Catholic School Matters

March 24, 2019

Cristo Rey

This week has found me engrossed in Learning to Improve by Tony Bryk et al. In the beginning, the authors point out several recent reform initiatives such as smaller high schools and rigorous teacher evaluations. In each case, there was a germ of a good idea but the process was “going fast and learning slow.” In other words, systems were quick to implement new ideas but didn’t implement the changes well. They point out that inspiration has a place but so does proper implementation.

The Cristo Rey high school model began 22 years ago on the south side of Chicago. It has slowly and deliberately grown over time and is now comprised of 35 high schools across the country, poised to grow to 50 in the next decade. It was founded on a revolutionary idea—how do we serve poor students and only poor students? Whereas other schools are founded on the scarcity model (“how many scholarship students can we afford to accept” most schools say, assuming there are only so many dollars available), the Cristo Rey model turns away students from families above the poverty line but has increased its capacity to raise money.

I heard echoes of the creativity of the model in the recent HBR article “Strategy Needs Creativity.” As the authors suggest, Cristo Rey challenges common assumptions and turned them on its head.

Yes, they turn away students WITH resources! Their mission is to serve students under the poverty line and they do this by combining a corporate work study program (which raises approximately half of all revenue) with robust fund-raising. This is a new paradigm and a model of innovative thinking about Catholic schools which needs to be replicated.

This week’s podcast focuses on the Cristo Rey model. Focusing on the user experience (another Bryk-inspired concept from Learning to Improve), the conversations with the CEO, students from a Cristo Rey HS, teachers from a Cristo Rey HS, and Corporate Work Study directors all provide a window into the fantastic Cristo Rey model. The Catholic School Matters Radio Hour podcast drops on Wednesday. Give it a listen and see if you might be inspired to implement a new innovation in Catholic schools.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Leadership Scenarios

1. New pastor is installed and asks to see your baptismal certificate in order to prove you are a Catholic in good standing. He then mentions that you’ll be required to do the same for all of your teachers. How do you respond?

American Catholic News

Leadership Dilemmas

It is a good idea to read about controversies in Catholic schools, not to single out any particular schools but to reflect on the issues and prepare for these controversies. First, a New York Times article about a Catholic school dance coach dismissed over cohabitation. Then, Archbishop Naumann responded to criticism of the non-admission of a student due to the marriage status of the parents. Finally, the attorney general in West Virginia filed a suit against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the approach is new.

Catholic Schools Closing, Opening & Merging

  1. Parents are fighting a Catholic school closure in Waterbury (CT) after a new middle school was announced and a Laredo (TX) merger.
  2. Pittsburgh-area schools undertake a governance reorganization.

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

Pictured at right is Madeline Lyon, the outstanding principal of St. Francis Catholic School in Lumberton, NM. I featured her school three years ago after an accreditation visit. (the link also provides a glimpse into how much the newsletter has and hasn't changed in three years). I was back last week for a short revisit. After more than 50 years in Catholic education, Madeline devotes her time to that great little school.

After two trips last week, I'm staring at four straight weeks of office time. Time to get caught up! This week, I'll be in Great Falls and Butte and will start planning administrative evaluation visits.

On this week's Catholic School Matters Radio Hour podcast, the focus is on the Cristo Rey network. First, President/CEO Elizabeth Goettl of the Cristo Rey network joins me to discuss the origins of the Cristo Rey network and how it operates as a system.

Currently sitting at 35 schools, the goal is to grow to 50 schools in the next decade. Goettl describes the four-part feasibility study which is mandatory—based on finding a facility, establishing a need, finding the seed money, and locating partners to secure the jobs.

Next, three juniors from Cristo Rey New York HS in Spanish Harlem join the podcast and discuss what their jobs look like, what their commutes look like, and how their high school experience is different from their peers at other schools. It’s a great look at the Cristo Rey model from the students—meaning we are focusing on the student experience.

The students are followed by three great teachers from the same high school. These are committed educators who believe in the mission of Cristo Rey. It is clear that the teachers are committed, work hard, and hold themselves and the students to high standards.

The school is demanding for students and teachers alike. The mission is palpable and ever-present in the school.

The final guests were from the schools’ Corporate Work Study Program. The logistics of employing students, managing their work relationships, and teaching them the skills necessary is an ongoing challenge for the Corporate Work Study program, which raises 40% of the school’s operating budget every year.

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 3/25: Office (Helena)
  • Tuesday 3/26: Great Falls meetings
  • Wednesday 3/27: Office (Helena)
  • Thursday 3/28: Office (Helena)
  • Friday 3/29: Office (Helena) & Butte meetings

  • Monday 4/1: Office (Helena)
  • Tuesday 4/2: Virtual Admin meetings 9 am & 1 pm
  • Wednesday 4/3: Billings meetings
  • Thursday 4/4: Office (Helena)
  • Friday 4/5: Office (Helena)

Miles next 2 weeks: 935 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2018-19: 26,048 road miles; 68,754 air miles

Last 5 Books

  1. Learning to Improve: How America's Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better (2017) by Anthony S. Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow, Paul G. LeMahieu
  2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015) by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (1992) by Henri J.M. Nouwen
  4. On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Growing Old (2018) by Parker Palmer
  5. Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent (2016) by Sydney Finkelstein

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Here is the slideshow from the Mar 12th Virtual Admin Meeting. Here is the link for the April 5th meeting.
  • We are scheduled for the Middle School day at the Legislature on April 5th. Attorney General Tim Fox and retired justice Cotter to address the students with afternoon observations of the House and Senate in session
  • Here is the link to the documentary about the Poor Clare Monastery in Great Falls--the only monastery in Montana. Certainly this could be part of any vocation efforts
  • We are currently searching for a principal for Great Falls Central Catholic High School
  • Here is a great article about Billings Central Catholic HS Art challenge

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

March 10, 2019 "Prayer and Leadership"

February 24, 2019 "Culture and Relationships"

February 10, 2019 "Leadership"

February 3, 2019 "NCEA Convention Preview"

January 27, 2019 "Catholic Schools Week"

January 20, 2019 "School Choice"

January 13, 2019 "What's Your Story?"

January 6, 2018 "Happy New Year"

December 2, 2018 "Building Community"

November 18, 2018 "Reframing Enrollment"

November 4, 2018 "Looking at Disaffiliation"

October 21, 2018 "Getting out of the Ditch"

October 7, 2018 "Truth, Mercy, and the Synod"

September 23, 2018 "Native American Experience"

September 16, 2018 "How Are We Forming our Leaders?"

September 9, 2018 "Where is Your Attention?"