Catholic School Matters
January 25, 2022
Data & Discouragement
One of the joys of the past few days has been catching up with Season 7 of Ozark. My favorite character, Ruth Langmore, offered some homespun hillybilly wisdom in episode 4 which I can only paraphrase (due to language): “God made me smart enough to know how messed up my life is but not smart enough to figure out how to fix it.” I saw the same discouraged look in our principals’ eyes when we examined enrollment and retention data. It wasn’t hard to see the issues but figuring out the solutions is no easy task!
We’re interested in empowering principals to understand their data in order to help shape their school’s future. Take the 5-year retention number as an example. Our frighteningly low diocesan average of 54% indicates that only half of our students stay in our schools for 5 years. When we tell a school how they relate to the diocesan average that should give a school a progress report as well as marching orders. Until schools address why students are leaving, their enrollments won’t increase. We want to see more students and better schools. We can’t get there until we understand the brutal facts of our schools.
Earlier this month, we completed our data report which is huge, overwhelming, and much of it is confidential. So I tried to distill the most interesting points in my Executive Summary. The data will shape four areas of our work:
1. Retention, especially the pre-K to Kinder rate as well as the rate from lower primary to middle school. Take a look at the number of 8th grade students enrolled in Catholic schools (689) compared to 9th grade (1008). With fewer than half the number of schools and tuition at least 2.5 times more on average, you would expect the high school enrollment to decline, right? But the number increases and we might be the only diocese with a higher per grade average enrollment in high schools.
2. The low percentage of Catholic youth (27%) enrolled in Catholic schools.
3. The low retention rate of Catholic teachers. We had only 73% of our teachers return from last year and have lost many more during this school year.
4. Our average tuition ($4012) is over two thousand less than the cost of education ($6662).
Those are very discouraging numbers. But we cannot get discouraged and think there are no possible solutions. We need to face those brutal facts, set our sights on the ways we can get those trends reversed, and roll up our sleeves and get to work. Things are going to get better.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Today's January 25th COVID mitigation memo suggests ways for schools to navigate the post-mask world.
Please join us in praying for principal Coleen Scott and her family. Her father, Ralph Casciano, passed away last week.
2022-2023 School Supplies order form for supplies from the Department of Catholic Schools. Orders are due by January 31, 2022
It is our pleasure to share with you a scholarship opportunity for an eighth grade student who embodies the charism of the late Tim Russert – a student who has strong writing skills, is considered a leader in the classroom, is attune to the political landscape and who exercises critical thinking skills. The scholarship includes a one year, $2,500 Catholic high school tuition voucher. Here is the nomination form and additional details about the award. Please note- the student must include a one page narrative on how their Catholic education has impacted their life. The deadline for submission is Friday, February 18th, 2022. The award will be presented during our primetime televised segment to support Catholic Education on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 from 8:00-9:00 PM on WBBZ-TV.
Here is the nomination form for The Natalie Mattimore Lewis “Kindness Counts Character Award” presented to a seventh grade student. The deadline for submission is Friday, February 18th, 2022. The award will be presented during our primetime televised segment to support Catholic Education on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 from 8:00-9:00 PM on WBBZ-TV.
The site is live to order 4 free COVID tests per household: https://special.usps.com/testkits
For resources and information from BPO click this link for the BPO Education Hub.
Are you a teacher interested in free shopping supplies? Here's information on the Teacher's Corner
Kari Buchinger on Academics
Because, But, and So
The Writing Revolution (Hochman, Wexler) has coined a key writing technique, "because, but, so." This simple activity can push students' analytical skills and ensure they engage in deep thinking around a topic.
First, teachers provide students with a sentence stem (the beginning of a sentence) and ask them to turn it into three separate sentences using each conjunction (because, but, so). Before diving in, don't forget to ensure your students understand the difference between each conjunction.
- "Because" explains why something is true.
- "But" indicates a change in direction.
- "So" tells us what happens in response to something else.
Instead of asking students, “Why do seeds need light to grow?” you can do the following:
- Seeds need light to grow because______________.
- Seeds need light to grow, but__________________.
- Seeds need light to grow, so __________________.
This technique will assist your students in building complex sentences and thinking critically about the content you are studying. Plus, it is super easy to add to content you are already teaching. Time to give it a whirl!
*A special shout out to the teachers at St. Christopher Catholic School this week. Here is another technique to add to your instructional toolbox.
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
Mask Update: Yesterday a judge ruled that New York's mask mandate is unconstitutional. The case is going to be appealed and the mask mandate remains in effect.
EANS Update: I just learned that many of the schools that applied for EANS (I) funding were contacted last week by the company that will be providing some of the services schools requested in Part F of the application. The emails came from a company called Measurement, Inc. (Halley Eacker, HEacker@measinc.com) and request that schools complete an online survey related to their requested services; please be sure to complete this survey by the 1/28/22 deadline.
COVID Close Contact Update: The NYSDOH notified our schools last week that we are no longer responsible for “contact tracing” related to close contacts. This change is somewhat confusing, but I think I would recommend that you minimally continue to collect the names of “Close Contacts” that occur due to possible exposure at school and then forward that list to your County Department of Health for them to follow up with “contact tracing” as they feel is appropriate. You certainly may also notify parents of close contacts of possible exposure and alert them to the information related to recommended quarantining as it applies to their children.
I also received some clarification related to which COVID tests may be used to end “Isolation” as was described on the table found here, Isolation and Quarantine Tables 1.14.22.pdf (ny.gov), where it states under the “Symptoms, Waiting for Test Result” heading “If test result is negative, isolation can end.” NYSDOH clarified that “an antigen test or a molecular test may be used for ending isolation, provided that the test utilized is FDA authorized”; the FDA authorized antigen tests for ending isolation can be found here.
From what I was told, our schools have the Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card and Access CareStart COVID-19 Antigen tests provided by NYSODH and the iHome Rapid Antigen Tests provided by ECDOH and all three of those tests are on the FDA authorized antigen test list. I would caution you from accepting the results from home test kits for ending isolation without being present during the testing; best-practice would be for the test to occur at school, possibly in the school parking lot before school or after school so the child is not entering the school environment unnecessarily.
Finally for those of you in Erie County, I saw Kara Kane’s 1/20/22 email that stated “The Erie County Legislature approved [ECDOH]’s proposal to reimburse schools that are participating in the TTS protocol at $10 per reported tests. Details on how to apply for that reimbursement will be forthcoming.” Once I know more about this and how to access these funds, I will let you know.
Advocacy Action Alert: On 1/20/22 I forwarded you an Action Alert, “Thank Governor Hochul for Supporting Catholic Schools”, from the NYS Catholic Conference. Please send the prewritten email to Gov. Hochul by clicking the link (the entire process takes no more than three minutes). Once you have sent your email, please also forward this alert to your school staff, parents, and school community and ask them to participate.
Records Retention: A few of you have been cleaning out school records recently so I wanted to remind you of the NYS “Records Retention” requirements for schools. NYS updated its guidance recently so you may want to check out my updated guidance document that is on our Resources and Tools webpage
1/28/22 Last Day to Complete Online EANS (I) Survey for Certain Part F Services
2/7/22 Last Day to Submit Buffalo Public Schools Textbook Requisitions
2/14/22 High School Scholarship for Academic Excellence (SAE) Nomination Due
3/18/22 Last Day to Submit Erie 1 BOCES Textbook Orders
3/23/22 Save Mandated Services Claim online for C. Riso Review
3/31/22 NYSED Nonpublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) Projects/Payments Completed
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!
- Revised Catholic Schools Week schedule
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- The National Day of Giving for Catholic Schools is scheduled for Feb 2, 2022. Here's a link for more information.
- 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
- 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, Dr. Lauren Casella of LMU joins the podcast to discuss her work with our Principal PLN to strengthen Catholic identity. She also discusses charism, leadership, and pandemic parenting. Previous episodes:
- 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, I'm talking with Jodee Blanco about parents bullying the school.
- Here is the link to the Dec 13th convversation 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 School Matters
Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
My Last 5 Books
- Our Little Secret: The True Story of a Teenage Killer and the Silence of a Small New England Town (2021) by Kevin Flynn & Rebecca Lavoie
St. Francis of Assisi (2015) by G.K. Chesterton
The Power Broker: Robert Moses & the Fall of New York (1975) by Robert A. Caro
The Best of Me (2020) by David Sedaris
A Disarming Spirit: The Life of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen (2018) by Frank Fromherz
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
Past Issues of Catholic School Matters
January 18, 2022 "Pastoral Practices"
January 11, 2022 "Practical Sustainability"
January 4, 2022 "Bifocal Leadership"
December 13, 2021 "The Podcast Returns"
December 7, 2021 "Enrollment & Retention Work"
For previous newsletters, click this link
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.