Catholic School Matters
March 8, 2022
The Pandemic of Loneliness
During my podcast conversation with Fr. Dennis Holtschneider this week, he mentioned that at the recent ACCU conference, he was most impressed with the presentation of Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General. Fr. Dennis mentioned that Dr. Murthy had written an impressive book about the pandemic of loneliness which came out last year.
The book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, seems to be written for this exact moment. The pandemic didn’t invent loneliness but it certainly exacerbated its symptoms and caused many more people to succumb to it. We are seeing rising overdoses, suicides, road rage, and violent murders. More relevant to us, many of our people are simply broken. It’s not obvious. They seem to function. But it’s more than frustration, exhaustion, and hostility. It’s brokenness.
Our principals and teachers are simply leaving their jobs. We’ve had five principals leave this school year which would have been unfathomable 12 months ago. Every school has had significant personnel turnover. And that’s not even considering the impact that the anxiety and disruption has had on our students. Time after time, principals are telling me that students are not acting right.
The root of this brokenness is loneliness and Murthy pulls together the disparate causes and unlikely solutions. He brings in Robert Putnam’s seminal work Bowling Alone which pointed out that Americans are less likely to join social and civic groups. Coincidentally, I was reading Dr. Brené Brown’s latest book and she analyzes and recommends Murthy’s book. I found the themes echoed in this powerful essay "Does My Son Know You?" It's a testament to the power of family and neighborhood connections.
Our response to the pandemic of loneliness is crucial. We need to consider how we’re connecting our students, our faculty/staff, and our parents to each other and to our schools. If we don’t connect our people to our mission during this time of loneliness, we risk losing them.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
SMART TV Donation to Diocesan Elementary and High Schools ~ Pick-up Registration Russ Salvatore, has generously purchased SMART TVs for all Catholic Diocesan Elementary and High Schools throughout WNY. The TVs will be available for pick up at the Catholic Center Monday-Friday, beginning March 15 –29, between the hours of 9:00 – 10:00 am. Due to limited staffing at the Center, we ask that you send two staff members able to lift 50 lbs. and a vehicle large enough to accommodate the TV (6’ in length x 44” tall). Detailed instructions will follow upon registration. Please register by Friday, March 11. Here is the link to schedule your pick up
Diplomas, Supplies and Years of Service Certificates will be distributed at this Thursday’s Principals’ meeting.
This is the link for NYS test scoring sign up.
Principals - Please fill out this questionnaire about renewing Mystery Science at your school. Any schools interested in the School Seedling - Planting for Knowledge program through NYS go to this website for more information and to apply.
Are you interested in having Bishop Fisher or a member of the DCS staff join your for graduation activites? Please fill out this survey for planning purposes.
Kari Buchinger on Academics
A few weeks ago, my blog included information about creating a balanced assessment system within your school. Our schools are filled with teachers using a variety of formative assessments in the classroom, and we have a summative assessment at the end of the year, thanks to New York State. But, what lives in the middle?
This year our executive principals' team has focused on this question. They have collected data to determine what each school uses, how it is used, and shared their own experience with various tools during their tenure as teachers and school leaders.
After vetting some options, we found that Renaissance STAR would be a good fit for our schools to assess student learning, direct future instruction, and help create a culture of data in our schools and across our Diocese. What can STAR offer?
*Flexibility- STAR reading and math assessments can be given weekly, monthly, or quarterly. This allows schools to have intermittent data points to evaluate school, class, and individual student growth. But, it also allows teachers, interventionists, or tutors to test more frequently in order to monitor progress for students in need of more significant support.
*Time- STAR reading and math assessments are designed to take 20 minutes or less. Gone are the days of taking weeks at a time to benchmark test students. This time frame also makes weekly or monthly testing actually feasible.
*Computer Adaptive: The difficulty of each students' test is continually adjusted based on the student's previous response. If a student answers a question correctly, the difficulty level will increase. If a student misses a question, the difficulty will decrease. This enables students to be challenged yet avoid reaching a point of frustration when items are repeatedly too difficult.
*Integration with a platform of programs: STAR assessment data can be integrated into all Renaissance programs such as Freckle, Lalilo, AR, Nearpod, etc., to direct student intervention support.
*Reports Available- After a student takes STAR assessments, teachers can instantly access a variety of reports to assess student learning and direct the next steps in classroom instruction. Reports are also available to share directly with families.
*Purchasing power- Increasing collaboration and making common purchases allow us to access significant discounts. In Catholic Schools, a deal is always a bonus!
*Professional Development- Using a common benchmark assessment opens up opportunities for our teachers and leaders to work together and learn from one another with the participation in consistent PD.
Using the STAR assessments as a benchmark will alert teachers and leaders to how things are going when there is still time to intervene and support student needs. These assessments will also provide big-picture data to identify standards mastery for each grade level. This addition to formative assessments and the end-of-year summative assessments creates a balanced assessment program to support leaders, teachers, and most importantly, students as we prepare them for a future filled with endless possibilities.
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
COVID “Close-Contact” Mask Requirement and Notification: Please be sure that you are following the new NYSDOH/NYSED Guidance on mask use in schools. Much of the guidance indicates that asymptomatic close contacts may still attend school and that mask use by identified close contacts is highly recommended. Please call me if you have any questions about how to implement this new guidance.
Mandated Services Update: I wanted to remind you that there are only 19 school days until the 4/1/22 Mandated Services claim submission deadline, so if you have not started working on your claim I would encourage you to start this week. If you ask, I can look your claim over once it has been entered online (but NOT submitted!) on the NYSED Business Portal. So far I have reviewed 11 claims and 7 have been submitted and approved; that leaves 43 schools left to assist so I really need you to enter your claim online on your own or at a Data Entry session (but do not submit) by 3/23/22 and then send me an email to request a review. Any reviews left until after that date may result in insufficient time to correct any areas of concern prior to the submission deadline.
Also, I inadvertently left the Mandate 2 instructions from 2019-2020 on form 2. If you have not yet begun moving your Excel spreadsheet information over to Form 2 please use my updated version here. Elementary schools should be indicating the number of students who actually took the ELA, Math, and Science assessments in 2020-2021, not the number or answer sheet ordered.
Reprint: Mandated Services Data Entry Sessions 3/21 & 3/22: If you are not using a paid preparer please make sure you are completing the Mandated Services forms provided by me to prepare for online submission. We have arranged for two half-day sessions to assist you as you key in your Mandated Services claims (after your paper forms are completed):
- Mon., Mar 21 – Notre Dame - Abbott Site, 1:00 - 4:00pm
- Tues., Mar 22 – St. Amelia School, 1:00 - 4:00pm
If you wish to attend one of these sessions please register by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do not need the in-person assistance you can always submit the claim on your own. If you want me to look it over prior to submission, make sure you save it online by 3/23/22 for me to view before you click “submit”.
Action Alert – Reprint of 3/3 Email: Please see the 3/3/ Action Alert I shared with you about funding for our Catholic schools and consider clicking the “Take Action Now” link (https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/5TV2prt6uVpnBexcHI5YmQ) to send an email to your legislators. The email is prewritten and should only take a minute or two to send. Once you send your email, please share the 3/3 email with your teachers, parents, and school community and encourage them to send emails in support of this important NYS funding for our Catholic schools.
Mandated Child Abuse Reporter Training: I just wanted to give you a reminder that NYS Education Law §100.2(hh) requires our teachers, administrators, teacher aides, and bus drivers to comply with Section (8) of Chapter 363 of the Laws of 2018; they must complete two hours of coursework or training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment and/or the new yearly “Child Abuse in an Educational Setting Training”. The training requirements, separated by personnel categories, can be found at Child Abuse Prevention Training | New York State Education Department (nysed.gov). We recommend that your staff to do this training via the BOCES or other approved providers and then save the receipts for NPSE (Non Public Safety Equipment) reimbursement. NYSED has partnered with Capital Region BOCES and PowerSchool to offer an online version of the new trainings that will fulfill the requirements associated with the amendments to the reports of child abuse in an educational setting adopted by the Board of Regents at their October 2019 Board of Regents meeting. To learn more about the online course offerings, including how to easily register, complete, and access your completion certificate, please visit the website here.
The BOCES online offering indicated above is the only option for the one course which must be completed each year: “Child Abuse in an Educational Setting Training”. Each individual staff member will pay for the online course (which I think is still $10) because the school cannot pay directly with the way it is currently set up; you would then reimburse each staff member for the cost of the course and retain all the documents (proof of attendance, payment receipts, school cancelled checks from payment to each employee) to submit with your next NPSE reimbursement request and as proof that your staff met the training requirement.
If you have anyone who still needs to take the once-in-a-lifetime training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment, you may want to instead have them take the free online course so you don’t have to pay another $10. All certified teachers and administrators would have had to complete this course prior to becoming certified to teach in NYS.
3/18/22 Last Day to Submit Erie 1 BOCES Textbook Orders
3/23/22 Deadline to Save Mandated Services Claim online for C. Riso Review
3/25/22 Last Day for Additional EANS I Reimbursement Requests
3/31/22 NYSED Nonpublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) Application Due
3/31/22 NYSED Elementary School AIS Purchases/Projects/Payments Completed
4/1/22 Online 2020-21 Mandated Services Claim Due to NYSED
4/1/22 Parent Requests for 2022-23 Transportation Due to Public School Districts
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- March 10th Principal/Pastor meeting. Here’s a copy of the agenda
- ELA Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo April 4 (3,5,7) &April 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo April 7 (3,5,7) & April 8 (4,6,8)
- Math Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo May 5 (3,5,7) & May 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo May 9 (3,5,7) & May 10 (4,6,8)
- Science Scoring for all Schools: June 10 (4,8)
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- Principal meeting with pastors/canonical administrators on Thursday, March 10th
- Primetime televised segment to support Catholic Education on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 from 8:00-9:00 PM on WBBZ-TV
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Diocesan Professional Development Day October 7, 2022 at St. Amelia's.
- School Pastor's Administrative Guide
- The Executive Summary. of this year's school data.
- 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
Catholic School Matters Podcast
This week, Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, the President of the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities (ACCU) joins me to discuss the disruptions of the pandemic, the challenges to Catholic higher education, and leading with mission. Previous episodes:
- Gloria Purvis joined me on the podcast to discuss Black Catholicism and racism in the Church
- My old friend Neal Wilkinson, SJ joins me to discuss his vocation and work as well as his struggles with living with Parkinson's
- Roy Petitfils joins the podcast to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on us all.
- Dr. Lauren Casella of LMU joins the podcast to discuss her work with our Principal PLN to strengthen Catholic identity.
- Last week's podcast is a discussion with author Mark Shea about the divisions and tensions within the Catholic Church.
- Last week's podcast is a great conversation with Diocese of Orlando Superintendent Henry Fortier. One of the few African-American Catholic school superintendents, Henry discusses the challenges of the past few year
- I was joined on the podcast by Dr. Ann Garrido, the author/speaker/ professor of homiletics.
- The December 27th episode was a conversation with Jennifer Daniels of the USCCB about government programs and school choice.
- In the December 20th episode, Bridgette Theurer discusses Resilient Leadership
- In the December 13th episode, I'm talking with Jodee Blanco about parents bullying the school.
- Here is the link to the Dec 7th conversation with Faustin Weber, the author of the great blog post "Top Ten Suggestions to Avoid Principal Burnout."
Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Articles for Your Reflection
Catholic schools in St. Louis area prepare for sweeping changes in parish reorganization
SHREWSBURY - Families and teachers are gearing up to save their Catholic schools from closure as the Archdiocese of St. Louis plans a massive reorganization of its dwindling population. Despite dozens of closures in recent decades, there are still too many parochial schools for the number of children to fill them.
New Ukraine Teaching & Learning Resources
Here are new additions to The Best Teaching & Learning Resources About The Russia/Ukraine Conflict: A historical timeline of post-independence Ukraine is from The PBS NewsHour. Here is Zelensky's speech to the Ukrainian and Russian people with English subtitles before war broke out.
How a High School Debate Team Shaped Ketanji Brown Jackson
The Supreme Court nominee honed her oratory on Miami Palmetto's powerhouse debate team. She was not the only alum who went on to an impressive career. A yearbook photo of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and Stephen F. Rosenthal, now a Miami lawyer, during their time at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.
How to Make Your Own Wordle-style Game
I've yet to play Wordle and by the time I do the fad will probably be over. That said, I know a lot of people enjoy the game and are looking for ways to bring it into their classrooms. If that describes you, this blog post is for you.
My Last 5 Books
- Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence & the Problem of Control (2019) by Stuart Russell
In the Midst of our Storms (2014) by Roc O'Connor, SJ
Big Russ & Me: Father & Son Lessons of Life (2014) by Tim Russert
Writing Straight with Crooked Lines: A Memoir (2020) by Jim Forest
Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World (2020) by Vivek Murthy
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
Past Issues of Catholic School Matters
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.