Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

February 29, 2016

The Value of Catholic Schools

The following op-ed appeared in the Billings Gazette on February 25th.

Darrell Ehrlick’s editorial (“Why Public Education Matters Most”) deserves a response. As the superintendent of Montana Catholic schools—effectively the 7th largest school district in the state of Montana—I believe Mr. Ehrlick is a bit misguided in his criticism of private schools such as our Catholic schools.

Catholic schools are not opposed to public schools. In fact, in areas such as Billings we have fruitful partnerships between excellent educators. We share the same dedication to the education of Montanans to become fruitful, productive citizens. Billings Catholic Schools, for example, have produced excellent citizens who have gone on to become valuable leaders and public servants.

Where we differ, however, is our belief that education in a faith-based environment is the best kind of education. We believe in an excellent, rigorous education supported by our Catholic faith. We see our students come alive. Our faculty and staff are committed to our mission. Our parents are engaged and active. And, most importantly, our students are happy and are growing. Our Catholic schools are places where students thrive.

The questions surrounding school funding are complex. Catholic school parents pay the same income and property taxes to support their local public schools. Their enrollment in private schools, in fact, saves the school district millions of dollars every year. We have supported efforts to set up scholarship organizations to provide tuition assistance because we believe that opens up possibilities for students in the middle and working classes. These efforts are not done at the expense of our public education system.

Mr. Ehrlick suggests that Catholic schools can “pick and choose” their students. That is certainly true. The foundation of Catholic schools is parents committed to the mission—parents committed to support the high behavioral and educational standards of our schools. He goes on to suggest that we don’t accept students with special needs or students from poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our Catholic schools enroll students with special needs who would qualify for special education. But the same funding available for students in public schools is not available for students in private schools. If the state were to allow that funding to travel with the student, we would see many students travel to faith-based schools.

The notion that Montana Catholic Schools do not serve poverty students is ludicrous. State-wide over a quarter of our students qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch and our schools enroll over 40 percent non-Catholics. In Billings, our schools are willing to work with any family committed to Catholic education. There is a financial sacrifice to enroll in our Catholic schools but there is a financial sacrifice for any family’s priority. Show me how a family spends money, the old saying goes, and you’ll figure out that family’s priority.

Our priority is to provide excellent Catholic schools for Montana students and families in order to educate our future leaders.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Monday: Fly to Albuquerque, NM; drive to Durango, CO

Tuesday: drive to Lumberton, CO for St. Francis WCEA visit

Wednesday: St. Francis WCEA visit (cont)

Thursday: St. Francis WCEA visit (cont)

Friday: St. Francis WCEA visit (cont)

This week: 1,216 miles

Last week: 695 miles

2015-16: 17,802 driving miles; 7,844 air miles

What I'm Reading in 2016

  1. Motion Leadership by Michael Fullan (on deck)
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (underway)
  3. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda (finished)
  4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (finished)
  5. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeon (finished)
  6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (finished)
  7. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Greg Heath (finished)
  8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (finished)
  9. It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff (finished)

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. I'll be in remote New Mexico (Lumberton) for the next week. I'm not sure about the reliability of Internet or the cell phone service. Be patient if you're trying to reach me!
  2. WCEA progress reports are due March 1st. This applies to all schools who were visited prior to this year and aren't scheduled for a 3-year revisit this year. Thanks to St. Joe's, Pretty Eagle, and St. Labre Elementary/Middle for getting their reports in early!
  3. March regional meetings--March 15th at Miles City; March 17th at Hays; March 22nd at Butte. All meetings will start at 10 am and lunch will be provided by the hosts.
  4. RenWeb is an oustanding and affordable student information system. The partner of FACTS, RenWeb is offering an introductory webinar held at either 3:30 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday) and a deep discount for all Montana Catholic Schools. Here is the link to register
  5. Here's the link to important dates for 2016-17.

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning

Important Student Project


New York Times Articles

It is often difficult to link New York Times articles to this newsletter. So here's my work around:

  1. Bridging the Digital Divide
  2. Is Social Media Making us more Narcissistic?
  3. "Problem in the Classroom? Tread Lightly" by Jessica Lahey
The psychology of narcissism - W. Keith Campbell