Catholic School Matters

May 13, 2018

Nothing to Celebrate with this Jubilee

We can all get a little desensitized to news about closing Catholic schools. However, the announcement in January that the Jubilee Schools would be closing after the 2018-19 year deserves special recognition. First, we need to recognize how significant the Jubilee Schools were to Catholic urban education as well as to consortium models. I spoke to the founding superintendent, Dr. Mary McDonald, about it in this podcast after she had left Jubilee Schools, which under her leadership were able to reopen closed schools, raise a $38 million endowment, and provide a model for sustainable Catholic schools in the inner cities. They served the poor, they served the non-Catholic, and they were a beacon of hope.


Read about the closure of Jubilee Schools here. The Diocese has announced that 2 of the schools will close and the rest will become charter schools in 2019. Here is a link to an article about Dr. John Smarrelli, the president of Christian Brothers University, who is heading up the charter effort. Our Catholic schools will have 1500 less students and 9 fewer schools. There will be a reduced Catholic footprint in Memphis and the success of the Jubilee network will become a footnote.


Contrast that news with the Our Sunday Visitor article from January 2010 which painted a rosy picture of the schools or the website which touts the status of the Jubilee schools as trailblazers or “the most successful model of all” on their webpage.


This is an inflection point in the history of Catholic schools. It might be a harbinger of more closures to come. Or we might learn from this event and improve the landscape. I have gathered guest blogs on the decision to close the Jubilee schools and I challenge you to read them. These blogs will cause you to consider the mission and value of Catholic schools and will cause you to re-think your own school’s strategies for sustainability. They also make a strong argument for school choice and for rejecting the notion that “wrap-around” charters are a panacea.


It harkens back to the argument in Lost Classroom, Lost Community by Garnett & Brinig. They argue that Catholic schools should be able to be authorized as charter operators. After all, the Catholic school system has proven to be the most effective alternative to public schools and its main features—namely, rigor, character formation, safety, sense of community—are all copied by charter schools. If we could just get past the religious bias in this country, perhaps we would have a solution.


Guest Blogs:

· Dr. Bill Hughes of Seton Catholic schools (Milwaukee) penned the essay “The Next 200 Years: a Post Mortem of the Once Promising Jubilee Catholic Schools” in edchoice. He takes on reasons for the closure and suggestions for Catholic schools going forward.

· Dr. Christian Dallavis, the Senior Director of Leadership Programs at ACE (Notre Dame), contributed a blog on the impact of the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the fallacy of charter conversions taking the place of Catholic schools. It’s a powerful argument for Catholic schools.

· Dr. RaeNell Houston, the first year superintendent of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic schools, contributed this blog on her reaction to the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the lessons she drew from the decision as well as the impact on all of our schools.

· Bernard Dumond, founder & CEO of Development Innovations 360, wrote a piece entitled “The Audacity of Indifference” which serves as a call to action for all Catholic schools. He also offers practical advice for all Catholic schools to build sustainability.

· Tom Kiely, the Director of the Institute for Catholic Leadership at Marquette University, wrote this blog reacting to the news of the closing of Jubilee Schools. In the piece, he recommends how schools should be confronting the challenges and draws attention to this summer’s Congress of Urban Catholic School networks scheduled for July in Milwaukee.

· Dr. Joseph Hollowell, the president of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, researched the conversion of Catholic schools to charter as part of his dissertation at Creighton. He discusses the research and lessons that we can all learn from these decisions in Washington, DC, Florida, and Indiana in this blog post.

· Stephanie Saroki de Garcia of Seton Partners penned “American Education Needs More Miracles” on the edexcellence/Gadfly blog. Her personal essay explores her motivation behind school choice and her commentary on the state of American education.

· Kathleen Porter-Magee of Partnership Schools (NYC) produced “To Spark a Catholic School Renaissance, We Need to Put Our Faith in Autonomous School Networks” in the edexcellence blog. Dr. Porter-Magee addresses the systemic problems in Catholic schools and makes suggestions for improvements.


My hope is these blogs will cause you to act. We can’t keep the same mindset and we can’t keep doing the same things and hope things will simply get better for our Catholic schools.


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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Dr. Christian Dallavis, the Senior Director of Leadership Programs at ACE (Notre Dame), contributed a blog on the impact of the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the fallacy of charter conversions taking the place of Catholic schools. It’s a powerful argument for Catholic schools.

Dr. RaeNell Houston, the first year superintendent of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic schools, contributed this blog on her reaction to the closing of the Jubilee Schools and the lessons she drew from the decision as well as the impact on all of our schools.

Bernard Dumond, founder & CEO of Development Innovations 360, wrote a piece entitled “The Audacity of Indifference” which serves as a call to action for all Catholic schools. He also offers practical advice for all Catholic schools to build sustainability.

Tom Kiely, the Director of the Institute for Catholic Leadership at Marquette University, wrote this blog reacting to the news of the closing of Jubilee Schools. In the piece, he recommends how schools should be confronting the challenges and draws attention to this summer’s Congress of Urban Catholic School networks scheduled for July in Milwaukee.

Dr. Joseph Hollowell, the president of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, researched the conversion of Catholic schools to charter as part of his dissertation at Creighton. He discusses the research and lessons that we can all learn from these decisions in Washington, DC, Florida, and Indiana in this blog post.

Catholic School News

  1. New superintendent named for the Diocese of San Bernardino; Br. William Dygert to stay another year in Portland
  2. Davenport considers four school-closure plans
  3. Delaware school breaks ground on $4.3 million addition.
  4. Decision to close Massachusetts high school will stand despite parental efforts.
  5. Cincinnati Catholic schools new blended learning model showing positive results.
  6. Register for one of Michelle Doyle's educational consulting webinars about the consultative process.
  7. Lisa Orchen's End of the Year Activities for Catholic Schools.
  8. Grand Rapids Catholic school completes $19 million campaign.

Other Links & Articles

What I'm Up To

This week I'm off to Las Vegas to see some great schools with Superintendent Cathy Thompson and witness the installation of Bishop George Leo Thomas as the new Bishop of Las Vegas. When I return, I'll head up to Hays for a visit to St. Paul Mission Grade School and to St. Jude Thaddeus School in Havre.


This week, I'll also release a podcast conversation with Dr. Carmen Nanko-Fernandez, a Latina theologian at Catholic Theological Union. We talk about the changing nature of the church and how that impacts school cultures (among other things!).


Last week, my podcast conversation with Nicole Stelle Garnett dropped. Garnett, who serves on the USCCB Committee on Education, was co-author of Lost Classroom, Lost Community and we discuss the findings of that must-read book as well as School Choice, Notre Dame, and other topics. My podcast preview of the ICSL also dropped last week where I spoke to Jodee Blanco, Dr. Joseph Vorbach of Bishop O'Connell HS, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah of Marian University, and Stacey Vanden Bosch of add.a.lingua.


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: Visit to Las Vegas; Podcast #129: Dr. Carmen Nanko-Fernandez
  • Tuesday: Bishop Thomas installation
  • Wednesday: Return to Helena; Wed book blog: Principles (2017) by Ray Dalio.
  • Thursday: Travel to Hays; visit to St. Paul Mission Grade School
  • Friday: return to Helena


Miles this week: 770 driving miles; 1,540 air miles

Miles travelled in 2017-18: 24,567 road miles; 45,465 air miles

NCEA News

Summer Conferences

  1. New Directions Assessment Conference, June 18-20 Philadelphia
  2. 16th Annual Education Law Symposium July 5-8, Louisville
  3. Institute for Catholic School Leaders, July 15-18, Los Angeles

What I'm Reading

  1. Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio.
  2. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (2018) by Daniel Pink.
  3. Catholic School Leadership (2016) Ed by Anthony J Dosen & Barbara S. Rieckhoff
  4. Inside the Vatican: The Politics & Organization of the Catholic Church (1998) by Thomas Reese, SJ.
  5. A Flock of Shepherds: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1992) by Thomas Reese, SJ.

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

May 6, 2018 "The House System"

April 29 2018 "Educating to Fraternal Humanism"

April 22, 2018 "Learning to Listen"

April 15, 2018 "The Community of Catholic Schools"

March 25, 2018 "The Passion of St. Francis School"

March 18, 2018 "March Madness"

March 11, 2018 "Special Issue on School Violence"

March 4, 2018 "Bishop McNamara Leads the Way"

February 25, 2018 "New Catholic Schools, Week 3"

February 18, 2018 "New Catholic Schools, Week 2"

February 11, 2018 "New Catholic Schools"

February 4, 2018 "Turnaround Schools, Part 2"

January 28, 2018 "Turnaround Schools"

January 21, 2018 "Synthesizing Church Documents"

January 14, 2018 "What's Brewing in Milwaukee"

January 7, 2018 The 411 on 529's

December 17, 2017 Best of the Fall Issue

December 10, 2017 Serving Hispanic Catholics

December 3, 2017 Building Culture the ND Way

November 12, 2017 "How Are We Building Relationships?"

November 5, 2017 "Journal of Catholic Education"

October 29, 2017 Church Documents

October 22, 2017 Momentum Special Issue

October 15, 2017 "Anthem Protests"

October 8, 2017 Classroom Managment Special Issue

October 1, 2017 "The Un-Themed Issue"

September 24, 2017 "Joy of the Gospel"

September 17, 2017 "ESSA"

September 10, 2017 "On Leadership"

August 27, 2017 "American Catholic News"

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue