Catholic School Matters
November 30, 2021
This week another principal resigned, bringing to three who have resigned since the school year began. My suspicion is that every Catholic school in our diocese has lost at least one teacher this year and some as many as half. We have a serious crisis. They are quitting because of exhaustion and burnout and the solution is not to give them time off, which seems to aggravate parents and doesn’t lead to more student learning, after all. I think it’s time to set some clear boundaries on parent communication which might rescue some teachers and principals.
Conflicts with parents seem to go nuclear quicker than ever. What starts as a simple question becomes threatening. COVID questions (masks, quarantines, distancing, vaccinations) or the mention of CRT seem to bring out fiery passions and what was once friendly discourse swirls in the toilet. What has already been an exhausting year has worsened for many teachers because of these conflicts and many of them are walking on eggshells, trying to avoid tripping any of those wires.
I think we need to give our teachers permission to forward those conversations to their principals. Once parents become belligerent, those conversations need to happen with school leaders. And if school leaders need help, we (Chris, Kari, and me) can help.
What do I do during those conversations? I don’t set out to change anyone’s mind. I listen, acknowledge their pain and confusion, but remind them of what I believe and decisions I’ve made. For example, in the past few weeks more than a few parents have asked me to challenge Erie County health regulations on masking or quarantining. I maintain that we’ve decided to follow the advice of the health department. While some of the regulations might seem outlandish, we have decided not to pick and choose and simply to follow the advice of professionals. They don’t like that decision, but I’m clear and consistent.
Teachers should still be clear and consistent in their communication about student learning and classroom climate. But they also need to set the boundaries and divert those belligerent conversations to school leaders so they can focus on instruction and forming students. We are continuing to see teachers wearing down and quitting. Perhaps creating these boundaries might rescue a few.
Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.
Dr. Tim Uhl
St. Joseph University School is looking to hire a Cafeteria Manager. The position is part-time and we would be willing to share a Manager with another school. The hours and the pay are negotiable. Please contact Mark Mattle at SJUS, (716) 833-6550, email@example.com
If you'd like to nominate a great Catholic school teacher for the "Making a Difference" award, the deadline is December 31st. Here is more information.
Bishop Fisher wrote a letter encouraging vaccinations in September in case you'd like to use it now.
If you'd like your school's open house listed on our website, please send to Cathryn.
CSAANYS has partnered with St. John's University to organize an Emerging Leaders Institute for those teachers interested in becoming principals. Here's a flyer with more information.
Kari Buchinger on Academics
The season of Advent is upon us! During this time, we are called to reflect on how we can prepare our hearts, minds, and homes for Christ's birth. There is great anticipation and an abundance of hope. We have shared these same sentiments several times over the last two years as the pandemic has impacted our school communities. We have great anticipation and an abundance of hope that our lives will return to normal. But we haven't gotten there yet. Amid this anticipation and hope, teachers have experienced a great deal of exhaustion and fatigue. This holiday season presents another opportunity for school leaders to bring some joy to their teachers. Take a look at some of these fun (and practical) ideas:
- Adjust lesson plan requirements- is your format becoming a burden for teachers instead of a helpful tool?
- Ask your HSA to host a teacher breakfast or lunch.
- Dress down days to get into the holiday spirit
- Host a cookie exchange
- Reach out to parents to help cover lunch and/or recess duty
- Keep meetings focused- if it can be communicated via email, send it!
- Send written notes of gratitude.
- Arrange a holiday lunch or celebration
- Take a Praise Walk! (Put a poster outside each teacher's door. Encourage colleagues to leave a note of praise for one another)
School leaders, you have earned some joy and rest too! You may want to consider the following:
- Emails don't have to be answered immediately. Add an out of office message that states two or three times each day that you will check email.
- Enjoy some time with your families. It is ok to unplug and not respond to emails after the work day.
- Close your door- are you being ambushed by questions while you are trying to submit reports? Close your door. An uninterrupted 20 minutes can help you cross items off of your to-do list.
- Take email off of your phone. As a principal, this one decision changed my life! We do not need to be glued to email and feel pressured to respond whenever we hear a "ding."
- Join kindergarten for a brain break. That makes everything better!
Your hard work, positive attitude, and commitment to Catholic education do not go unnoticed. We are truly blessed to have you all to share in this great anticipation and hope.
Pope Benedict XVI said, "It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope." I pray this Advent season lives up to the words of Pope Benedict XVI and showers you with joy, gratitude, and hope for your families, students, and communities.
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
As December approaches, remember to finish your first eight required safety drills by the December 31st deadline. Hopefully you were able to complete the six recommended evacuation (fire) drills so you have December to complete two of your four required lockdown drills.
As I mentioned previously, all schools that are located outside of the city of Buffalo with more than 25 students must submit their completed Fire Safety Report via the NYSED Business Portal by 12/16/21. Information on the process and the required forms can be found on this webpage: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/nonpub/fire_safety_report.html. Several schools had trouble locating the online report so here is the best way to get to your report (from Directions on Accessing the Nonpublic School Annual Fire Safety Report (nysed.gov):
1. Log into the NYSED Business Portal at https://portal.nysed.gov/
2. Under “My Applications”, choose “Facilities Planning-Fire Safety”.
3. Once you select “SEDREF Buildings” your school will appear.
4. Select “Enter Report” to input the data from your completed Fire Safety inspection.
12/1/21 Fire Safety Inspection Must be Completed; Report Due 12/16/2021
12/31/21 Complete Eight of the 12 Required Evacuation or Lockdown Drills.
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays. We're going to check in on the teacher evaluation process.
- The National Day of Giving for Catholic Schools is scheduled for FEb 2, 2022. Here's a link for more information.
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Video recording of All-schools Mass at OLV with Bishop Fisher. Here is the link to Dr. Uhl's talk.
- "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
- Here's a link to the forms on our website.
- New Policy Manual
- New Operations Manual
- Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form
Articles for Your Reflection
Pictured above is the first St. Joseph Collegiate Institute, the all-boys Christian Brothers high school, located at 1238 Main Street (site of the present Delta Sonic).
Did you Know?
The second Catholic school in Buffalo was located at St Louis Church, founded in 1850. The first order to serve there was the Sisters of St. Joseph.
My Last 5 Books
- The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church (2014) by Pope Francis
The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso (2003 edition) by Dante Alighieri
The Future of Catholic Higher Education: The Open Circle (2021) by James L. Heft, S.M.
Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Practice & Principles (2006 ) by Peter F. Drucker
Retention: A Systems Approach to Growing Enrollment (2018) by Mike Ziemski
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved prescient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation.