Catholic School Matters

April 23, 2017

Inclusion Summit

My first night at the NCEA Convention I was privileged to attend the Inclusion Summit where I heard the stories of the great people working to open our doors to students with diverse learning needs. It was an overwhelming experience that didn’t quite start to make sense for me until hearing Jonathan Doyle deliver the keynote the next day.

“God comes to you disguised as your life” he said. Often times our schools wonder about their charism or special purpose. What makes them unique? And then a parent shows up with a student with special needs. Or a poor family desperate for a better education. Teachers and principals wonder if they have the resources to serve the family. But perhaps that is God coming to your front office asking to be admitted. God’s presence is disguised in an educational problem—how do we serve all students?

On Monday night, I was able to hear about great organizations like FIRE (Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education) in the Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph. FIRE is expanding to the Dioceses of Dubuque and Springfield, spurred on by parents wanting to open their schools to all students, such as those with with special needs who have older siblings in those schools already.

I met LeeAnn and Tony Armitage from St. Louis who have started the One Classroom Foundation to support inclusion efforts beyond their own child in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. I met Francesca Pellegrino, the founder of CCSE (Catholic Coalition for Special Education) who couldn’t enroll her own special needs child in Catholic schools and now works to raise money to support Catholic inclusion efforts in DC and Baltimore. The room was filled with parents, teachers, principals, and supporters who all told their powerful stories.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be told your new child has Down’s Syndrome? And then to be told that your child cannot attend Catholic school? Beth Foraker, the President of the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, is right to challenge the Knights of Columbus to raise money to support inclusion efforts. For years, the Knights have championed the Pro-Life cause. Why can’t they champion the inclusion cause?

The NCEA Convention also marked the publication of “Exceptional Learner’s White Paper: One Spirit, One Body” by Dr. Michael Boyle of the Greeley Center in Chicago and Dr. Pam Bernards of NCEA. They reference the Pastoral Statement of US Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities” published in 1978: “defense of the right to life, then, implies the defense of other rights, which enable the individual with a disability to achieve the fullest measure of personal development of which he or she is capable. These include the right to equal opportunity in education” In their updated pastoral letter published 20 years later, the Bishops argue, “Costs must never be the controlling consideration limiting the welcome offered to those among us with disabilities, since provision of access to religious functions is a pastoral duty.”

Inclusion is a pro-life issue by celebrating the dignity of every child. As students with diverse needs seek to enter our schools, it is our obligation to prepare the path and open our doors.

What can you do? Read the white paper which provides recommendations for student support at all levels—the classroom, the school, the diocese, etc. It’s a great place to start. Other readings for you to consider:

· My April 7th blog post “Including All Students” which was a reflection on my Catholic School Matters podcast on Inclusion & Special Education. The link to the podcast episode is at the end of the post.

· Here’s a great blog post from a parent describing (and showing via pictures) her son’s journey toward inclusion in a Catholic school.

· Beth Foraker from the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion wrote a great blog post last year about a miraculous story of inclusion and then a follow-up post sharing insights.

· Another great blog post from Beth and a separate inclusive group.

· A great article from Dr. Martin Scanlan in the International Studies in Catholic Education (there might be a paywall).

· A couple of articles about inclusivity efforts in Catholic schools here and here.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

This week, I have two great podcasts for your listening (and learning) pleasure. Tomorrow, Episode #44 is an interview with Dr. Marco Clark, the president of Bishop McNamara High School outside Washington, DC. Clark gives insight into the challenges of leading a Catholic high school and the evolving role of the president.

Thursday, Episode #45 features an interview with Keiran Roche, the Regional Director of School Culture for the ACE Academies in Tucson. He discusses his intentional efforts to build school cultures based on Catholic identity and student success.

Over the past two weeks, I published three podcasts. Episode #43 is an interview with Dr. Susan Abelein, the Director of Leadership Formation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Episode #42 is an interview with Fr. Steve Katsouros, SJ, the first president of Arrupe College, an innovative junior college model designed to serve an underserved population. Episode #41 is an interview with Superintendent Dr. Jim Rigg of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Rigg is focused on school vitality and has a unique perspective on using data to understanding school trends such as school strength and market potential.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Please subscribe to the podcast so new episodes will automatically download. The show is also available on Stitcher and Google Play. If you don't have accounts with any of those content providers, here is the link to my basic page with the podcasts.

I have finished taping Season One except for the final episode. For that episode, I'd like to answer questions from listeners. Please use this form to send me questions. If you have nominations or ideas for Season Two, send them via email.

Last week, Dr. Uhl blogged about:

  • TUESDAY: Susan Abelein's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Architects of Catholic Culture by Dr. Tim Cook
  • FRIDAY: Inclusion in Catholic Schools

This week, Dr. Uhl will blog about:

  • TUESDAY: Dr. Clarks' podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  • FRIDAY: Keiran Roche's podcast

You can find and subscribe to the blog at

The Week Ahead

Monday: Great Falls meetings

Tuesday: St. Mary's visit (Livingston)

Wed: Missoula meetings

Thurs: Montana Federation of Independent Schools meeting (Bozeman)

Fri: St. Paul MGS Board Meeting (Hays)

Next week: 1,222 driving miles

Last 2 weeks: 895 driving miles; 3,397 air miles

2016-17: 29,040 driving miles; 32,737 air miles

What I'm Reading (Last 5 books)

  1. Catholic Schools and the Common Good by Anthony Bryk, Valerie Lee & Peter Holland
  2. Traction by Gino Wickman
  3. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
  4. Charism & Culture: Cultivating Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools by Dr. Timothy Cook
  5. How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Click this link for a full list of Dr. Uhl's professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Principals & Teachers

  1. Here is the flyer for the Sophia Institute's religion teacher workshop on October 19th. Please print out and share!
  2. NWEA is offering a great webinar on end of the year summary reports. Here's the sign up for the May 15th event.
  3. We now have three principal openings: St. Joseph's (Missoula), Great Falls Central Catholic HS, and St. Paul Mission Grade School (Hays).
  4. NCEA has a great list of upcoming webinars. It also has compiled a list of great summer 2017 professional development opportunities.
  5. The Justice for Immigration project of the USCCB offers resources for undocumented immigrants.
  6. Are you ready for ESSA? Here is a link to a massive amount of new documents. ESSA has not been repealed and it's time to get ready! Here's more guidance from the USCCB.
  7. We have secured funding for all of our teachers to spend the night in Butte so that we can hold the Fall Professional Conference in one place! The Sophia Institute will be offering catechetical professional development on Thursday, Oct 19th and then we'll kick off the conference that night with Jonathan Doyle. We'll have Mass together on Friday morning and then will hear from Jonathan again and then we'll have breakout sessions.
  8. On the Horizon:
  • June 14: administrator meeting (Helena/Cathedral) 10-3

American Catholic News

The NCEA White Paper on Inclusion by Dr. Michael Boyle and Dr. Pam Bernards. Print this out! Read it!

Catholic Schools Opening, Closing, Consolidating

  1. St. Anthony's HS announces it will close. Nearby Marist HS is in jeopardy. Commentary about NJ Catholic high schools here
  2. Yakima Catholic school to move to different campus.
  3. Odessa (TX) Catholic high school moving forward.
  4. Two all-girls Cincinnati Catholic high schools run by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy High and McAuley High, will merge on one campus in 2018.
  5. St. Wendelin HS (Dio of Toledo) will close.

Leadership Links

Jeff Bezos Describes Amazon's culture His description has enormous implications to our school cultures

Teaching & Learning