotten several nice emails over the year about our school; you wave at me in the morning at drop-off; you send your kids to school ready and eager to learn; you contribute to our PTSO and other organizations; and you speak up on behalf of your kids and others when you see something that could be better.


Lots of people I know work in schools - my wife, my sister, several cousins, family friends, and former colleagues who now work elsewhere. I continue to be grateful for the supportive and affirming environment that we’re able to create and maintain at RJ Grey - I know it doesn’t exist everywhere. So while I might be most grateful for some good turkey and stuffing next Thursday, the things above are pretty important and meaningful, too.


Here are some upcoming events at RJ Grey:

-Wednesday, November 24: Early Release for Thanksgiving (11:10 am)

-Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26: No School for Thanksgiving

-Monday, November 29: Early Release for Professional Learning (1 pm)

-Monday, December 6: RJ Grey Coat Drive Begins

-Monday, December 13: Early Release for Professional Learning (1 pm)

-Thursday, December 16: Early Release #1 (11:10) for Parent/Teacher Conferences

-Tuesday, December 21: Early Release #2 (11:10) for Parent/Teacher Conferences

-Thursday, December 23: Schools close for vacation (reopen January 3, 2022)

I wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Take care,

Jim


Posted by jmarcotte  On Nov 18, 2021 at 4:45 PM
  

Good afternoon,


Happy Veterans Day to you all, especially to those who have served our country. I thank you for your service. You are receiving this on Thursday, but I wrote it on Wednesday afternoon. I am hopeful that my day home is filled with a little bit of downtime with my family. My 7 year old and 5 year old daughters are each having a friend over in the morning. Their three year old sister will undoubtedly tag along. I hope your day has been productive!


I’ve gotten a few emails about two items, so I’ll address them both here. Yes, we will be having parent conferences this year, and yes, we do plan to have Ski Club again this year. You’ll be hearing from me about both of those topics in the next week or so. In my nine years at RJ Grey, I tended to be the “details guy.” So it pains me greatly that we’ve not yet sent out some of our annual items like parent conferences. With our recent turnover in our main office, and me being brand new in this role, I’m giving myself some grace to be okay with this. I thank you for your patience, too.


Our dates for parent-teacher conferences will be December 16, December 21, and January 6th. We affectionately call these conferences “speed dating.” Parents or guardians who wish to connect with a teacher can choose a 5-minute slot of time to do so. While this doesn’t seem like a lot, in most cases, the time is well spent where you can hear from a single teacher, you can ask questions, and get a sense of what your child is like in a particular class. You do not have to request a parent conference, though! If you’ve had a recent connection with teachers through a team meeting, email, or other avenue, you might not feel the need to sign up for a conference. We are continuing what began last year - our parent conferences will be on Zoom. We found that it is actually easier to schedule on our end. And we heard feedback that many parents preferred to be able to zoom for a few minutes, rather than taking an afternoon out of work to come to school. We don’t yet have a plan for next year, when hopefully we are able to fully invite visitors back into our schools more regularly. Look for additional information from me, sent to all RJ Grey families, early next week about conference sign-ups.


We have finished up our fall sports season. Our soccer teams, field hockey teams, and cross country teams had really strong seasons. It was great to know that we were able to bring back one element that was completely absent last year from RJ Grey. We are now gearing up for our winter season. We have boys and girls basketball teams, as well as a Cheer team. These teams all require tryouts as we don’t have an unlimited capacity for players. See the tryout schedule here. Please pay special attention to the requirement of the physical and the Family ID sign-up. Having these things in place well ahead of time will help your child have a successful tryout without the stress of not having all the paperwork ready!


We are at the beginning stages of working to identify a new mascot for the Acton-Boxborough schools. I was part of a meeting last week, along with five students from RJ Grey, joined by high school students and staff members from both schools. At our first meeting, we were briefed on the process outlined by the superintendent to identify a new mascot. We took time to read the Mission, Vision, Values and Beliefs of the District. We each had a chance to share why we were interested in being part of this committee. There were several common themes that came up about why we were interested in being part of the committee: to include lots of voices, build community, have a positive impact on the schools and towns, have all views represented, leave a legacy, build school pride, be a safe place, and be unifying. I am confident that this student-led group will do good work to identify a mascot and make a recommendation to the subcommittee of the School Committee later this year. I will continue to use these Eye on the Junior High messages to share our progress as we move forward this year.


Finally, I want to introduce you to a new and important person in our Main Office. Mrs. Eileen Matarese has taken over as the Main Office Support at RJ Grey. Eileen worked with us as a teaching assistant in 2019-2020, spent last year in the RLP, but otherwise, has worked at Douglas for a lot of years as a classroom assistant. She’s a parent in our community, has worked with the PTSO and supports Acton and Boxborough in all sorts of ways. We are very excited to welcome her. Her first 3 days have been great and she keeps telling me that she didn’t realize how busy it would be! I did tell her...honestly, I did!


Eileen has been introduced to kids leaving early, coming late, and working with families to troubleshoot some issues. I wanted to remind all families about our process for dismissing students from school. If you follow these procedures, you’ll have a more efficient experience picking up your child: 

-Absences or Late Arrivals: If your child will be absent from or late to school, please call the absence line at (978) 264-4700 ex: 3333 before 8:00AM and state your child’s: name, team and the reason for the absence or tardy arrival.

-Dismissals: Students who will be dismissed during the school day need a note from home signed by a parent or guardian stating the time of dismissal and whether or not the student will return that day. You may write a note or print a dismissal form. Students should bring the note or completed form to the office first thing in the morning. They will be given a pass to leave class at the appropriate time. They should check in at the office as they are leaving and again when they return.

There will be emergencies and you will sometimes need to come pick up your child without having sent a note. That’s not a problem! Just give us a call and we’ll track down your student and have them ready for you when you arrive.

If you need to email the main office, we’ve created a new email address where you can reach us: [email protected]. You are welcome to use this email which will reach several of us. As we recently experienced changes in our staffing, we thought this might be a useful tool to know that your message is getting to multiple people.

Here are a few upcoming dates:

-Monday, November 15: Early Release at 1pm

-Monday, November 15: School Council Meeting #2 (Zoom link)

-Wednesday, November 24: Early Release for Thanksgiving (11:10 am)

That’s it for this week - I hope you are all doing well.

Take care,

Jim

 


Posted by jmarcotte  On Nov 11, 2021 at 9:06 AM
  

Good afternoon,


This is a short version of Eye on the Junior High since you just received a longer email from me about student behavior assemblies this week.


Happy Diwali to all families who celebrate! I slipped up this week when I didn’t remind teachers early enough about this celebration and what it means for our students’ homework and assessments. Only today did I remind teachers to not give homework tonight or tests tomorrow. I apologize and I promise to do better next time. If your child feels pressured to get work done tonight and your family is celebrating in some way, Mr. Marcotte has given them permission to not do their homework tonight.


We continue to live through an irregular pattern of days off. This past Tuesday was a very productive professional day for our RJ Grey staff. We hope it was a good day for our students at home. Next Thursday, we are closed for Veterans Day. Huge shout out to any Veterans who are part of our RJ Grey community - we thank you for your service.


Here are some upcoming dates at RJ Grey:

-Thursday, November 11: No School - Veterans’ Day

-Monday, November 15: Early Release at 1pm

-Monday, November 15: School Council Meeting #2 (Zoom link)

-Wednesday, November 24: Early Release for Thanksgiving (11:10 am)


Take care,
Jim Marcotte
Posted by jmarcotte  On Nov 04, 2021 at 4:47 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope your homes have survived the recent stormy weather with little damage. I have seen quite a few tweets from districts near the south shore that have cancelled school today for the second day in a row. I am grateful that our little area west of Boston went pretty unscathed through the recent storms.


Today’s update includes several messages from people and groups outside of RJ Grey that I promised I would share in my weekly newsletter.


The first message is to highlight the request that came to you yesterday, from our Superintendent. If you didn’t see this message yet, please check your email from yesterday afternoon for a message from AB. The quick version of the request is that we anticipate needing to reduce the number of buses in our fleet by up to 7 buses in the next few weeks. In order to do this in an organized manner, we need to determine the exact number of riders we anticipate. Below is a portion of the letter from Mr. Light:


“We would like your help on a temporary basis while we work to hire additional staff and return to our normal routes.  If you are willing to opt out of bus transportation and drive your child to school, please complete the Bus Opt Out Form.  This will allow us to minimize our bus ride times as much as possible.  

  • Log in to your PowerSchool Parent Portal account here (or via our website under Families>Parent Portal). 

  • Follow the instructions here on how to complete the consent form for each one of your students.  If you need help completing the form, please reach out to your child’s teacher at the elementary or counselor at the junior high or high school.


We ask that you do this as soon as possible and no later than this Sunday, October 31.” 


Last week, I had the chance to meet with the two membership chairs of the Acton-Boxborough PTSO. The Parent-Teacher-Student Organization in grades 7 - 12 operates as a single organization, different from the elementary, where each school has its own PTSO. The PTSO has been generous to RJ Grey over the years: they help pay for our student planbooks every year, support our after school activities and dances, and have helped us financially with capital improvements including furniture in our cafeteria annex. I let Maria and Karen know that I would pass on information about their monthly meeting, as well as the request for donations. The PTSO asks for a $50 donation for the year. This avoids us asking anyone to sell wrapping paper, cookie dough or other fundraisers. My own daughters’ school PTO asked them to sell wrapping paper. The short story is that my wife and I will have wrapping paper for the next 5 years as a result. Please check out the PTSO site and support them financially, if you can, or attend a meeting if you’d like.


Finally, parents from our Project Graduation Committee reached out and hoped that I could share some information about how to become involved in this annual event. There is a blurb below about the event, but I wanted to share that as a former ABRHS teacher and assistant principal, I see the real value in this event and I hope you might consider giving some time to learn more and become involved. The high school is beautifully transformed into a fun, inclusive event space for students to be with each other safely on the night of their graduation. It takes an army of volunteers to pull this off - and it is quite magical when it happens! The event happens as a result of a ton of volunteers, generally the families of underclassmen (non-Seniors). Please read on and be in touch with the coordinators if you can play a role. Some kind, energetic souls will organize it when your students are graduating - if you’re able, they would appreciate your help now.


“RJ Grey Parents: we need you to JOIN PROJECT GRADUATION!

 

Project Graduation is an all-night, substance-free party for AB seniors on commencement night. As you may know, Project Graduation began in Maine over 30 years ago after one especially tragic commencement season in which 18 teenagers died in alcohol and drug-related incidents. It is a long-standing tradition in our school district, and since Acton-Boxborough’s first Project Graduation in 1989, well over 10,000 AB graduates have participated in the event and stayed safe on graduation night! 

 

After leading the charge for years, many of our current team will be graduating along with their children. We need new parent volunteers to keep this amazing, decades-long tradition going! Looking ahead, we are seeking new co-chairs as well as decoration and entertainment team leaders. Now is the time to join us and shadow current chairs. You'll have fun, and together we will continue to keep kids safe. Grab a friend or make a new one with Project Graduation. Please send us an email to learn more. We'll announce our kick-off meeting in November, and then have monthly meetings starting in January. We can't wait to welcome you to ABRHS and Project Graduation!”


Jennifer Mabardy & Jennifer Philion

AB Project Graduation 2022 Co-Chairs

[email protected]

https://www.abprojectgrad.org


Here are some upcoming dates at RJ Grey:

-Friday, October 29: Halloween Dress-up Day;

-Monday, November 1: School Picture Retake Day;

-Monday, November 1: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Tuesday, November 2: No School - Professional Learning Day

-Thursday, November 11: No School - Veterans’ Day

-Monday, November 15: Early Release at 1pm



That’s it for this week - I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!


Take care,

Jim


Posted by jmarcotte  On Oct 28, 2021 at 2:52 PM
  

Good afternoon,


Today was our first Team Community Building Day at RJ Grey. Today was designed for the 8th graders; the 7th graders are tomorrow. This summer, when the admin team was crafting plans for the year, we put a few dates on the calendar that would focus on joy and community for our students. Each team (8 Blue, 8 Green, etc.) had classes up through lunch and then transitioned into a Zoom assembly followed by activities planned by their teachers. One team made 25 scarecrows, one team created sidewalk chalk designs that matched certain themes. Members of another team learned to play rugby! The beautiful weather helped support the outdoor activities. My overall thinking as I walked through many of the activities was, “I hope this is what they remember.” Kids were connecting with each other, with their teachers, and doing something different!  The seventh grade activities are set for tomorrow and I hope for the same joy and community feeling. We’ll repeat these days in January and March.


We are entering the season when 8th grade families may start to think about plans for next year. Most of our students will go to Acton-Boxborough Regional High School for the ninth grade. We’ll work to connect with families this spring for course selection and other items. There is no need to rush the transition to 9th grade! However, if your child might be interested in attending a technical high school, or a private school, we need to start connecting and sharing some resources.


Technical high schools: The Town of Acton belongs to the Minuteman Regional School District. Our 8th graders who live in Acton who wish to attend a technical school apply to Minuteman High School. Minuteman has a process for reviewing applications and will offer admission to students from member towns based on set criteria. In November, we’ll have a chance to take a bus of interested 8th graders (from both towns) to Minuteman for a tour. You’ll learn more about that in the next few weeks. 


The Town of Boxborough does not belong to the Minuteman Regional School District. Boxborough students who wish to apply to Minuteman apply as non-resident members. Students from Boxborough also have the choice to apply to Assabet Valley Technical High School (Marlborough) or Nashoba Technical High School (Westford). In all three cases, the students apply as residents of non-member towns. Our counselors are helpful in talking through options with you or your child. If your child lives in Boxborough and wants to learn more about technical school options, please click here to indicate that - a counselor will then be in touch with your child. 


Private Schools: Students in either grade may be considering attending a private school for next year. This is also a step that starts in the fall, so if you’ve considered applying to a private school, please click here to access our Electronic Form for Private School Application. 


Your child will often need recommendations from a counselor and several teachers. Below is a paragraph I’ve stolen from my predecessor, Mr. Shen, about seeking these recommendations: 


Our teachers and counselors are happy to support students in their applications, and take seriously the crafting of a recommendation.  With that in mind, we ask that families honor the request that teachers be approached about letters of recommendation at least 4 weeks in advance of when those letters are due.  In many situations, parents initially reach out to teachers on behalf of their child, which is perfectly fine.  It’s also important for the student to connect with their teachers first about their interest in private schools.  This is valuable for a few reasons.  First, hearing a bit more about the student’s interest in the schools to which they are applying gives the teacher a better sense of what might be useful to include in the letter.  Secondly, having a teacher find recommendation forms on her desk, or sent via email, without any prior explanation from a student or parent is never the ideal way to start the conversation about a recommendation. By no means are teachers and counselors expecting students to feel indebted to them for writing a letter, and forever genuflect whenever they enter the room. However, speaking directly to the teacher is, I think, central to showing an appropriate level of appreciation for this additional task the students are asking their teacher to complete on their behalf.  If you think your child may be a bit nervous with this task, you might encourage them to speak with the counselor, who can offer some tips and even help them practice.  Your child’s counselor is also, in general, a great resource for various aspects of the application process.


Finally, as we approach the end of October, I highlight that RJ Grey has traditionally hosted Halloween Dress Up Day (Friday, October 29th). This, too, fits with our work on community and joy this year. We usually have about half of our students dress up, and likely half of our staff, too. There is no requirement to dress up, but we support anyone who would like to! Costumes must be appropriate for school and may not include weapons or other dangerous items. Each team will put forward a best costume for the entire staff to then vote on. The costume winner will win a prize for their homeroom.


Here are some upcoming dates at RJ Grey:

-Monday, October 25: Last day of PE/Health Rotation #1;

-Friday, October 29: Halloween Dress-up Day;

-Monday, November 1: School Picture Retake Day;

-Monday, November 1: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Tuesday, November 2: No School - Professional Learning Day

-Thursday, November 11: No School - Veterans’ Day


Take care,

Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Oct 21, 2021 at 4:58 PM
  

Good afternoon,


Tomorrow is Pajama Day at RJ Grey, so if your child leaves the house in their PJs, it is in fact okay! In the nine years I’ve been here, I’ve never dressed for Pajama Day. But I do think a long-sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants might feel good tomorrow...in the name of school spirit! 


Tomorrow is also a pivotal day for our main office staff. I had previously mentioned that Mrs. Frey is vacating our main office support position to move across the street for a new position. Tomorrow will be her last official day with us - though we’ll rely on her to train our new hire whenever that person comes on board. In the meantime, we are getting by with the help of a lot of important people - Anne Chandler, Lena Jarostchuk, Debbie Brookes, and Sandy Carter - all women who work very hard behind the scenes to keep us moving forward. I’m incredibly grateful for their commitment to us and making it seem like we’re operating at 100%! We’re in the process of reviewing applications and doing interviews for this position. When we have a resolution, we’ll share that info with our families.


We’re also losing another member of our team tomorrow. Mr. Anthony Zeese has been at RJ Grey for four years. Since mid-August, he has been acting as an Interim Assistant Principal for our 8th graders. When we hired Mr. Zeese for this short-term position, we knew we were getting a hardworking, intelligent, competent person who likes kids. It turns out that we hit the jackpot when we brought Anthony onto our admin team for these 8 weeks. He has a future in school leadership whenever he wants to take the plunge. Starting Monday, he’ll be back in his position as the 7 Red Social Studies teacher. I think he’s ready to rejoin the somewhat more predictable routine of being a teacher. Huge thanks to Anthony for being an excellent school leader this fall. We are very fortunate to welcome back Cathy Boege to the 8th grade AP position starting on Monday. Cathy has been away on maternity leave since June. She joined us on Tuesday to get caught up on our ongoing work - she’s excited to be joining us again and we’re happy to have her back with us!


Our district continues to look for applicants for positions in many areas, but specifically, Transportation and Food Services. The district has increased salaries and has offered retention bonuses, too for these departments. Please see the flyers linked above for details - also reach out to me if you’d like more information. If you are interested, or if you know someone who is, please share these resources with them. We’re eager to increase our staffing in these two specific departments in the near future!


Our photo packages from our school picture days have arrived. If your family ordered prints, your student will be bringing home any purchased photo packages this week. Our photo retake day is scheduled for the morning of November 1. Throughout the morning, we’ll call down students to have their pics re-taken, or taken for the first time if they didn’t have a picture taken in September. Contact info and ordering info can be found on this flyer from Lifetouch.


Here are some upcoming dates at RJ Grey:

-Friday, October 15: Pajama Day;

-Monday, October 18: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Monday, October 25: Last day of PE/Health Rotation #1;

-Friday, October 29: Halloween Dress-up Day;

-Monday, November 1: School Picture Retake Day;

-Monday, November 1: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Tuesday, November 2: No School - Professional Learning Day

-Thursday, November 11: No School - Veterans’ Day


Have a great night,

Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Oct 14, 2021 at 5:07 PM
  

Good afternoon,


In college, I was a Resident Assistant (RA) for a few years. When I tell people who know me that fact, they usually respond by saying, “yeah, obviously!” If you attended a college in the US, you’ll recognize the term as the person who gets a reduced-rate for housing in order to keep the shenanigans under control in the residence halls. You’ll remember that I was an assistant principal for 13 years. Being an assistant principal and an RA are pretty similar! An RA is also the person who promotes community in the residence hall and brings people together, too. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do in this new role. As an RA and a college student, we were always told to divide our year into short chunks...thinking about making it to Thanksgiving or the end of the semester was sometimes daunting. Making it from late August to Columbus Day was a much more realistic milestone to arrive at! The same holds true for educators - we’ve made it to (what we now call) Indigenous Peoples Day. While there have been other days off this fall, this one is always a marker for me that the year is proceeding. From our point of view, it’s proceeding well. I hope your experience thus far indicates the same. 


Since we’re now into the hard work of the year, I wanted to point out a resource that you may or may not be aware of. Each of our teams maintains a homework document, outlining the nightly homework, assessments, and when appropriate, the longer-term projects. You can find your child’s team homework doc by checking out our website (grade 7 / grade 8). You might choose to bookmark the specific doc for your child’s team. This doc will help you have a handle on two things: 1 - were they telling you the truth when they said there was no homework? And 2 - you can have a general sense of what might be happening in class when the answer to your question “what did you learn about today?” is “nothing.” 


Next Friday, October 15th, is the due date for our teachers to submit “interim reports.” We’ll then collate those reports and email them to families the following week. At RJ Grey, not every student will get an interim. Interims will come to families as a heads up for a few reasons: low grades, poor homework completion, classroom behavior, or other reasons that our teachers want to make you aware of. Receiving an interim is not the end of the world. All it should do is alert a family and student that something could be going differently before our trimester ends in late November. We ask our teachers to include a narrative as part of the interim and we hope they are able to offer suggestions to improve whatever the situation might be. Whenever you have a question about what’s on an interim report, or if you want to check in about something specific, I ask you to reach out directly to the teacher.


Switching gears, but still focusing on communication, I hope some of us will connect over the Apple TV show, Ted Lasso. Tomorrow, the final episode of season 2 comes out - I’m hoping for some resolution to a few plot points! (the picture on the right is of the sign in my office). I’ve been talking about this show since last year when I sent this message to our staff as part of a weekly update: If you have access to Apple TV, watch Ted Lasso. It’s a great show about a football coach who ends up coaching soccer in the Premier League in England. He’s a happy guy with a quick wit, who has a tagline that I started to pick up on: “I appreciate you.” He uses it a ton to random people he encounters, but when you get to know him, you know he means it. I mean it - I appreciate you and I hope you have a good weekend.”


Last year I was writing that particular message (in March) to our hardworking staff who were making the best of a really challenging year. We’ve carried our own internal momentum into this year and I’m not quite sure if I’d say this year is any easier than last year. If I could pass on a request to you, it would be to reach out to some of your child’s teachers telling them that you appreciate them. It may not be now, and it doesn’t have to be a long message, but if you appreciate your child’s teachers this year...they’d love to hear it. 


Here is a preview of things to come at RJ Grey:


-Monday, October 11: No School - Indigenous Peoples Day;

-Friday, October 15: Pajama Day;

-Monday, October 18: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Monday, October 25: Last day of PE/Health Rotation #1;

-Friday, October 29: Halloween Dress-up Day;

-Monday, November 1: School Picture Re-take Day;

-Monday, November 1: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Tuesday, November 2: No School - Professional Learning Day


As we head into this milestone-worthy long weekend, I hope you get a chance to relax with your friends and families. 


Take care,
Jim Marcotte

Posted by jmarcotte  On Oct 07, 2021 at 5:06 PM
  

Good afternoon,


A few weeks ago, as one of our daily community questions (via the morning announcements), I asked students what their favorite month was. I stopped into the ASC that day to learn that many students love October! Some loved it for Halloween or because it was a birthday month for one of them. I have to agree that October is pretty great. My wife is an English teacher and a lover of anything related to Anne of Green Gables. A famous quote by the author of those stories (L.M. Montgomery) speaks to this well, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” I tend to agree with Ms. Montgomery. If you are like me, you are extremely grateful that the humidity of this past summer and fall are behind us until next year. Bring on October!


As the weather turns a bit cooler, I did want to point out that we will still allow students to eat outside for much of this month. Rain does keep us indoors, but I’m hoping that not much else will keep us inside this month! This week the bees were a bit of a problem, but we’ll keep an eye on that. So please encourage your children to dress for the weather - including outdoor lunch. It might also tend to get a bit brisk in our classrooms at times until the heat is turned on later this fall. One of our Covid mitigation strategies is to have as much ventilation as possible. So even when it’s chilly outside, we’ll have our windows cracked to allow for greater airflow. Asking your student if they have a sweatshirt or another layer before they leave the house in the morning would be helpful for us all.


Thank you to everyone who participated in our School Council election last week. I am grateful to the parents and guardians who put their name out there to be considered for a place on the council. We ended up electing some great new members. This year’s parent reps on the School Council will be Cathy Brooks (grade 8 returning), Kate Nelson (grade 8 new), Brian Andrew Smith (grade 7 new) and Kerry Lewis (grade 7 new). While these are members who will show up each meeting, I want to invite any interested parent or guardian to join our School Council meetings. We’ll start the year by meeting via Zoom, and as things progress this year, we may move to in-person meetings. The planned dates for our School Council meetings are below (all at 7pm), and I will be updating our RJG website with this info as well:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

Monday, January 3, 2022

Monday, February 7, 2022

Monday, March 14, 2022

Monday, April 11, 2022

Monday, May 16, 2022


Zoom address: https://abschools.zoom.us/j/6927495552


If you receive our daily announcements (and I hope you do), you’ll have noticed that many of our clubs have started up over the past two weeks. We have updated our list of clubs and activities on our school website. If your child is looking for some way to become involved at RJ Grey, I’d recommend taking a look at this link for some ideas.


Lastly, I shared with our staff today that Mrs. Frey, who works in our main office, is moving on to a position in the central office this month. If you know Katy Frey, you know that she is a breath of fresh air and a huge asset to our school and admin team. We wish Katy the best of luck in her new position, but we will temporarily grieve her loss! We will be looking to replace Mrs. Frey in the main office soon. The position interacts a ton with students, with families, and with teachers. If you know someone who likes kids, is calm and patient under pressure, can communicate clearly, and can be a pleasure to work with, please encourage them to consider applying. The posting will be available on our
district site soon.


Here is a preview of things to come at RJ Grey:


-Monday, October 4: 8th graders will have a virtual visit from the staff at Minuteman High School to explain the Minuteman offerings and admissions process;

-Monday, October 11: No School - Indigenous Peoples’ Day;

-Monday, October 18: Early Release at 1 pm;

-Friday, October 29: Halloween Dress-up Day;

-Tuesday, November 2: No School - Professional Learning Day and Election Day


Take care,

Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Oct 01, 2021 at 5:35 AM
  

Good afternoon,


I had really high hopes that this would be the week where we’d have five full days of school without significant interruption. An early release due to a power outage was not on my radar for the week, however! Thank you to all our families for their flexibility and patience yesterday. I am sorry that families did not hear from the district until about 15 minutes before our students were actually released. That was not the plan. Turns out that communication gets complicated when we don’t have power, and so our colleagues in the Central Office were delayed in getting out the message about the early release. We know that it wasn’t an ideal situation, but I certainly appreciate the flexibility that you showed us yesterday. I’m hoping for smooth sailing the rest of this week into next week.


As we continue to transition back to school this year, one topic has cropped up a few times this week from our staff: proper mask-wearing. By and large, our students are awesome at wearing their masks. The issue we currently face is that some students think it’s okay to wear their mask just below their nose. As part of the morning announcements yesterday, I reminded everyone that we are working to build a community here at RJ Grey. I went on to say that being part of a community means that we all pull our weight, and that includes wearing our masks to cover our mouth and nose because it helps protect all members of our community. I pointed out that “if we can see your nose, you’re wearing it wrong.”


When I say “the issue we currently face...,” I’m talking about approximately 20-30 students. This is not the typical behavior of most of our students. Our message to teachers when a student isn’t wearing their mask correctly is that they should remind the student to wear it correctly. If we need to continue to talk about it, the teacher or another adult will contact the student’s family to help reinforce that message. So if you get a call or email from a staff member here, this is the context whereby that call might be made.


The context of mask-wearing becomes important when we consider that RJ Grey has had two positive cases over the past week. While we are in much better shape with vaccinations than other areas of our state, and certainly our country, we know that mask-wearing, ventilation, and hand hygiene are all good mitigation strategies to keep the virus from spreading. 


There has been a shift in how we communicate with families when their child is considered a close contact. Starting last fall, when we would identify close contacts, our nurses would make calls to any family whose child was considered a close contact. Starting this past week, as a practice across the district, we will send an email to families whose children are considered a close contact. If a child is a close contact and then needs to quarantine or do additional testing at school, the family would also receive a text message that would alert them to the email. This practice, we hope, will keep the job of contact tracing manageable and will allow for our messages to be translated appropriately for families. We will always let families know who to contact if there are follow-up questions. For RJ Grey, that’s likely me, and I’d defer to our awesome nurses for medical-related questions. While we do hope for a small number of positive cases at RJ Grey, I wanted you to be aware that this is our protocol this year. The total case numbers for the district can be viewed at this site


And while I continue to share info on this topic, I’ll reiterate that having your child vaccinated is one of the best ways we’ve seen to keep your kids and our community safe. 85% of our current student body is at varied stages of vaccination (either one or two shots). If you are looking for resources to get your child vaccinated, I’ll direct you to this site. And if you have questions about vaccinations that we can answer, I direct you to our nurses, Erin Doherty or Joanne Chadwick. We are very fortunate to have really great school nurses at RJ Grey. Please reach out to them if you have questions related to your child’s health.


The last thing I wanted to share is that your children have likely already started, or soon will start, the iReady diagnostic assessments in their math and English classes. The Junior High is entering its second year of using iReady, which is an online program for reading and math that will help our teachers determine your student’s needs, personalize their learning, and monitor progress throughout the year. The goal is to help us identify areas of need for some of our students to then direct instructional practices to help improve those areas. We’ll do our iReady assessments three times this year in order to track progress. The students are not given a grade on these assessments - results won’t be calculated into term averages - but they will provide our staff with data and areas of focus as they continue to provide strong instruction.


Here is a preview of things to come:

-Monday, September 27: Early Release at 1 pm for staff professional learning

-Thursday, October 7: Back to School Night virtual resources shared with families

-Monday, October 11: No School for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

-Monday, October 18: Early Release at 1 pm for staff professional learning 


That’s it for this week - I hope your families are well and that you enjoy a nice September weekend.


Take care,

Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Sep 23, 2021 at 3:34 PM
  
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