Grey Matters
A weekly blog by RJ Grey's principal Andrew Shen

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Hi Everyone,


Earlier this week, an RJ Grey student reached out to me to make sure I knew that she and a few classmates were planning a student walkout for the following day to demand action on climate change, an issue about which they had passionate feelings.  I had a chance to meet with two of the students ahead of time and we had a really healthy and productive discussion about their specific plans and goals, as well as many of the complicating factors in terms of how a school might need to view or respond to these plans.  We also talked about student activism in general, and how competing goals might collide with each other in these types of situations. In this case, how does a school community support the development of student voice and activism, while also meeting its obligations around safety and avoiding disruptions to classes and instruction?  Because of the relatively short amount of time before the expected walkout, I decided that for this particular moment we were going to have a “hold harmless” approach to any student who participated in this walkout and focused our time and energy on safety and supervision of the situation. When the time for the scheduled walkout arrived, approximately 200 students participated by leaving their classes and gathering on one of our school fields.  To be sure, a number of those students participated because of a sincere interest in the issue of climate change, and a few of those students prepared speeches to deliver to others in attendance. I think I can also say with confidence that a number of students who participated did so less for the stated reason, and more for the novelty of walking out of class and engaging in some boundary-testing that would not involve any consequences. With a bit of impromptu adult guidance and supervision, the walkout gathering lasted about 25 minutes and the students were generally respectful of the students who spoke.  


I know that the organizers felt really excited about how things turned out, and I would too if I were them.  I also appreciate that they know through our discussions why I have mixed feelings about the approach we took with the walkout and that my concerns come from a place of good intentions. They know that I’m in that “I want to support you, but….” place.  Specifically,  I’m not sure that in general, a “hold harmless” approach to walkouts is the correct response moving forward, for a couple of reasons.  First, as a matter of principle, if we want students to fully understand the choices involved with acts of civil disobedience, then it might be appropriate to hold them to the natural consequences that would come with a decision to cut a class and potentially creating a (peaceful) disruption to the school day.  Indeed, the power of civil disobedience comes from individuals saying that they care enough about a topic to accept the consequences that they know or anticipate will result from those actions. We want to encourage young people to develop a sense of agency around things they care about, and I think making some of these choices a bit messier for them might need to be a part of that process. I also, as a practical matter, have to always consider issues of safety and appropriate supervision of students given our responsibilities while your kids are with us during the day.  Having a response where students get the impression that we will accommodate and work around any plans of this kind would be, I feel, a bit problematic. Separate from these considerations, last week’s conversations did make me think about additional avenues and forums -- beyond the walkout method -- that we can help young people consider and access, where they will be part of a dialogue about those issues and concerns that are most important to them. I share the above thinking partially as a therapeutic exercise for myself (i.e. if I have to think about these questions, I’m bringing you all with me), and to acknowledge and engage with all of you in another area of our work in schools that is inherently grey and requires a bit of thought.


Here’s a couple of updates and reminders for families:


We originally scheduled the annual 8th Grade class photo to be taken last Friday, and then, shockingly, it rained all day.  We are going to try and have the photo taken this coming Tuesday, and early forecasts suggest that the skies will cooperate.  As a reminder, this is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field, and order forms were distributed to 8th grade students last week.   If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org.

Next Monday is Memorial Day and there will be no school that day
. Enjoy the long weekend!  

On
Tuesday, June 18 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips will be distributed to students in the very near future.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating.  Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family.  


“What is the quotient of 5040 divided by the product of its unique prime factors?” After answering that question correctly in less than 22.5 seconds, 8 Green student Daniel Mai was named the 2019 Raytheon National MathCounts champion at its annual competition in Orlando, Florida.  Daniel was one of 224 competitors from across the United States, all of whom earned a place at the competition after competing with 90,000 other students in local and state competitions.  If you’re interested, you can view the final round of the competition on ESPN, which was hosted by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory fame.  When Daniel returned to RJ Grey late last week classmates on his team hosted a small victory celebration, and the photo to the right is with his math teacher, Ms. Kelly.  Congratulations to Daniel whose ice-in-the-veins facial expressions and calm and collected demeanor throughout the final round were what I enjoyed most while watching the match unfold.  


I’m pleased and excited to be sharing with everyone information about our sixth annual Empty Bowls event.  The Empty Bowls event will take place this year on Thursday, June 6 from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  This is an evening of art, singing and ice cream! Students will showcase their art and singing talents and invite families to a charity ice cream social.  There will be an art show, Select Choir performance, a silent auction, and of course the charity ice cream social. 7th grade students made handcrafted ceramic bowls in their art classes and families that participate will get to take home a handcrafted bowl as a reminder of the vast number of hungry families around the world and right here in our own community. The money raised from this event will be donated to the Acton Community Supper and Acton Food Pantry. This organization helps to feed many hungry families in the greater Acton area. This event has helped raise $1000 for the charity each year.  Families from throughout the District are welcome, not just those with students at the Junior High. The ice cream social is $5 per person with a $20 family maximum. The rest of the event is free and we hope many of you are able to carve out some time to join us.


A few weeks ago Acton-Boxborough hosted a workshop about the rise of vaping and use of electronic cigarettes by adolescents.  This workshop featured Mary Cole, Program Coordinator for the Greater Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.  For those who were not able to attend but are still interested in the discussion, the evening’s discussion was recorded and posted to the District’s Youtube page, which you can access by clicking here.  In addition to that video, here is a TedMed Talk that a colleague sent my way and features biobehavioral scientist Suchitra Krishan-Sarin who offers a very useful overview of electronic cigarettes and what is actually being inhaled when an individual engages in vaping - including providing the distinction between a vapor and an aerosol.  


I’ve recently passed along a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 14th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, May 31st and will be at 7pm.   This week, I’d like to pass along some information about the 8th Grade Celebration from Carol Chytil, Deb Verner and Ranjini Reddy, the RJ Grey parents who (thankfully) are again coordinating the planning of this event.  Usually at least 350 students attend this event, so we rely heavily on the many volunteers who help make this evening a special way to end the year.  Parents or guardians of 7th and 8th graders are needed for the following jobs: set up after school on June 22nd; clean up after the dance; food and drink donations.  In past years, 7th grade Parent/Guardian Volunteers "pay it forward" so that parents of 8th graders can focus on their own children's participation in this important event. As a volunteer, you'll also get a preview of what your child will enjoy next year! Coming soon will be a “Sign Up Genius”  that invites parents and guardians to sign up to help in various capacities. This will also be sent out via the PTSO weekly newsletter. If you have questions, please free to contact Carol at carol.chytil@gmail.com.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 19, 2019 at 1:12 PM
  





Hi Everyone,


Happy Mother’s Day to any and all of you who plays that role to one (or more) of our students, or to anyone else.  If any of you were gifted with extended periods of peace and quiet as part of the day (unfortunately another rainy one) I wanted to re-share a link to a video that I came across four years ago, and have shared every Mother’s Day since, that documents the time when the New York Times Magazine decided to invite a group of 2nd grade students to experience a 7-course tasting menu prepared by chef Daniel Boulud.  Normally a dining experience that comes with a $220 per person price tag, probably closer to $300 in current dollars, I am predicting many of you will appreciate the experiences and honest feedback that the 7-year olds offer in this 8-minute video.  There’s no direct connection between the video and Mother’s Day, it’s just a fun video to watch during a quiet moment that I thought would be nice to share and has since become a Grey Matters tradition.   


Here’s some reminders for this week and beyond:

 

MCAS testing was completed last week (hallelujah).  Students who were absent on a day when they were scheduled to participate in one of the exams will be called down over the course of this week to compete those portions that were missed. We hope each of our students found themselves in a place last week where they were able to demonstrate their knowledge of the questions that were asked.  We also hope and will try our best to remind each student that while the scores that come back in Fall tell us how they did on these recent days in May, it will not tell us everything about them, including their growth as thoughtful students and people.


Memorial Day weekend is Monday, May 27th and all schools will be closed for that holiday - there will be no homework assigned for the long weekend, and I hope that families will use that time to relax and enjoy themselves.  


On Tuesday, June 18 (second to last day of school), both grades will be participating in their respective end-of-year field trips, and permission slips are being distributed to students this week.  As in previous years, the 7th grade will be going to Kimball Farm where they have full access to the bumper boats, miniature golf course, driving range, and other activities; the 8th grade will be going to Canobie Lake amusement park in New Hampshire. These field trips have historically been great and memorable parts of our year-end activities.  We also appreciate that the RJ Grey community includes families that may find the cost of these trips difficult to absorb.  Like all of our other trips and activities, we never want cost to prevent anyone from participating. Please do not hesitate to let us know if some relief from these field trip costs would be helpful to your family.  


A few weeks ago I provided a “save the date” for our end-of-year 8th grade celebration, which is scheduled for Friday, June 14th.  I also provided 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade celebration that we are planning for Friday, May 31st and will be at 7pm.  In the next few weeks we will include some additional information for how families can offer their assistance for these fun end-of-year events.


Even though the 8th grade Dance/Celebration is about a month away, I also want to re-share some information and messaging that I send out each year at this time about the event - and do my best not to oversell or undersell the atmosphere that exists at this great end-of-year activity.  Every year, I mention the below thoughts because sometimes, during some bouts of excitement about the event, a few expectations get generated within our student population that may be a bit on the unrealistic/ambitious/fantasy-ish side-- and then they occasionally get re-articulated to parents as school guidelines. So below is my annual “We’re really excited for this event, but this is not an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen” plea.  


We definitely make an effort (and with the help of parent volunteers, are always successful) to make this more than a “typical” or casual dance/celebration in terms of atmosphere -- we’ve got great decorations, props and backdrops for group photos, and an impressive spread of food (and it’s at night).  We want students to come excited and eager to spend an evening with their friends and classmates, and somewhat dressed up for the event. We ask students who attend this event to dress a bit more formally than most would for a regular school day -- whatever is your child’s individual version of “taking it up a notch”.  I’d try and get into more detail about clothing options, but then you’d discover how out of touch I am with current youth fashion trends.


As we get closer to the end of the year and students typically develop an increasing interest and excitement about the event, which is great.  We want to celebrate that enthusiasm and we also want to make sure everyone has a clear understanding that this is not an event that requires “coming with a date.” Quite frankly, it doesn’t even require dancing.  It’s a social event where music and the option to dance are a central feature, but certainly not a requirement. Please know that we are not trying to discourage students from attending the dance together, and happy for those who might be at that place. Our students are certainly at an age where for some of them dating, romantic feelings, and matters of the heart are a new area of intense interest. For other kids, this particular aspect of puberty does not currently play as prominent a role, with some being completely oblivious or unphased by it.  With that in mind, we are trying to strike a bit of a balance of providing an appropriate space for students to navigate this arena of teenage romance, but not have other students unintentionally develop the impression that dances and social events must involve a romantic angle. I hope this information helps if and when you have a conversation, or eavesdrop on overhear a conversation, about the event.  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 19, 2019 at 1:10 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


Who knew that when I was a kid and my parents would often sing to me Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” it was to prepare me for these past few weeks, and apparently there’s more rain on the way though with slightly warmer temperatures.  While the rain has certainly been helpful for the garden and grass at our house, it wouldn’t hurt to have the sun make a guest appearance once in awhile.  I would imagine that for those families whose kids participate in an outdoor sport or activity the precipitation has been a challenge, and perhaps on occasion a bit of a gift on those days when you’re admittedly not psyched about driving to this practice, game or tournament.  This week’s Grey Matters is going to be a bit on the shorter side, though not in protest of the weather.  I’ve been working on a letter to families that is a follow up to what I shared with everyone last week after the graffiti was found in one of our bathrooms.  I admittedly don’t have enough words in my brain to produce two separate pieces this weekend. My hope is to send that note out to families early this week to provide everyone a bit of additional thinking around the work that we’re doing and what I hope families will do in support of those efforts.  One additional important note: this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. If you’re able to carve out a few minutes this week, please consider sending a note to any teachers who have developed a positive connection with your child this year, and let them know!  Thanks in advance for considering.


Here are a few reminders and updates for the next few weeks:  


We are about to enter the final week of MCAS testing (insert cheers, streamers, and noisemakers here).  On Monday and Tuesday, 8th grade students will be completing the Math portion of the MCAS, and then 8th grade students will also be taking the Science/Technology portion of the MCAS on Wednesday.  7th grade students will then start the Math MCAS on Thursday and Friday. Students who are absent on the days they are scheduled for MCAS will be scheduled to complete those portions during a make up session the following week.  

Interim reports
for this current Spring Trimester were sent via email last Friday.  If your child received an interim from a teacher please take a moment to review the comments and feedback.  If you have any questions about those interims, please start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.

Come see RJ Grey
StageWorks’ Spring One-Act Plays, "10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse" and "Bad Auditions by Bad Actors." Performances are Thursday, May 9th and Friday, May 10th at 7pm. Join us for a fun evening of zombie attacks, purposely bad acting, and lots of laughs. Tickets are $5 for RJ Grey Students and $8 for adults and will be sold only at the door.

A friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our
Band, Strings and Chorus programs.  The Spring concerts are coming upon us.  The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15 at 7pm, and the Chorus and Strings Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 22 at 7pm.  Families of Band members hopefully received clarification from Mr. Arsenault about the date of the concert.  Please stay tuned for any additional updates from your kids and/or Mr. Arsenault (band), Ms. Green (Strings) or Mr. Charig (chorus) about details for those evening festivities.  

On Friday, May 17 we will be taking the
annual 8th Grade class photo.  This is a panoramic photo that we take outside on the hill by the football field.  Order forms will be distributed to 8th grade within the next week or so. If you have any questions or need any sort of financial assistance, please contact David Lawrence at dlawrence@abschools.org.  Please know that we are very committed to never letting
finances interfere with any student’s ability to fully participate in these types of school events or “keepsakes”, and want everyone to enjoy these moments without having to think twice about potential financial impact.  

And a hearty congratulations to Ethan Li who was named Artist of the Month for this May. As a reminder, this is a  program created by RJ Grey art teacher Holly Vlajinac as an opportunity for 7th and 8th Graders to have an authentic, juried art exhibition experience similar to the process in which professional artists participate.  Ethan and his artwork were chosen for the month of May and he is posing with one of his pieces in the photo to the left.  You can view more of Ethan’s work by clicking here.  



Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On May 19, 2019 at 1:08 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


The newly released Avengers: Endgame film grossed a record-breaking $1.2 billion this past weekend, and my wife Melisa and two of our kids participated in the hype last Thursday night.  Reports from Melisa are that our youngest son had a smile plastered to his face for 95% of the movie which is unsurprising given how much of his time (and our money) he has devoted to the Avengers franchise.  I have enough of a familiarity with the storyline to understand the “big picture”, but was very appreciative of this recent Washington Post piece that provided a guide to the sequence of events that were portrayed in the previous 21 Marvel films, and the role that the many characters played at different points in time.  Knowing quite a while ago the date of this film’s release, we made sure to reserve seats at a nearby theatre a few weeks in advance. While probably a bit different in feel and flavor, that feeling of anticipation that our son Parker had for this weekend’s movie release might be comparable to some of the growing excitement that students and families are having for the Spring and the end of the school year.  As temperatures increase (hopefully soon, and above this recent stretch of wet and raw weather), and we enter the month of May, the conclusion of the school year -- and Summer vacation -- definitely starts to feel like it’s within arm’s reach. That’s especially the case this year given that we only had one snow day (hallelujah).  Our last day of school is scheduled for Wednesday, June 19 and prior to that date we still have some important teaching and learning planned, and then we will be hosting a series of annual events and activities for students to mark the conclusion of another school year.  For 8th grade families, a very brief “save the date” for the annual End-of-Year Celebration for 8th grade students.  It will be held the evening of Friday, June 14th, so mark it on your calendars.  Within the next few weeks I’ll share a bit more about the event, and also the role that families play in making it a great event to finish off the year (and one’s time at RJ Grey).  I also want to provide 7th grade families with their own “save the date” for a 7th grade social/dance that we are planning for Friday, May 31st.  Stay tuned for more details later this month.   


Here are some reminders and updates for the next few weeks:


Interim reports for this current Spring Trimester will likely be sent via email towards the end of this upcoming week, or at the very beginning of the following week.  If your child receives one or more from his/her teachers and you have any questions about those interims, please start a dialogue with your child’s teacher.  


A friendly reminder for families whose children participate in our Band, Strings and Chorus programs.  The Spring concerts are coming upon us.  The Band’s Spring concert is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15 at 7pm, and the Chorus and Strings Spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21 at 7pm.  Please stay tuned for updates from your kids and/or Mr. Arsenault (band), Ms. Green (Strings) or Mr. Charig (chorus) about details for those evening festivities.  


This week we continue to take a pause on MCAS testing and then the following week we move to the Mathematics portion with 8th grade scheduled for that Monday and Tuesday, and then taking the 8th grade Science and Technology portion on Wednesday.  7th grade students will take the Math portion of the MCAS between that following Thursday and Friday. Students who are absent on days where they are scheduled to participate in MCAS testing will be scheduled for make-ups during the following week.  Here again is the MCAS schedule.  A friendly reminder to please help your child get some nourishment in the morning before they leave for school.  


I want to be sure to also acknowledge the upcoming start of Ramadan, which for our Muslim classmates, neighbors and friends will begin this year on the evening of May 5 and continue through early-June.  Thank you to the students and families who continue to find opportunities to share with us their experiences and what, for them, serves as the most important and impactful aspects of Ramadan. In previous years a number of our students who were fasting during Ramadan had conversations with teachers about options and choices for their daily lunch period.  There will be some students who are fasting who may still want to be in the cafeteria so they can spend some downtime with their friends. For students who would prefer to be in a space other than the cafeteria, our teams have started to identify some supervised rooms that can be available during lunch.


For both 7th and 8th grade students, the last part of MCAS testing falls within the first week of Ramadan (Wednesday, May 6 through May 10).  During the MCAS testing window, we often send reminders to families about the benefits of students having something to eat before they arrive to school and we also make small snacks (granola bar, etc.) available to students who might need something when they first arrive to class.  For our students who will be observing Ramadan during this time, I wanted to acknowledge that this particular testing schedule could feel a bit harder for them if they are fasting. If your student plans to fast during that week, I wanted to offer a friendly reminder and suggestion to, if possible, plan a pre-dawn meal (I believe it’s called sehri) for your child on those days in particular so they may have a bit of food in their stomachs as they begin MCAS testing later that morning.  We will continue to work with each of our teams to offer messages to our students about the choices that are available and the standing invitation to speak to us about anything they’d like us to keep in mind as they and their families continue to observe Ramadan this month.  


Starting three years ago the English Department began sponsoring a friendly contest for students who had an interest in reading an original poem during our end-of-year assembly.  We’re pleased to be including that feature again this year as part of our annual send-off event. Called, “The Final Verse”, current 8th grade students are invited to submit an original poem that speaks to one of a few possible themes (such as life lessons, memories, endings/beginnings).  One of the submitted poems will be selected and the student author will be invited to read it as part of the year-end celebration. 8th grade English teachers will share more information directly with students, and students who submit a piece must make sure to give it to their English teacher by May 21.  


Finally, this past week I met with our fifth group of Everyday Leaders, who joined me for some pizza and conversation, as the students caught me up on how the school year has gone.  Congratulations to the following students whose teachers included them in this cohort of Everyday Leaders: Kaelyn Greene, Maddy Primiano, Tanvi Sistu, Vaishnavi Murthy, Fiona Fagans, Lila Stanton, Mihir Nagarkatti, Katharine deBethencourt, Jialin Chen, and Griffin Bentley.   


Have a great week, everyone.  


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Apr 28, 2019 at 1:55 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


I hope everyone had a pleasant and re-energizing April Vacation, and returning with the energy and enthusiasm to finish the school year strong.  Our family stuck around for the break and took care of a few items that we’ve been pushing off for way too long (translation: three trips to Home Depot), folded in a couple of family activities and trips to the movie theatre, and had other moments where we gave ourselves permission to do nothing at all.  Then, of course, there were the two days where xxxxxdaesaerasdfadfadfasd and asdfafadfasf alongside xcxvxcvxvasfas except for when my son turned to asdfdsfasdfasand unfortunately when he said asdfasdfasdaf, I obviously had to asdfaksdfaksdfakl. before anything else happened.  Does the visual appearance of the last sentence look all-too familiar?  I don’t include the above (fake) redactions with the goal of offering any political commentary nor to make light of a divisive issue.  Instead, it’s a quick nod to how the visual appearance of online texts that have chunks of blacked out lines and excerpts has become a bit of a shared experience for all of us, and a more commonplace aspect of American popular culture and discourse.  To be sure, the parts of a certain report that was released last week that weren’t redacted already offer plenty to consider and debate, so the blacked out portions of that document simply add to the existing drama in a way that reminds me of the scene from an episode of the Simpson’s when Chief Wiggum says with some exasperation, “what is the fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?”  Here’s some good news, though - most articles that were published last week don’t have redacted portions, and many of them are worth reading and discussing! Here’s a couple that I came across that I thought might be worth passing along to all of you in case the subject matter resonates.  For Harry Potter aficionados, perhaps you have long been aware of how Quidditch is (and has been since 2005) a real-world game and many US colleges and universities sport competitive teams. Here’s an article about the intensity found within the Quidditch at the University of Maryland, and a separate NPR article about how the intensity and fierce competition that’s evolved on the field has led to more significant injuries - which some might argue is inevitable in a game that involves “bludgers”.  On the subject of athletics, here’s a more serious article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Are So Many Teen Athletes Struggling with Depression?” We often (appropriately) associate athletic activities and exercise as a positive contributor to overall health and even mental health, so I read with great interest new reports suggesting that the “professionalization” of youth sports and specializing in a single sport (or even single position) at younger ages is often leading to an increased susceptibility to negative emotions, stress, and anxiety.  On the subject of anxiety, here are two separate articles, one from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and one from NPR, that both highlight recent work at Yale University that focuses on providing training to parents of children with anxiety as the key strategy to developing effective supports for the children themselves.  As one reported noted, it’s one of those “so old it’s new” ideas that acknowledges the central importance of how parents respond when their child’s anxiety presents itself, and practicing strategies that shift from approaches that might provide immediate comfort, to ones that help their children develop over time the skills to overcome challenging situations.  Finally, here’s a piece from the Washington Post that offers families some suggestions for helping their students develop more effective study skills.  Most of you likely won’t be surprised that emphasizing routines that can lead to the development of specific habits is central to a lot of the suggestions that are made.  While none of the suggestions are particularly earth-shattering, they provide some general ideas that might reinforce some goals and strategies that you’re trying to establish at home.  


Here’s some calendar-related reminders for you to keep in mind as we return from the Break:


All families in Acton-Boxborough recently received a note from the District about the rise of vaping and use of electronic cigarettes by adolescents, and the efforts both locally and nationally to provide important education to parents and guardians about this trend. One goal of that note was to provide an update about statewide efforts to address this concern, as well as invite families to attend an event in our community featuring Mary Cole, Program Coordinator for the Greater Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.  This presentation will be held on Tuesday, April 30th at 7:00pm in the Junior High auditorium.  In addition Kimberly Manning, Program Coordinator at Boston Children's Hospital, will be available before the presentation with a variety of helpful vaping resources for families.


This Spring we will again be a drop-off site for the annual Spring clothing drive that benefits Open Table Food Pantry, which helps provide over 200 families each week with groceries, along with serving 200 meals and feeding 75 children each week.  The clothing drive runs from April 13 through May 13 and the donation box is stationed in the school lobby. Drop off locations for this drive can also be found at other town sites including, but limited to, the local town hall, the Acton and Boxborough town libraries, and other schools in our District.


An important reminder to families about the upcoming Challenge Success student survey that is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, April 23.  All families received a communication from the District before the break with information about the survey, including the scope and purpose.  Please also keep on your radar our District’s plans to send a separate (and related) survey to parents and guardians, also developed by Challenge Success, in an effort to capture perspectives and insights from the parent/guardian community.  Once the surveys are completed, the results will be shared with families through a variety of forms and forums, and will hopefully serve as a springboard to ongoing community-based conversations that bring together educators, parents and guardians, and other community members invested in the well-being of our students.


This week is a busy one in terms of our engagement with current 6th grade families whose children plan to join us at RJ Grey in September.  We have our Information Night scheduled for this Wednesday evening, and then we have a day (Thursday) where we offer tours to parents and guardians; and then on the following Monday, the PTSO is hosting an event where families can engage directly with current parents to discuss the transition process and the strategies, advice, and reassurances that our parents are most equipped to offer to incoming families.  If you have friends and/or neighbors who are joining the RJ Grey community for the first time this Fall, please encourage them to attend some of these programs, as we look forward to welcoming them (and their children) to our school.  


Finally, I want to acknowledge that Passover is taking place this weekend for those of you who observe that holiday, as well as a Happy Easter to families who may be gathering and/or observing that holiday.  I hope whatever activities and gatherings were part of your celebration were enjoyable and meaningful.  


Have a great week, everyone. Welcome back.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Apr 21, 2019 at 3:25 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


About six years ago a friend of mine started including me in her tradition of attending the Banff Mountain Film Festival, an event that comes to the Somerville Theatre every February.  The Banff Mountain Film Festival is an international film competition which involves an annual presentation of short films and documentaries about mountain culture, sports, and the environment and typically involves activities that lead most of us to say, “you’re doing what?!” This year, one of my favorite selections was a 6-minute film that documented 97-year old runner George Etzweiler’s annual participation in the Mount Washington Road Race, a 7.6 mile race up almost 4,700 feet, where he continually breaks his own record each year for oldest finisher.  Called, “For the Love of Mary” (click to watch), my favorite line from the film is when George notes, “I don’t keep track of my heart rate, I have a pacemaker that takes care of that.” And then there’s yours truly who yesterday decided to scrap a planned morning 4-mile run because I felt that it was a bit too windy for my liking.  With the Boston Marathon taking place a week from tomorrow, I wanted to cheer on any of our members of our community who may be preparing to run that race, and to share Mr. Etzweiler’s story as a bit of inspiration and encouragement.  


On the complete other end of things (at least from my perspective), I am highlighting here a series of recently posted articles that offered competing views of the growing world of e-sports and video gaming - a subject that we’ve explored in the past and is likely a topic of interest for a number of our families.  Here’s an op-ed piece in the New York Times by a columnist/parent who has bought into the Fortnite phenomenon, and a recent Washington Post piece that provides an update about a competitive esports league, in the Sports section, similar to the kinds of news and notes that many of us read regarding the latest updates on the Red Sox and Celtics. While still a very new phenomenon for many of us, this is a world that is becoming more commonplace and the norm for a growing population. Offering a very different perspective, this piece in the Boston Globe highlights a number of stories that suggest that Fortnite has had a damaging impact on the lives of many young people and their families - socially, physically, and emotionally.  Along with therapists and pediatricians in the area who were quoted in the Globe, a new voice that has emerged in this debate belongs to England’s very own Prince Harry who recently declared that the game should be banned.  Jus


This year’s MCAS testing begins tomorrow with 8th grade students taking the English/Language Arts portion.   We hope you will encourage your kids to get a good night’s sleep before they are scheduled for an MCAS test day.  We of course hope you encourage a good night’s sleep every night, but maybe place additional emphasis on it knowing they’ll be taking some assessments that are longer than what they typically experience.  A good breakfast always helps! If your child is absent for one of the testing dates, there are a number of make-up dates that we have already scheduled, and we will coordinate those make-ups with students.  


All families in Acton-Boxborough recently received a note from the District about the rise of vaping and use of electronic cigarettes by adolescents, and the efforts both locally and nationally to provide important education to parents and guardians about this trend. One goal of that note was to provide an update about statewide efforts to address this concern, as well as invite families to attend an event in our community featuring Mary Cole, Program Coordinator for the Greater Boston Tobacco-Free Community Partnership.  This presentation will be held on Tuesday, April 30th at 7:00pm in the Junior High auditorium.  In addition Kimberly Manning, Program Coordinator at Boston Children's Hospital, will be available before the presentation with a variety of helpful vaping resources for families.

We hope that the 8th graders who attended last Friday’s dance had a fun evening together.  Many thanks to the PTSO volunteers who made sure that everyone had plenty to eat and drink throughout the event: Tracey Estabrook, Mindy Fox, Fabienne Woolfolk, Donna McEnery, Sheila Bauer, and Mai Nguyen.  Each year when we host this school dance in April I use it as an opportunity to encourage parents and guardians to spend ten minutes listening to one of my favorite episodes of the NPR program This American Life.  First aired in October of 2011, “Middle School” includes a number of stories about this particular stage of adolescence and schooling, including a hysterical look at middle school dances. This examination was not exactly a scientific study but certainly hit on some themes and concepts that ring true for many who remember those complicated adolescent years, and certainly for those who for some reason decided to make it the setting of their professional careers.  For me the best part of the section focusing on middle school dances is when two students were describing the rules and expectations that their school articulated to them in advance of a dance, some of which were shared as written guidelines that included, “No Petting.” To which the students expressed serious confusion wondering out loud, “do people sit at dances and pet other people? That’s weird.”  If you are interested in listening to this episode, click here

Finally, April Vacation is next week
.  Please note that Friday is a full day of school.  If your travel plans involve your child missing some school we would appreciate your letting us know ahead of time so we can manage the attendance process a bit more easily.  Secondly, I wanted to continue offering a reminder and encouragement to use the vacation period to prioritize “playtime” and/or downtime for your kids. Remember, there’s no homework assigned over the vacation periods, and that’s so families can comfortably attend to other activities and interests.  


Have a great week and a nice April Vacation, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Apr 07, 2019 at 1:22 PM
  


Hi Everyone,


In 2016, Acton-Boxborough entered a partnership with Challenge Success, an organization based out of Stanford University.  Challenge Success (www.challengesuccess.org) is an organization based out of Stanford University that aims to reduce unhealthy pressures on youth and to champion a shift in how success is defined and measured in our schools and communities. They provide consultation, resources, and trainings to schools and communities who wish to pursue strategies for “creating environments that are necessary for children to mature into resilient, caring, and purposeful individuals.”  As part of this partnership with Challenge Success, all of our students in grades 6 through 12 completed the Stanford Adolescent Experience Survey in April 2016, which covered topics such as stress, homework, sleep, parental expectations, academic goals and integrity, and extracurricular commitments. The survey results provide a data set of close to 3,000 (then) current AB students and offered a starting point for wrestling with some complicated topics.  The data from that survey contributed to subsequent conversations and policy proposals about school start times and homework/workload expectations, and inspired parent/family presentations on topics such as technology and social media, resilience, and anxiety. Three years later, our District is still deeply invested in the aspects of the student experience that were highlighted in the survey, and eager to collect updated information from our students and families about the topics and issues highlighted in the survey.  With that in mind, our school district is planning to re-administer the same survey to students currently in grades 6 thru 12. This time around, the District is also planning to send a separate (but related) survey to parents and guardians, also developed by Challenge Success, in an effort to capture perspectives and insight from our parent/guardian community.  Right now plans for pushing out the survey are scheduled for the week of April 22 - which is the week after April Vacation.  Before that time, families will receive a more formal letter from Acton-Boxborough that provides families specific information about the scope and purpose of the survey, and the voluntary nature of the activity.  In advance of that more detailed letter, please know that both surveys (student and parent/guardian) are completed anonymously and you and your child’s privacy will be maintained throughout the process. Once the surveys are completed, the results will be shared with families through a variety of forms and forums, and will hopefully serve as a springboard to ongoing community-based conversations that bring together educators, parents and guardians, and other community members invested in the well-being of our students.


As we enter this Spring sports season, both at school and through community and club programs, I would encourage all of us (me included) to be continually mindful of how to be a supportive and thoughtful sports parent.  There is an intensity to youth sports today that can unfortunately dilute the many benefits that would typically be a part of the experience of being on a team and participating in lively competition.  Starting a few years ago, I have shared at the start of the Spring season an excerpt of a letter written by the father-in-law of a good friend to the players assigned to the Little League baseball team that he was assigned to coach in the Spring of 1977.  As we enter this next season of sports, I wanted to again share a portion of it in case it might resonate with you: “I do not care how many games you win or lose; I hope you win at least one game so that you and your teammates can experience the satisfaction of winning as a team, but I also hope you lose one so that you will experience the shared disappointment of a team loss...The purpose of the program is to give you and your teammates an opportunity to learn something about competition, sportsmanship and team play by actually playing on a baseball team, in the belief that, if well taught, the lessons learned on the baseball field will be valuable to you as you continue to grow up.”  


Here’s another really important reminder for current 7th grade families about the scheduling/registration process for your child’s 8th grade year.  All 7th grade families received an email that provided an overview of the online registration process, as well as a Registration Worksheet that provides instructions for how to navigate each step.  Students were also provided a paper copy of this form. Families must complete the online course registration process by this Wednesday, April 3, 2019.  Having all of this information by that deadline is necessary so we can begin the initial steps of ensuring that we have the information needed to assign the appropriate number of sections for different courses.


Here’s some updates and reminders for all of you:


Don’t forget that this Thursday, April 4 is the Junior High’s last early release day, where students are dismissed at 11:06am and staff remain to participate in professional learning.  Students will not be able to remain in the building so we ask families to plan accordingly.


Tickets are on sale in 8th grade homerooms for the upcoming spring dance which takes place this Friday April 5th from 7:00 - 9:00 PM in the gym. Tickets are $5.00 each and will not be sold at the door.  Tickets will be sold through this Thursday, April 4th.


As we still have about nine weeks of school remaining, I want to remind everyone of the Junior High’s Rise to the Challenge program, which is our way of recognizing student involvement in community service.  Students who complete 10 hours of service within the school year will be recognized for their efforts, and it’s definitely not too late to submit that information.  Please visit the community service page on our website that provides all the details for this program.  If you have any questions, please email Debbie Brookes at dbrookes@abschools.org.  

A friendly reminder to our Acton families that
Acton Town Meeting starts tomorrow - Monday, April 1 at 7pm in the High School auditorium.  Boxborough’s town meeting is scheduled for mid-May.  

Congratulations to Vaishnavi Murthy of 7 Red who was named Artist of the Month for this April. Vaishnavi and her artwork were chosen for the month of April and she is posing with one of her pieces in the photo to the right.  You can view more of Vaishnavi’s work by clicking here.  

One more week until we enter the season of MCAS testing.  This year we begin the 8th Grade English/Language Arts portion of the MCAS state assessments on Monday, April 8. Here again is a link to the RJ Grey-specific schedule for MCAS testing for April and May, and for both grades.  If your child is absent for one of the assigned testing dates, there are a number of make-up dates that we have already scheduled, and we will coordinate those make-ups with students.  As I mentioned in an earlier Grey Matters, MCAS this year will be computer-based for both 7th and 8th graders and we will continue to help students be prepared for that testing platform.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Mar 31, 2019 at 1:59 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


If you dropped off your child at school last Friday morning in the lower parking lot around 7:37am, you might have been one of the innocent bystanders who witnessed a scene that would be disorienting to most anyone, one of those, “is this really happening or did someone put something in my morning coffee?”  I turned 42 this past Saturday, and as part of our Main Office’s tradition of celebrating birthdays with a bit of dramatic flare, they decided that this year would be the right time to visit me during my morning traffic duties by pulling up to the drop-off area and creating a commotion that involved balloons and streamers, some very strange music, the window-sized laminated photo shown to the right taped to both sides of the car (in color no less!), and capped off with Katy Frey and two counselors leaping out of the back of the car waving all sorts of things including, but not limited to, what I think was a cow bell - I can’t be entirely sure, I’m still trying to process everything.  For the handful who had front row seats, and for those who perhaps heard about it secondhand from your child, I wanted to offer reassurances that it is not a sign of the apocalypse or the end of days. Instead, it was another performance hatched by a great group of colleagues who share the belief that there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than a public spectacle with a heavy dose of laughter. Through your own moments of interaction with the office staff most of you already know how great and helpful each of them are, and now you know a bit more about their humor and mischief, and one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to work at RJ Grey. That penchant for humor and mischief, however, never interferes with their ability to make the trains run on time at RJ Grey, and they are the primary reasons we’re able to operate so smoothly.  From scheduling parent conferences, to the daily attendance and dismissals, there’s an attention to detail and deadlines that, selfishly, certainly make my job infinitely easier. Right now, a good deal of their attention and energy is focused on the course registration process for our students since deadlines are coming up for 8th graders (tomorrow), and 7th graders (April 3), and I want to provide some important reminders.  Families of current 8th grade students should have completed the registration process for 9th grade courses at the High School.  Please remember that the portal closes tomorrow, March 25th at 3:30pm.  If your family is still reviewing the course recommendations, please carve out some time this evening to finalize those plans.  Families who are considering override requests should also review the additional steps and paperwork associated with that process.  


For current 7th grade families, there is still a bit of time before the registration window is closed for 8th grade, though please keep in mind that these deadlines often creep up on you pretty stealthily.  All 7th grade families received an email last week that provided an overview of the online registration process, as well as a Registration Worksheet that provides instructions for how to navigate each step.  Students were also provided a paper copy of this form. Families must complete the online course registration process by April 3, 2019.  Having all of this information by that deadline is necessary so we can begin the initial steps of ensuring that we have the information needed to assign the appropriate number of sections for different courses.  


As “veterans” now of the Junior High, I know that you appreciate how our team placement process focuses on creating teams that strive for balance and diversity in different academic and social areas, equitable class sizes, accounting for math level and world language choices, as well as scheduling for a range of services that students may require (to name a few of the dozens of variables).  While we are not able to build teams based on individual requests, we do understand that there may at times be information worth considering during the placement process. Should that be the case, you may pick up a Parent/Guardian Information Form at the Junior High main office anytime or download a copy of the form by clicking here. The Parent/Guardian Information Form for current 7th grade students is due back to the Junior High main office by April 9, 2019.  Please remember that filling out this form is not necessary nor is it expected.


I’ve got some timely updates and reminders to put in front of you, and then I spend some time reviewing the upcoming arrival of MCAS testing, which begins April 8.  


Don’t forget that Thursday, April 4 is the Junior High’s last early release day, where students are dismissed at 11:06am and staff remain to participate in professional learning.  

Our 
tryout and meeting schedule for Spring interscholastic sports - baseball, softball, and girls volleyball be viewed below. Students interested in the Spring Track program should plan to attend a meeting tomorrow - Monday, March 25 at 3:00pm in the Junior High auditorium.  At this meeting overview of the season, distribute important paperwork, and review expectations attached to the two levels of participation that are options for students.  Please remember that families must register on FamilyID for EVERY SEASONthat their student plans to participate in a sport. If your child already participated in a Fall or Winter sport and wishes to participate in a Spring sport, they must still register for their Spring sport on FamilyID. Additionally, all payments for spring athletic fees must be paid by CHECK and submitted to the team coach. The Athletics Department will not be accepting electronic payments during the spring season due to technical difficulties. All information related to Athletics can be found on our school website here.





A friendly and important reminder that we have students at RJ Grey who have organized a drive to support Cradles to Crayons with donations of gently used or new clothing and shoes to support programs that assist families that are homeless.  They are collecting donations in the main lobby from Monday, March 25th to Friday, April 5th. Clothing should be youth sizes 0-20 or adult small and medium. Shoes, boots, sandals, and sneakers should be infant/child sizes 0-13 and adult sizes 0-10. Socks and pajamas must be brand new.


MCAS! I am sharing with everyone some thoughts about MCAS, and a good portion of it is reused from the past few years, since my/our thoughts on it haven’t really changed, along with our suggestions for how families and students should view MCAS testing relative to other aspects of the educational process.  


This year we begin the 8th Grade English/Language Arts portion of the MCAS state assessments on Monday, April 8. Here again is a link to the RJ Grey-specific schedule for MCAS testing for April and May, and for both grades.  If your child is absent for one of the testing dates, there are a number of make-up dates that we have already scheduled, and we will coordinate those make-ups with students.  As I mentioned in an earlier Grey Matters, MCAS will again be computer-based for both 7th and 8th graders and we will continue to help students be prepared for that testing platform.


At RJ Grey, we are interested in continuing to express and balance two messages to students about MCAS.  First, we hope that students take their participation in MCAS seriously, where they try their best and respond to the questions thoughtfully and to the best of their ability.  At the same time, we want students to know that how they perform on these tests does not define them as individuals, nor as students.  It’s one type of measure (given at one point in the year), and like any single assessment, can not truly capture all that there is to know (and needs to be known) about a student’s growth as a student, and all of their other talents and strengths.  


MCAS results are provided to individual families to be reviewed; and as a school, we are responsible for addressing areas of concern that the state may identify based on our results.  So we certainly pay attention to, and we prepare students for the MCAS, along with our other assessments. However, we never want students to experience anxiety or distress over the MCAS, and to know that there is much (so much) more to one’s development as a thoughtful individual than is reflected in this particular set of assessments.  Each year, I include a link to a 2014 New York Times article entitled,  “How to Get a Job at Google” (click here) that highlights Google’s approach and philosophy to recruitment and hiring, noting a de-emphasis on test scores and GPAs as a predictor for the qualities that they seek, and instead “cares about a lot of soft skills— leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and relearn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.” In a February 2015 article in the Boston Globe Magazine, a Williams College psychologist presented her ideas about how our schools’ efforts might benefit from a re-orientation of our standardized assessments around skills and qualities that, interestingly, have much overlap with the Google article.  While the author didn’t specifically make reference to Google, it was hard not to see the similarities found in her “7 Things Every Kid Should Master” (and should therefore be the focus of assessments) as she emphasized reading, collaboration, conversation, flexible thinking and use of evidence, inquiry, and well-being.  Just some food for thought as we enter this season of state assessments.  


In an effort to support students during these testing days, we hope to work with families on establishing some routines that will deliver that dual message that I describe above. We begin MCAS testing about 15 minutes after homeroom so we can provide some time to make sure that all students are in their assigned testing location.  If you have time at home, please think about making sure your child has a good breakfast before leaving home-- taking a 2 hour test on an empty stomach can be tough for some (count me as one of them).  


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Mar 24, 2019 at 1:17 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


A happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate the holiday in some way, shape or form.  Although our family has some healthy Irish roots by way of Melisa’s mother’s side of the family, our annual acknowledgment of the holiday tends to be fairly low-key with the occasional helping of corned beef and cabbage.  Besides our kids getting St. Patrick’s Day cards from their grandparents, the primary way any of us added a bit of green to this past weekend was when we made our first visit to the new ice cream shop in West Acton Village and I ordered a good-sized serving of pistachio ice cream.  In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t order pistachio ice cream because of St. Patrick’s Day, it’s because it’s one of my favorite flavors.  Furthermore, this most recent order of pistachio didn’t have any green food coloring in it (which I prefer) but I had to find something that I could use to show my allegiance to this part of my wife’s family lineage and even if the pistachio part isn’t convincing, all of my in-laws are big fans of ice cream so at the very least that part of my efforts will be applauded.  In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, NPR posted this piece that summarized “seven stories of good luck” that ranged from moments of avoiding tragedy, to lottery winnings, to discovering lost treasures.  While we don’t count on luck and good fortune to play a prominent role in our scheduling process for students each year, we did find ourselves in a situation this year where the students who participated in the new Grey Block elective rotation were able to be enrolled in their first or second choices for each trimester.  While we certainly hope that this will be the case every year, a lot depends on the combination of choices that our students make each year and there may be instances where preferred choices can’t be granted. I make mention of this now because for current 7th grade students we are beginning the scheduling and registration process for the 2019-2020 school year.  This year the registration process for 7th grade families will also migrate to an online platform and be completed by families through the Parent Portal.  This Wednesday I will be sending 7th grade families an email that will outline this process and include an “RJ Grey JHS Registration Worksheet” that provides instructions and guidance for successfully navigating each step.  Paper copies of the Worksheet will also be provided to students.  Please note that families must complete the course registration on the Parent Portal by April 3, 2019.  


As part of the registration process, students will automatically be enrolled in the standard 8th grade courses (English, Science, Social Studies, Exploratory, etc.).  Where individual student choice enters this process is for your child’s aforementioned Grey Block preferences.  All students have the Grey Block period every other day and this is when students participate in either a full-year music elective (Band, Chorus, or String Orchestra) or the Grey Block Elective Rotation. Students who select Band, Chorus or String Orchestra are guaranteed a space in the program they select and they will be assigned to this course next year.  For students who choose the Grey Block Elective Rotation, they will participate in a rotation where they are enrolled in a different elective during each trimester (approximately 25 class meetings).  For each trimester, students who opt for the Elective Rotation will be presented with four (4) possible electives.  As part of the registration process, those students are asked to indicate their preferences for the electives listed within each trimester.  Similar to last year, our hope is that with three chances in a year, we will have the opportunity to schedule students into at least one of their more preferred choices.  That goal notwithstanding, students need to be prepared for the likelihood that at some point in the year they will be enrolled in an elective that was lower on their list of preferences.  We view the Grey Block electives as an opportunity for students to experience something different and new in a low-stakes and short-term setting (all classes are Pass/Fail).  For this, and other logistical reasons, please know that we cannot accommodate student/family requests for changes to elective assignments.  This includes the year-long commitment students make for Band, Chorus and Strings. We ask parents/guardians to join us in reinforcing this important message to our students.  A full description of the music electives and the Elective Rotation options will be included with Wednesday’s email letter.   


Here’s some updates and reminders for you:

IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR 8th GRADE FAMILIES
:  The Parent Portal is scheduled to open tomorrow (Monday) for families to review recommendations and submit course selections for 9th grade at the High School.  Please refer to the registration materials for additional contact and troubleshooting information.  

Report cards for the Winter Trimester
were emailed to families last Friday.  If you haven’t seen the report card, please let me know and we can produce another copy for you.  You can also try and access it through the Parent Portal.

Our 
tryout and meeting schedule for Spring interscholastic sports - baseball, softball, and girls volleyball has now been set, and can be viewed on the Athletics website.  We continue to operate under the assumption outdoor fields won’t be ready in time for the start of Spring sports - and if they are, then great. Please remember that families must register on FamilyID for EVERY SEASON that their student plans to participate in a sport. If your child already participated in a Fall or Winter sport and wishes to participate in a Spring sport, they must still register for their Spring sport on FamilyID. Additionally, all payments for spring athletic fees must be paid by CHECK and submitted to the team coach. The Athletics Department will not be accepting electronic payments during the spring season due to technical difficulties. All information related to Athletics can be found on our school website here.


This year, our Project 351 service representatives - Biz Brooks and Marion Stuntz - will be hosting another clothing drive for Cradles to Crayons, and they’ve asked me to pass along this introduction about the upcoming drive: “Every child should be cared for and have access to clothes and all of their basic needs. Cradles to Crayons is an organization that helps accomplish this goal. You can help the over 180,000 Massachusetts children living in poverty by donating new, like new, or gently used children’s clothing, coats, and footwear. We are collecting donations in the main lobby from Monday, March 25th to Friday, April 5th. Clothing should be youth sizes 0-20 or adult small and medium. Shoes, boots, sandals, and sneakers should be infant/child sizes 0-13 and adult sizes 0-10. Socks and pajamas must be brand new. Thank you for your generosity.”


Many thanks to the World Language Department for organizing World Language week and included a reading of the poem “Bilingual” by Alma Flor Ada on Friday by 8th grade students Mariella Laria and Elisa Rivero as a special edition of Poetry Friday.  You can read the original Spanish version of the poem, as well as the English translation, by clicking here.  


Finally, I had lunch with our latest round of Everyday Leaders last Thursday and I had great conversations with both the 7th and 8th grade lunch groups. Always grateful for the chance to break bread (in this case, pizza) with them and spending a little time learning about the school through their eyes.  Congratulations to the following students who were part of this round’s Everyday Leaders group: Shannon Patrick, Jenna O’Connell, Kaitlyn Vittum, Ben Perkins, Gus Cook, William Liu, Nandini Lal, Ameryllis Porter, Paige Pittorino, and Isha Agarwal.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Mar 17, 2019 at 2:59 PM
  

Hi Everyone,


The task of Springing forward and moving our clocks forward by an hour earlier today, and the subsequent “loss” of an hour this morning reminded me of a series of articles I read two years ago about some efforts to eliminate daylight savings and permanently move to the Atlantic Standard Time zone.  Here’s an article from that time about a state panel in Massachusetts that endorsed this move, and another that offered a brief history of how daylight savings came into existence.  After re-reading these articles I started to wonder if this issue has gained any momentum, and it appears that there’s a growing movement across the nation to do away with daylight savings.  Here’s an article from this past Saturday’s New York Times that highlights legislation in both California and New Hampshire on this issue, and here’s a piece in National Geographic that not only provides a great overview of the topic (accompanied by useful graphics), but also introduces us to the term “daylight savings time activist”.  Apparently there’s some folks out there that really care about this topic who consider it more than just a mere nuisance.  All this talk of calendars and schedules is quite fitting for this week’s Grey Matters given that the rest of this week’s newsletter is chock full of updates and announcements regarding upcoming events, deadlines, and programs.  Below are useful updates regarding Spring sports, High School course registration for 8th grade students, and a brief preview of this Spring’s MCAS calendar.  


First, a quick note that with our first snow day of the year (and what I personally hope is our only snow day of the year) our last day of school is, as of today, now scheduled for Wednesday, June 19.

Winter Trimester report cards
may be sent out this Friday, but may also get changed to Monday because of our snow day and depending on a few variables.  Thanks for your patience.


Our tryout and meeting schedule for Spring interscholastic sports - baseball, softball, and girls volleyball has now been set, and can be viewed below.  We are operating under the assumption that outdoor fields won’t be ready in time for the start of Spring sports - and if they are, then great.  I can confirm that students interested in the Spring Track program should plan to attend a meeting on Monday, March 25 at 3:00pm in the Junior High auditorium.  At this meeting the coaches will provide an overview of the season, distribute important paperwork, and review expectations attached to the two levels of participation that I outlined in last week’s Grey Matters.  Please remember that families must register on FamilyID for EVERY SEASON that their student plans to participate in a sport. If your child already participated in a Fall or Winter sport and wishes to participate in a Spring sport, they must still register for their Spring sport on FamilyID. Additionally, all payments for spring athletic fees must be paid by CHECK and submitted to the team coach. The Athletics Department  will not be accepting electronic payments during the spring season due to technical difficulties. All information related to Athletics can be found on our school website here.



The annual March Madness basketball tournament was last Friday, and was a good deal of fun for the many students who attended. Many thanks to the parent volunteers who staffed the event and continually replenished the snack table: Tracey Estabrook, Mai Nguyen, Lisa Thermidor, Cindy Richardson, Maria Parodos, Karen Finkelman, Hope Rupley, and Kelly Sturniolo.    


Don’t forget that the RJ Grey Junior High yearbook is offering you the chance to send your love, pride and congratulations to the graduating 8th grade RJ Grey student in your life.  You can purchase one of two advertisement formats to relay a message that your 8th grade student will cherish forever. Ads must be submitted by this Wednesday, March 13. Please click the link for submissions guidelines and instructions. Please contact Marc Lewis (mlewis@abschools.org) with any questions.  


This year, our Project 351 service representatives - Biz Brooks and Marion Stuntz - will be hosting another clothing drive for Cradles to Crayons, and they’ve asked me to pass along this introduction about the upcoming drive: “Every child should be cared for and have access to clothes and all of their basic needs. Cradles to Crayons is an organization that helps accomplish this goal. You can help the over 180,000 Massachusetts children living in poverty by donating new, like new, or gently used children’s clothing, coats, and footwear. We are collecting donations in the main lobby from Monday, March 25th to Friday, April 5th. Clothing should be youth sizes 0-20 or adult small and medium. Shoes, boots, sandals, and sneakers should be infant/child sizes 0-13 and adult sizes 0-10. Socks and pajamas must be brand new. Thank you for your generosity.”


I mentioned last week that on Monday, March 18 the portal for current 8th grade students to register for high school courses will be open. Before that time, students will have met with their current teachers to discuss course recommendations for next year.  As you prepare to work with your 8th grade student on his/her/their choices for next year, please be sure to review the materials that have been made available to you and them.  Families should review all of the following documents: (1) the High School Program of Studies, which includes details about course requirements and guidelines; (2) the list of 9th grade electives for 2019-2020; and (3) directions for electronic course selections.  I would strongly recommend that all 8th grade families review the entirety of the directions - there is information about the process for override requests that must be followed should you wish to pursue that route. Please note that families who might need assistance with accessing the portal should use the high school contact information that is listed at the top of the instruction sheet.  


This year, we will be celebrating National World Language Week during the next five days of school (March 11 through March 15).  The goal is to bring awareness to the importance of foreign language study through the celebration of languages and cultures.  At RJ Grey, we will be observing National World Language Week through morning announcements where students will be greeting the RJ Grey community in a variety of languages. At the end of the week, one 8th grade student will read a poem in English and Spanish for Poetry Friday. Monday through Thursday, students will also read a world language-oriented trivia question during morning announcements and students who would like to answer the trivia questions can pick up ballots from the World Languages teacher on their respective teams, and can enter their completed responses in the Trivia ballot box.

 


Finally, assuming that we don’t get any surprise snowstorms in April, we begin our
MCAS testing this year on Monday, April 8.  Last year both 7th and 8th grade MCAS assessments were computer-based.  Rest assured that we will again be providing our students in both grades some training on how to engage with the computer-based testing platform prior to April 8.  When we get closer to the MCAS testing dates, I will be sharing more information about how we organize the testing days (and constant reminders to make sure your kids eat a good breakfast), along with some thoughts about the role MCAS should, and shouldn't, play in the academic lives of our students.  In the meantime, here is a link to the MCAS schedule for the Junior High.   If your child is absent for one of his/her testing dates, there are a number of make-up dates that we have already scheduled, and we will coordinate those make-ups with students.


Have a great week, everyone.


Cheers,

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Posted by ashen  On Mar 10, 2019 at 11:31 AM
  
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