Catholic School Matters

March 5, 2017

Swimming Upstream

Last Saturday in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I swam in my first Master’s swim meet—the first swim meet since my sophomore year in high school. So what?

Don’t we profess to make our students lifelong learners? Don’t we preach accountability, discipline, and growth? In many IB programs, for example, teachers are encouraged to set goals along their students like learning to play a musical instrument. I’ve struggled with what that looks like in my adult life. Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve found the notion of challenging myself leads me to become a lifelong learner.

Without a goal, my efforts usually fail. If I decide to run to get into shape, that will work for a bit. But I usually hit a plateau after a few weeks and without a definite goal (i.e. a race) in mind, I succumb to the nagging injuries or ennui and move on. But if I set a goal of a race, I’m able to keep pushing and hold myself accountable, develop discipline, and grow. In 2015, I was able to run a marathon for the first time in 15 years. Last fall, I ran a half marathon and ran faster than I had 10 years before.

And so now I’m swimming. I was a swim coach for a few years and still remember how to write a workout and teach the strokes. But I was never very good at swimming. In Masters swimming the pool of competitors shrinks and thus your slow times aren’t quite as slow anymore. And the goal (to swim in a meet) has been enough to push me through tough workouts and thus I was able to accomplish something I never thought possible—namely, swimming 100 yards of fly and the 200 IM.

I suppose as we find ourselves a little weary as the year wears on in the midst of the Lenten season which is challenging us to discipline ourselves and attempting to motivate others to do what we want, it might help to stop and articulate what motivates you to try something new, to learn a little bit more, or reach a bit farther than you thought you could.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

This week, there are two great podcasts for your listening and educational pleasure. Tomorrow (#31), I will interview Sr. Cecilia Sehr, OP, a Sinsinawa Dominican who teaches science at Bishop Lynch HS in Dallas. "Sr. C" and I talk about how Catholic identity has shifted over the years and she shares her vocation and philosophy of service. It's a wonderful conversation!

On Thursday, I'm releasing a special episode. In Episode #32 I interview four "newish" principals about the lessons they have learned in their first years of leadership. Arica Prado of All Saints in Ft. Worth, Domenic Franconi from Assumption School in Belmont, Michigan, Carrie Fuller from All Souls in Los Angeles, and Chris Gavin from St. Pat's in Tacoma share their insights and wisdom. It's a longer episode (approximately an hour) but is filled with stories and laughter. These are four principals who enjoy their work!

Last week's podcast (#30) is an interview with Greg Dolan, the Associate Director for Public Policy in the Secretariat for Education at the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Greg and I discuss school choice legislation and options: vouchers, tax credit scholarships, expanding the 529 plans, as well as the changes to ESSA which will impact our schools.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Please subscribe to the podcast so new episodes will automatically download. The show is also available on Stitcher and Google Play. If you don't have accounts with any of those content providers, here is the link to my basic page with the podcasts.

Last week, Dr. Uhl blogged about:

  • TUESDAY: Greg Dolan's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • FRIDAY: Swimming Upstream

This week, Dr. Uhl will blog about:

  • TUESDAY: Sister Cecilia Sehr's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Stall Points by Matthew S. Olson & Derek van Bever
  • FRIDAY: New Principal podcast

You can find and subscribe to the blog at

The Week Ahead

Monday: Vacation Day (Palm Springs)

Tuesday: WCEA visit St. Theresa's (Palm Springs)

Wed: Day 2 of visit

Thurs: Day 3 of visit; return to Helena

Fri: Great Falls meetings

Next week: 315 driving miles; 2,266 air miles

Last week: 225 driving miles; 2,464 air miles

2016-17: 24,636 driving miles; 16,840 air miles

What I'm Reading 2016-17

  1. Architects of Catholic Culture by Timothy Cook
  2. Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of an American Town by Brian Alexander
  3. Beyond Reform: Systemic Shifts Toward Personalized Learning by Lindsay Unified School District
  4. Spillover by David Quammen
  5. Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman
  6. The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
  7. Weathering the Storm: Moving Catholic Schools Forward by DeFiore, Convey, & Schuttloffel
  8. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  9. Redeeming Administration by Ann Garrido
  10. Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni
  11. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
  12. Stall Points by Matthew S. Olson & Derek van Bever
  13. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  14. Why Don't Kids Like School? by Daniel Willingham
  15. Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief by Mark Greaney
  16. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
  17. The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  18. Reading with the daughter: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (7 books)
  19. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  20. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
  21. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  22. The Purple Goldfish by Stan Phelps
  23. The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
  24. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
  25. Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption Cragun & Sweetman
  26. Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work by Fullan and DuFour
  27. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  28. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time by Margaret J. Wheatley
  29. The Orange Frog by Shawn Achor

For Principals & Teachers

  1. Vickie Donisthorpe at GF Central Catholic HS has announced her resignation from the school effective June 30th. Vickie has served for five years and we appreciate all of her fine work. A search committee has been formed and we are actively searching for the next principal.
  2. Principal/President evaluation surveys have gone out to the following schools: Billings Catholic Schools, Butte Catholic Schools, Holy Spirit, Missoula Catholic Schools, Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart, St. Mary's, and St. Matt's. If you are a teacher, staff member, or Advisory Council member and have not received the survey, contact your principal/president.
  3. Reminder that March 30th is the deadline for all Safe Environment reports in the Diocese of Great-Falls Billings. Please submit to Laurie Horton at the Chancery.
  4. We have secured funding for all of our teachers to spend the night in Butte so that we can hold the Fall Professional Conference in one place! The Sophia Institute will be offering catechetical professional development on Thursday, Oct 19th and then we'll kick off the conference that night with Jonathan Doyle. We'll have Mass together on Friday morning and then will hear from Jonathan again and then we'll have breakout sessions.
  5. On the Horizon:
  • Loyola Sacred Heart WCEA visit: March 15-17
  • St. Paul MGS WCEA visit: March 19-21
  • St. Mary's WCEA visit: March 27-29
  • Regional principal meetings: April 10 (GF), 11 (Missoula), 12 (Billings).

American Catholic News

Catholic Schools Opening, Consolidating, Closing

  1. Two Cincinnati all-girls high schools to merge
  2. Two Chicago Catholic schools saved from closure
  3. Rockford Catholic schools may consolidate/merge

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning