Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

May 3, 2015

This summer will mark the departure of the Jesuits from their oldest mission in Montana, St. Paul’s in Hays located within the Fort Belknap reservation. (two articles are included below) Father Joseph Retzel will be retiring this summer after many fruitful years serving the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre nations. With no priest scheduled to be in residence at the Mission, it provides yet another struggle for St. Paul Mission Grade School.

Serving for 34 years as principal of St. Paul Mission Grade School, Sr. Helen Durso, a Sparkill Dominican from New York, has been the driving force behind the school. The school serves children from the Fort Belknap reservation in grades K-6. The tuition is free and the school relies on donations, grants, and volunteers to make due. Currently the school only pays 3 teachers—the rest are the three Sparkill Dominicans and 5 volunteers from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

The challenge of serving 70+ students from high need backgrounds with so much staff turnover (Jesuit volunteers usually stay only one year) falls on Sr. Helen. She has done a remarkable job building a school climate founded on student learning and support.

There is hope in the form of the St. Labre Indian School network. The St. Labre Board of Directors is contemplating partnering with St. Paul to aid the school in its fundraising and administrative efforts. That partnership certainly holds great potential for the future—building faculty housing, for example, or an endowment to raise staff salaries and recruit a new principal in the event that Sr. Helen ever retires.

St. Paul Mission Grade School certainly deserves your support in their remarkable effort to provide a Catholic education to an underserved population which will be continuing despite the loss of the Jesuits.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Sunday: flight to Las Vegas for WCEA May Accreditation meetings

Monday: WCEA Elementary Commissioner meeting

Tuesday: WCEA Elementary meeting (cont)

Wednesday: WCEA Secondary Commissioner meeting

Thursday: office (Helena) morning; St. Mary's (Livingston) Principal search cte mtg

Friday: office (Helena)

This week: 2,108 miles

Last week: 1,045 miles

2014-15: 43,261 miles

Montana Catholic Schools

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

For Principals

  1. Have you considered surveying your new parents (or even parents who contact you about a tour?) to find out how they found out about you? It's an easy source of creating a data point that you can examine to find out what's working.
  2. I will be sending a permission form to all schools administering the MAPS test asking for your permission to share your test data with me. I won't be asking for individual student data (i.e. student names and identifying information). If we get enough participation, it will mean we can create Montana Catholic school norms for achievement (not very valuable) and student growth (very valuable). Look for the email at the end of this week.
  3. The Diocese of Helena schools should look for information about the fall reconciliation services which Bishop Thomas will be conducting in each deanery. It would be good for you to participate and make your school communities aware. These reconciliation services will be designed around healing in the wake of the sexual abuse lawsuit.
  4. Fr. Bill Watson of the Sacred Story institute has developed a program for spiritual development of teachers. I'll include the link below. It might be a great program for your teachers.
  5. Bishop Warfel has asked Great Falls Central Catholic HS, Holy Spirit Parish and School, and St. Ann's Parish to work together to create a Great Falls Catholic School System based on collaboration and shared vision. The group will begin meeting on May 15th and will spend the next year trying to develop this new system.

Montana Catholic Schools News

Sacred Story Program

Here's the flyer on the Sacred Story program: This is a spiritual enrichment program for high school religion faculty.

American Catholic School News

Council of American Private Education

May's newsletter:

Educational Leadership Articles

Teaching & Instruction


The 14 year-old brain

A great article detailing what it's like dealing with a 14 year-old:
Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve