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Good afternoon,


I hope you’re doing well. Happy Lunar New Year to those who celebrate. During Tuesday’s morning announcements, I wished this over the PA to our students. Immediately after that, as I stood in the hall for passing time, a student approached me and asked why we didn’t recognize Black History Month that morning. The student was right that we hadn’t mentioned it that morning. I thanked her for calling us out and I explained that we wanted to highlight the New Year and that we’d be following up to recognize Black History Month. Over the past two days, we’ve shared quotes about black history month and we’ll continue to recognize it each day this month. Just this afternoon I received an email from a student asking if she could share with me a list of important people in black history, and could I share those one morning next week? I responded with a Yes - of course!


As our communities continue to wrestle with topics of race, bias, and discrimination, we continue to think about how to create opportunities to talk with your children. We have some staff leaders who are working to get a few student affinity groups up and running. We are also working on a parent group who will be able to offer feedback and experiences from their perspectives. We are excited to take next steps in this important work and we’re hopeful that being open and direct about some of these topics, we’ll create a space where students can be as comfortable as they can be, at all times. We all have a lot to work on and we’re excited to learn more.


There is one operational topic that I wanted to write about briefly. Actually, maybe two! The first involves the afternoons at RJ Grey. We are very pleased to be able to offer a lot more after school activities than we could last year. Last year, after school was a breeze because we didn’t have any in-person clubs, activities, athletics, or even in-person extra help! Supervision was easy - but it wasn't ideal for kids! Because we have that variety of items back in place this year, we regularly work with students to understand the expectations for being in the building after 2:36 pm. The basics include: Students who stay after for a club, sport, extra help, etc. can do so! We staff our library until 4:30 every day and we have a staff member present in the building until 5 pm. We expect students to be in the library quietly working while waiting for a ride or the late bus. What we’ve been experiencing recently is students leaving school, heading to Starbucks, CVS, or Sorrento's, and heading back to school to hang out and socialize. While we love that they enjoy being in school, we’re not built to be a hangout location. I ask for your help in reinforcing that message. Being at RJ Grey after school is a privilege and we do have some expectations that all students need to uphold if they need to stay. Thanks for your help with this.


The other operational item is that we’ve noticed the number of tardies to school is growing recently. School starts at 8:00 every day. Seventh graders start with a 3-minute homeroom, and eighth graders have a 6-minute homeroom. Both of those short periods are opportunities for students to get themselves ready, hear the announcements, and breathe for a minute before the first period starts. Each day we have students entering after 8:00. Those kids need to sign-in at the main office (since they missed attendance in homeroom), and I know for many, it sets their day off on the wrong foot. So my request is that if you drive your child to school, and I know traffic near the school campus  can be a challenge, potentially leaving a bit earlier is something that needs to become part of the routine. I know this is a challenge. Just this morning, my own 8 year old realized she forgot her snow gear when I dropped her off at her before-school daycare. Of course, I drove home to get it, making me 20 minutes later to school than I normally am. I was still ready and executed my 7:30 traffic duty on time! But it started me off on the wrong foot. If getting out of the house is a challenge early enough to be here prior to 8:00, please reach out to us and we can help you and your child brainstorm some solutions. 


Here are some upcoming dates to be aware of:

-Monday, Feb 7: Early Release (1pm)

-Monday, Feb 7: RJG School Council, 7pm

-Thursday, Feb 10: NAEP assessment for selected 8th graders

-Tuesday, Feb 15: ABRHS Curriculum Night, 6 pm, on Zoom: (new date and time)

-Wednesday, Feb 16: RJ Grey Chorus Concert, 7 pm

-Friday, Feb 18: Blue and Gold Day!

-Friday, Feb 18: RJ Grey Early Release, 11:10 am (new)


That’s it for now. I hope we all fare well with tomorrow’s ice and snow. Take care,


Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Feb 03, 2022 at 4:39 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope you’re doing well. As we enter a weekend with a snowstorm looming in front of us, I hope you have a plan for snow removal, which frankly, should involve your 7th or 8th grader! Growing up, my sisters and I, along with my dad, were responsible for shoveling a pretty long driveway. Though it was always the heaviest part of the driveway, I always took on clearing the area in front of the mailbox. Being precise and digging out a clean edge along the street always made me pretty proud and confident that the mailman would have easy access. I did become a letter carrier one summer during college, so maybe it was a bit of foreshadowing into that role. No one on our street had a snowblower back then and getting a plow was considered unnecessary. Physical labor was the name of the game in Lowell in the 80s and 90s! So as I start up my expensive snowblower on Saturday, I’ll think of my childhood days of shoveling… as I clear the snow completely by myself!


We have several community-type updates to share today, so please read along:


Mascot Re-Naming Survey Reminder

We are sending this reminder to the community about the current opportunity to submit a suggestion for a new mascot for our district.  Thank you to the many individuals who have already offered one or more suggestions.  Below is the original invitation sent to the community earlier in January.  Please note that the deadline for suggestions is February 4, 2022. All entries should be submitted through the online survey - here is the address:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ABMascot

 

Vaccine Booster Opportunity at AB

At this time, we are planning one booster clinic at R.J. Grey Junior High School on Saturday, February 12th from 9:00-3:00 for 12-18 year olds.  The Acton Health Department has ordered 300 initial vaccine doses, and sign up is first-come, first served. If there is an overwhelming response from our families, we may be able to add additional slots. Please check your email for additional information from last week, and the link to sign up!


Knowing we have limited vaccine availability, we encourage you to visit the MassVax site at https://vaxfinder.mass.gov/, where you can filter vaccines by the Pfizer booster and find available appointments.

 

ABSAF Recruitment

The purpose of ABSAF (Acton-Boxborough Student Activity Fund)  is to raise money each year through ABSAF pass sales, donations, and fundraising events, which will, in turn, be gifted to the Jr. High and High School to subsidize student activities like music, drama, athletics, and other club activities. ABSAF is currently recruiting interested 8th graders to be part of this group. This message and more information will be sent to 8th grade students soon, but I thought it would be valuable to share with our parent community. ABSAF has always been generous to us and any support you give to this organization benefits all of us.



Here are some upcoming dates to be aware of:

-Friday, Jan 28: Hawaiian Shirt Day

-Monday, Jan 31: SOS Lesson for 7 Green

-Wednesday, Feb 2: SOS Lesson for 7 Blue

-Monday, Feb 7: RJG School Council, 7pm

-Thursday, Feb 10: NAEP assessment for selected 8th graders


Take care, and lift with your knees, not your back as you shovel this weekend!


Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Jan 27, 2022 at 3:37 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope you are all doing well. Where this past Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my Instagram and Twitter were flooded with important and relevant quotes from Dr. King. One quote that stuck out to me was, “The time is always right to do what is right.” This quote will likely fill the bulletin board in our main lobby when I have a few minutes to break out my artsy side soon. I really like that quote and I think it fits with the work we’re doing at RJ Grey. As many times as possible, we work with your kids to make good decisions: we advise them, we coach them, we model for them. And sometimes they make a mistake, and then our focus switches to trying to help them understand the impact and effect of their actions. And while we don’t necessarily use Dr. King’s words above, we should. As we build a joyful, inclusive community of engaged learners, we’ll have some hiccups and we’ll all make some mistakes, but the overall sentiment is that as a community, doing the right thing is the right thing. Thank you for your support as we deliver messages along these lines to our students.


You likely received an email late last week that directed you to a survey about choosing a new mascot for Acton-Boxborough. I’ve mentioned in this column before that five RJ Grey students are part of the student group whose task is to select the next mascot of AB. The student group has put together a survey, asking for ideas for a new mascot. I would encourage you to share any awesome ideas you have, and please share the survey with anyone interested in AB. The survey will close on February 4. I hope some of our creative community members take a few minutes to share their thoughts with our student committee. Please feel free to share this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ABMascot


Today is day 86 of our school year, meaning we’re just about at the halfway point. I’ve always found the second half of the year to go even faster than the first, so buckle up! Teachers will be submitting Trimester 2 Interim Reports early next week, to be emailed mid-week to families. Interim reports are designed to alert families to situations where something could be better. Low assessment grades, lack of homework completion, or classroom behavior all might be reasons for a teacher to issue an interim. Trimester 2 won’t end until March 11, so there is a good amount of time to make adjustments. If, after receiving an Interim Report where questions remain, please reach out directly to your child’s teachers and if necessary, help to make a plan with your child for the next steps for improvement. We’re happy to help with that if you need it, so please let us know.


Here are some upcoming dates to be aware of:

-Monday, Jan 24: Early Release (1pm) for Professional Learning

-Monday, Jan 24: Signs of Suicide Lesson (SOS) for 7 Gold

-Wednesday, Jan 26: SOS Lesson for 7 Red

-Friday, Jan 28: Hawaiian Shirt Day

-Monday, Jan 31: SOS Lesson for 7 Green

-Wednesday, Feb 2: SOS Lesson for 7 Blue

-Monday, Feb 7: RJG School Council, 7pm

-Wednesday, Feb 9: ABRHS Curriculum Night for 8th grade families, 7pm on Zoom

-Thursday, Feb 10: NAEP assessment for selected 8th graders



Take care,
Jim



Posted by jmarcotte  On Jan 20, 2022 at 4:21 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I don’t know that I wished anyone a Happy New Year in last week’s message. If you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, you might recognize the interaction where Larry David declares that you cannot wish anyone a Happy New Year after January 7th. While I’m breaking his rule in this message, I think it’s worth acknowledging that we’re in a New Year!


And while I can never hold fast to a resolution, I do always start the year with some energy and renewed focus on something. While it should be riding my exercise bike in the cold basement, or spending less time scrolling on my phone, neither of those have come to fruition yet. This week, I have found myself with a fresh energy around the prospects of our continued work this year at RJ Grey.


I spent just a bit of time at a few basketball games this week. And I see the musical tryouts taking shape in the auditorium. And it’s just a little lighter outside right now than it was last week! As administrators, we are starting to plan on how to roll out things like parent night for 6th grade families, and even getting deeper into our plans for having an Advisory program at RJ Grey next year. While my wife and I were just this morning bemoaning the boringness of mid-January (“what do you want for dinner tonight? I don’t know, what do you want?”), there is excitement for the prospect of how this year will continue to unravel, making way for the planning for a new year! 


For parents of 8th graders, you saw an email from me today about an upcoming Info Session (January 19th at 7 pm) with the high school about a change in the science curriculum. Please see the email I sent today for the Zoom link. Also be aware that the high school will be holding a Curriculum Night on Wednesday, February 9th. We’ll share more info as we get closer, as well as the Zoom link. Here at RJ Grey, we’re gearing up for our annual SOS (Signs of Suicide) lessons in the 7th grade. See my email from this week for more info on that. So while your students are plodding their way through this year, completing their iReady assessments and other tasks, know that we continue to be excited to plan out the rest of this year and beyond. 


In closing, Happy New Year! If you’ve found a way to keep your exercise bike a regular part of your life, I welcome some inspiration! And I’ll likely finish this message and text my wife, “What do you want me to pick up for take-out on the way home?” 


Here are some upcoming dates to be aware of:

-Monday, Jan 17: No School for Martin Luther King Day

-Wednesday, Jan 19: ABRHS Info Session on Science Curriculum (for 8th grade families and students)

-Monday, Jan 24: Early Release (1pm) for Professional Learning

-Friday, Jan 28: Hawaiian Shirt Day

-Monday, Feb 7: RJG School Council, 7pm

-Wednesday, Feb 9: ABRHS Curriculum Night, 7pm

-Thursday, Feb 10: NAEP assessment for selected 8th graders


Take care,
Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Jan 13, 2022 at 4:31 PM
  

Good evening, everyone:


I hope you all had a nice holiday season and a chance to visit friends and family over the break. My family and I had a good week together. We saw some immediate family over Christmas and otherwise stuck close to home. We played several games of Hedbanz and Rack-O, watched Home Alone about 12 times, and collectively took about 10 Covid tests. We have thus far survived without anyone in my home getting Covid this winter. I know that’s not the same for all of you. I hope that for whoever has it, their symptoms are easy and lead to a quick recovery.


I know that many of you have experienced the virus recently because we regularly get updates from you - thank you for being so direct and quick with sharing with us when someone has symptoms or has a positive test. That’s very important to us all. You have likely gotten an email from me this week saying that your child has been in a class with a positive case. This is a shift in our practices. Our former way of contact tracing was to narrow in on seating charts and inform only those contacts who were in the immediate area of a positive case. That was not sustainable for our staff, and as a district, we’ve shifted a bit. It’s remarkable that one student can come into “contact” with up to 100 other students over a day or two just by nature of being in the same class at some point during the day. So please know that we’re committed to finding the right balance with keeping you informed, without overdoing it. Aside from notifying the families of all students in specific classes, we are paying special attention to the close contacts within 0 - 3 feet who are currently unvaccinated. We approach those students differently and more immediately and we’re in contact with those families.


When we started the week on Monday, I reminded the students about our strategies for combating Covid, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and making smart decisions. They’ve been great this week - so thanks for supporting us in that effort. As we all continue to work through this, I continue to be thankful for our students who are respectful, caring, and helpful. 


And while our students are awesome - our staff might edge them out a bit in being even better. We all met on Zoom on Monday morning and I reviewed some changes in our practices. They all responded gratefully for our efforts to keep our students and ourselves safe. And while this is only the first week back, and we should be refreshed, we’re exhausted! Back in the fall, I took the opportunity during one of these messages to ask you to reach out and thank a teacher. This week is another good opportunity to do so. If you haven’t thanked one of our teachers recently, sending them a quick email would be most welcome.


And finally, the biggest champions of the year are our school nurses. Mrs. Doherty, Ms. Nimz, and Ms. Chadwick each spend time in our Health Office during the week. Without them and their careful attention to detail, and their caring demeanors, we’d be in a different place right now. They continue to help us navigate the world of Covid while dealing with other ailments and concerns. They are a really great team and help make the our work at RJ Grey this year safe and sustainable.


Here are some upcoming dates to be aware of:

-Monday, Jan 17: No School for Martin Luther King Day

-Monday, Jan 24: Early Release (1pm) for Professional Learning

-Friday, Jan 28: Hawaiian Shirt Day



Take care,
Jim Marcotte


Posted by jmarcotte  On Jan 06, 2022 at 5:55 PM
  

Good afternoon,


As I write this, we have just about made it through our first set of teacher conferences. I am breathing a small sigh of relief that the functionality of the whole process worked relatively well! We had a few glitches with Zoom permissions to start the day, so you have our apologies if that is the case and you couldn’t get into a meeting. Please reach out directly to that teacher if that was the case and they’ll find a way to connect with you. Connecting with families is important to us and if you didn’t have a chance to sign up for a conference, or if you want to share a bit more info than the 5 minutes allowed, please be in touch directly with your child’s teachers. We have additional conferences next Tuesday (12/21) and in the evening on January 6.


Last week, in this update, I shared with you a few statistics from our recent student survey. I shared that most students identified that they had an adult here at school, an adult at home, or a friend to whom they could go if they needed something. I’ll share again that I was pleased with the responses to this question, and I hope they only go up!

This week, our team took some time to process what we know about the recent school shooting in Michigan. We talked about many of the elements available to us through news reports. What sticks out to me through the reporting is that some students didn’t go to school on that particular day because they suspected something was going to happen. And yet, as far as we know, those concerns weren’t shared with the school. My potentially-too-optimistic take is that our students would tell someone they trust about this. And that adult would then take it seriously enough to call us. I’ve seen students and families report serious concerns to us, allowing us to respond to potentially dangerous situations. Just two weeks ago, a parent called our office to report an Instagram account that was designed to record our students doing inappropriate things. The subtitle on the account was “Don’t snitch.” We were able to put a stop to that behavior in the same afternoon because a parent among you called and let us know. I so appreciate that person’s attention to their child’s online activities and decision to report something that seemed wrong. 


Shortly, you’ll be receiving an email from Peter Light about a national TikTok trend. While I didn’t write the message above to directly coincide with the release of this statement, it’s another example of how students and you, our families, can communicate with us when you know something unsafe has the potential to take place. As a community, we all share that responsibility and I hope you see how important that is to us at RJ Grey.


On a much lighter note, we are headed into a vacation week! While I could certainly spend a day or two of the vacation getting some work done, I’m choosing to take the whole vacation off and hope to unplug from school. As a reminder, we do not give homework to our students over vacation weeks as we hope they benefit from the same opportunity to unplug. I wish you and your family a very restful and enjoyable holiday season. I’ll write again in the New Year! 


In the meantime, here are some upcoming dates that we should all be aware of:


-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 16, 2021 at 4:41 PM
  

Good afternoon,


I hope you are all doing well. I want to start by putting in another plug for our annual Coat Drive and our Toys for Tots drive. Both are currently accepting donations through next Thursday (12/16). If you have a used, warm coat that you’re looking to get rid of, we’ll take it! And the same applies for unused, unwrapped toys. Feel free to drop off any items, or send them with your children over the next week. We have drop-off locations in the main lobby.


Just before Thanksgiving, we gave our students a survey to create a baseline measurement of a few of the items on our School Improvement Plan. And while the survey revealed some areas where we have some work to do (and that we had anticipated), I was pleased with some of the results.


When asked, “If I have a problem or concern, I have a teacher or other adult whom I feel comfortable going to for help.” 85% of students agreed with this statement - which, in the first trimester I view as very strong. We hope this number will increase in the 2nd and 3rd trimester versions of this survey. When asked, “If I have a problem or concern, I have a family member or other adult outside of school whom I feel comfortable going to for help.” Huge shout out to our families, because 93% of our students answered Yes to this question. We also focused a few questions on students and their peer relationships. We asked, “Have you made new friendships at school this year?” 96% of our students answered yes! I think this is really great news and highlights the importance of us being back in school everyday! Finally, in this category of question, 95% of our students said they have “at least one friend from school whom I can ask for help/support.” 


I highlight these few questions to point out that at RJ Grey, we really rely on relationships. Students need strong relationships with their teachers in order to learn. And we also view relationships with adults outside of school, and with peers, as extremely important to the overall wellbeing and development of our 12, 13, and 14 year olds. I hope to share more data throughout the year as we unpack it and figure out what it means. 


In the meantime, here are some upcoming dates that we should all be aware of:


-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 09, 2021 at 3:47 PM
  

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
  
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