Catholic School Matters

September 9, 2018

Where is Your Attention?

I took a little extra time this summer before publishing this first issue. I thought the extra time would allow me to better articulate my thoughts & feelings regarding the ugly revelations which have surfaced in and around the American Catholic Church. But I can’t. We are still in the middle of this mess and can’t undue years of dysfunction and coverups in a few months. However, Kent Hickey has presented a great analysis and call for action in Every Catholic, Lay and Clergy, is Called to Confront the Evil of Abuse.


One of the best books I read this summer was Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (2016) by Tim Wu. He describes that the battle for our attention is playing out every day and consequently explains the fascination many people have with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. As leaders, we are challenged to make our calendars match our priorities. Are we spending time on what’s important? To that end, let me direct your attention away from the ugliness in order to offer a path toward better leadership.

These are the best articles and links I came across this summer:


· “If Strategy is so important, why don’t we make time for it?” in HBR. It’s a great reflection on the problem we all face. Are we spending time doing what we know we need to do? Pair this article with “Strategic Thinking—Exercises & Tools for Creatie Thinking & Strategy” in brainzooming.com.

· “To overcome your insecurity, recognize where it really comes from” in HBR. Leaders are often unwilling to admit their own insecurities or are unsure what to do with it. This article made me uncomfortably reflective and has echoes of Dr. Brene Brown's work on vulnerability.

· “Training compassion ‘muscle’ may boost brain’s resilience to others’ suffering” from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Haven’t you ever wondered how you teach (in the sense of how you do something like throw a pitch or write an essay) compassion?

· Bishop McElroy describes Pope Francis’ pastoral vision in a kenote address to the Association of US Catholic Priests

· “How the Pursuit of Happiness Made Us Nervous Wrecks” from Wharton/UPenn. The anxiety epidemic doesn’t begin and end with our students!

· “As Catholic Options Dwindle, Middle Class Retreats from Private Schools” is a must read for every Catholic leader, board member, and especially every finance council member. We are losing the middle class in our Catholic schools!

· “School without grade levels?” in Hechinger Report. This is a great study of how multiage classrooms are proving effective (again) and are catching on—and not just because of enrollment reasons.

· “’Go to the Margins’: Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ visits ACE” is a great message that we should all heed.

· “Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning: Making Smarter Arguments, Better Decisions, and Stronger Conclusions” from the Farnam Street Blog (one of the weekly blogs I faithfully read). This is a great example of the quality of articles which help you think about thinking. Another great example was this summer’s “The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything.” I thought about this process for a month or more.

· Archbishop Hunthausen passed away this summer. A Montana native and former bishop in Helena, he was the last living American Bishop to sit for all 4 sessions of Vatican II. Bishop Thomas provided a homily for the Stational Mass in Helena and Fr. Mike Ryan provided a colorful and poignant homily in Seattle. It’s a remarkable collection of reflections for a remarkable prelate.

· “What Happened When the Dean’s Office Stopped Sending Emails After Hours” is a great reflection on productivity and respecting people’s non-work hours. Do you send emails to colleagues after working hours? If so, read this. We need to model good emailing behavior.

· “How do you improve schools? Start by coaching principals, says new study” in chalkbeat.org. We need to move beyond a compliance model and to a formation model.

· Jack Peterson of Managing for Mission provides a toolbox of materials for Board Formation & Governance.

· “Creating Culture” by Andy Dunn in Medium was a concise and clear way to understand the way we build our school cultures. For example, one of our great principals here in Montana has listed giving positive notes to teachers as a goal for this year in order to strengthen his school’s culture.


Overwhelmed? Don’t worry, I’ve decided to publish fewer newsletters and to focus on a theme. Next week, for example, I'll be catching up on Catholic school news. Another change this year is the podcast. I’m calling it the “Catholic School Matters Radio Hour” and running multiple guests and segments this year. This Wednesday, the first episode of Season 3 will drop and will include a conversation with Dr. Kevin Baxter, the outstanding superintendent in the Archdiocese of LA, the dynamic April Garcia from ACE, and two outstanding presenters from this fall’s CLS, Dr. Jennifer Bigelow, the superintendent of Arlington, and Dr. Tara Rolle from the Drexel Schools in San Jose.


Another new feature is that I’m trying to put together scenarios/case studies for Catholic leadership. What are the moral challenges we face as Catholic school leaders? I’ve written a few and will be sharing one each month and asking folks to submit their examples to catholicschoolmatters@gmail.com


I’m also going to try doing a virtual book club. This month, I’m encouraging folks to read Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson. Dr. Ericsson has agreed to come on the podcast so he’ll be a guest in early October and I’ll take questions from you! Get the book and start reading!


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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Community Engagement

  1. Dr. Anders Ericsson, the co-author of Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise (2016) has agreed to come on the podcast in early October to discuss his book. The book outlines "deliberate practice" and we'll explore its application to Catholic schools. If you've like to participate, pick up the book, read it, and then submit questions for Dr. Ericsoon to catholicschoolmatters@gmail.com
  2. I'm putting together a collection of scenarios of Catholic leadership as a means to teach Catholic leaders how to develop their own moral leadership compass. I'll preview a scenario each month and ask you to submit any ideas of Catholic school leadership moral dilemmas to catholicschoolmatters@gmail.com. The example:



You have a 12th grade basketball player who is being heavily recruited. A four year starter, last year he suffered a panic attack on the court and has been dealing with anxiety issues on and off the court for the past couple of years. A story came out in the newspaper about his mental health issues before the season began. As a heated rivalry game begins against the crosstown Catholic school, you notice that the school's student section has started a cheer mocking your player's mental health issues. You notice that students are yelling "He is Crazy" and "Get a Shrink" in unison. First, identify the issues. Then, reflect on different responses.

Best Articles from the Summer

What I'm Up To

Pictured to the right are three of our new teachers in Montana. Srs. Lillian, Mary Charles, and Veronica joined the St. Paul Mission Grade School community from Nigeria's Missionary Sisters of Divinde Providence. The three sisters joined the long-serving Sparkill Dominicans and will welcome two more members later the month.


This week I launch the revamped podcast on Wednesday. I'll be in LA, Great Falls, Butte, and Missoula. Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.


  • Monday 9/10: Office & fly to LA
  • Tuesday: WCEA meeting (LA)
  • Wednesday: Diocese of GFB chancery meeting & Butte Central Catholic Schools Board
  • Thursday: Missoula Catholic Schools visit & USCCB Cte on Catholic Education virtual meeting
  • Friday: Office (Helena)


Miles this week: 579 driving miles; 1,982 air miles

Miles travelled in 2018-19: 8,326 road miles; 15,077 air miles

NCEA Events

  1. NCEA Seton Awards & Philanthropy Symposium Oct 1st
  2. Catholic Leadership Summit & New Leaders Academy Oct 20-24 , Jacksonville
  3. NCEA Conference & Expo April 23-25, Chicago

What I Read This Summer

  1. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads (2016) by Tim Wu
  2. Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit and Public Organizations (2006) by John Carver
  3. A Catholic School Governance Handbook for a New Era (2018) Ryan, Sabatino, and Haney
  4. Dead Eye: A Gray Man Novel (2013) by Mark Greaney
  5. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things are Better Than You Think (2018) by Hans Rosling
  6. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire (2017) by Kurt Anderson
  7. How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (2015) by Julie Lythcott-Haims
  8. In Praise of the Useless LIfe: A Monk's Memoir (2018) Paul Quenon, OCSO
  9. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs (2018) by John Doerr
  10. Objectives & Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement with OKRs (2016) by Paul R. Niven & Ben Lamorte
  11. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (2016) by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool.
  12. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (2015) by Peter Frankopan
  13. The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society (1993) by Amitai Etzioni
  14. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else (2008) by Geoff Colvin

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue