Catholic School Matters

November 24, 2019

The Best Of the Fall

I've collected the most popular articles from each of the ten editions of Catholic School Matters this fall. This fall's "Best Of" edition is earlier than usual because I've come to the conclusion (based on clicks) that people don't have time to read during December. Ending the semester (for some), Christmas programs, holiday parties, travel, family get-togethers, and movie sequels will be taking up too much of our time!


Here’s the top 10:

1. From the September 8th newsletter: In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article about how learning is supposed to feel uncomfortable is timely and insightful. Like our students, we often believe we should be able to to pick up and master new skills without any problems.

2. From the September 15th newsletter: In the American Catholic News section, there’s a great 7-minute video about a dual language school in Texas. The principal, Bill Daily, casually mentions that the school’s enrollment had dipped to 98 students and now it is around 450. Why are we not paying more attention to this?!? He talks about the risk of adopting a dual language model, the “messiness” of the church at times, and the need for innovation.

3. From the September 22nd newsletter: From the New York Times, the first article in the Leadership section discusses our tendency toward perfectionism and the need to accept good enough when we can.

4. From the September 29th newsletter: In the American Catholic News section, “When Professional Catholics Burn Out” is a great piece exploring how lay Catholics struggle with their vocations in the church as well as their faith.

5. From the October 6th newsletter: In the Teaching & Learning section, “Class Size Matters” explores the current research and misconceptions about class size. It seems this comes up every year as schools struggle to find the right balance between classrooms of vitality and individual attention.

6. From the October 13th newsletter: In the Leadership section, the first article from Daniel Pink in Education Week focuses on how schools use time. How we organize the school day usually has more to do with institutional traditions or factors other than what are the most optimal conditions for children to learn. It’s interesting to hear Pink’s take on the school day.

7. From the October 20th newsletter: In the Teaching & Learning section, Mind/Shift offer suggestions to teachers for creating community in your classroom and Edutopia offers strategies for turning classrooms into communities.

8. From the October 27th newsletter: Ashley Berner, a former podcast guest, has a great argument for pluralism in American schools that should be read by everyone. Here’s a short argument in the Hill, and here’s a longer read with much more detail.

9. From the November 3rd newsletter: Following the theme of financial best practices in the blog, I present three articles in the American Catholic News section which touch on the same subject: “Twelve Lessons about the Future of Catholic Schools” in the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, “Ten Essentials for Sustaining Catholic Education” from the Healey Education Foundation, and “The Era of the Parochial School is Over” from America magazine. These articles provide further context for the discussion about the need for better financial practices in our Catholic schools.

10. In the November 17th newsletter: I recommend “Synodality Isn’t Just an Option” as a way to understand the current reality.


I’ll be back in January after a six week hiatus! Have a great Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!


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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.


This fall, Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) invited alum Anne McClain, the noted astronaut, back to campus. They also invited local Catholic schools to attend the rally but several schools, including her grade school alma mater, declined due to her sexual orientation. As a school leader, would your school have attended? If you were the leader of Gonzaga Prep, how would you have responded?

The Best Links

The dual-language school in Texas revitalizing Catholic education

What I'm Up To

Last week we celebrated Bishop Austin Vetter's ordination and installation as the 11th Bishop of Helena. He brought over 100 family members from North Dakota along with countless priest friends. It was a great couple of days for the Diocese of Helena!


This week on the Catholic School Matters podcast I welcome trhee guests to the podcast who I saw at the this fall's Mustard Seed Project. First, Dr. Michelle Lia from Loyola-Chicago and the Greeley Center, joins me to discuss her work with Catholic school teachers specifically in the area of literacy. Then Helen Dahlman from the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence in Minnesota, returns to the podcast to discuss the great work of CSCOE supporting Catholic education. Finally, Dr. Gail Donahue from Notre Dame of Maryland joins me to discuss her work supporting teachers through coaching and the other aspects of her work supporting Catholic education. It’s a great episode with three great thought leaders in Catholic education.


Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.


  • Monday: Office (Helena)
  • Tuesday: Office (Helena)
  • Wednesday: Travel to Seattle


Miles travelled in 2019-20: 16,726 road miles; 24,002 air miles

Last 5 Books

    1. The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions (2006) by Sister Helen Prejean
    2. Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, 4th ed. (2001) by James L. Adams
    3. Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers (2010) by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
    4. The Essential Tillich: An Anthology of the Writings of Paul Tillich (1987) ed. by F. Forrester Church
    5. Grain by Grain: A Quest to Revive Ancient Wheat, Rural Jobs, and Healthy Food (2019) Bob Quinn & Liz Carlisle

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Here is a link to the December 3rd Virtual Admin meetings. We will be spending significant time on marketing with presentations from Tina McGill of St. Joe's and Paul Richardson from Butte Central Elementary. These two schools showed the most enrollment growth in the past year and are poised for even more growth with their new innovations. The meetings happen at 9 am and 1 pm and all are welcome to join us at either time.
            • Please make plans to meet Bishop Vetter at one of his deanery visits after his installation. All prayer services will begin at 7 pm: Butte Dec 3rd at St. Patrick's, Helena Dec 5th at the Cathedral, Kalispell Dec 11th at St. Richard's, and Missoula Dec 10th at St. Anthony's. All are welcome!

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Nov 17, 2019 "Synodality"

            Nov 3, 2019 "Finance Best Practices"

            Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooze

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"