Catholic School Matters

February 26, 2017

Special Issue on Parent Communication

When I was a beginning principal, I possessed the same social media/email narcissism that can grip even the best-intentioned. If I had a thought, I would send an email. My poor faculty members suffered under the tyranny. I would send out 2-3 emails to the staff every day, perhaps the same number to parents.

Then my oldest son went to preschool. It was only a 2 day a week program for 3 hours a day. I would receive 4-5 emails every day. I couldn’t keep up! I began to ignore then delete the emails before even reading. There had to be a better way, I thought. How can I balance the need to communicate without overwhelming parents?

So I began sending out one email every week to parents on Thursdays. Then I sent out one email to staff on Mondays. It was difficult to train myself to only send out a general email once a week. Eventually I found that I received a better response when I was consistent. I tried to make it personal, relevant, and scholarly. Parents don’t have much time and so I feel like it’s my responsibility to be the lead learner and share what I’ve come across that might interest them.

This was the origin of Catholic School Matters. I’ve been collecting articles about parent communication and they are divided up below. I find exceptional value looking at the articles about problems and conflict since conflict makes up so much of our daily life. Paying attention to perception and tone has been an area of growth for me and continues to challenge me.

Parent Communication Philosophy:

· What Parents Want in School Communication in Edutopia

· How To Communicate with Parents About Homework by Matt Harrell of MemberHub

· 4 Crucial Elements for Effective School Communications by Matt Harrell

· 7 Effective Parent Teacher Communication Tips by TeachHUB

· Strategies for Teachers to Communicate with Parents by Matt Harrell

· Make it Easy for Parents to Communicate with Teachers by Matt Harrell

· 7 Easy Ways to Improve School-Wide Communication by Edutopia

· Communicating Like a Grown-Up by Farnam Street

· 3 Keys to Effective Leadership Communications by Byron Ernest

Parent Communication Problems:

· How to Resolve a Breakdown in Communication with Parents by Matt Harrell

· Catholic Educators and Combatting the Abusive Parent by CommDigiNews

· 3 Ways to Stop Communication Breakdowns in Schools by TrustED

· How to Listen Without Agreeing by Justin Baeder of the Principal Center

· Slowing Down to Speed Up: Leadership Communication in a Crisis by SmartBrief

· Common Communication Mistakes to Avoid by Lolly Daskal

Parent Communication Tools:

· 3 Tech Tips for Parent Newsletters by Class Tech Tips

· 6 Tech Tools that Boost Teacher-Parent Communication by Graphite Blog

· 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School (eBook) by MemberHub

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

Tomorrow'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.

Last week's podcast (#29) is an interview with Julian Hanlon, the Executive Director of the Canadian Catholic Schools Trustees' Association (CCSTA). If you've ever wondered how they operate schools in Canada--especially Catholic schools which receive government funding--this is a great podcast to listen to..

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: Julian Hanlon's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Our Kids by Robert Putnam
  • FRIDAY: "Parent Communication"

This week, Dr. Uhl will blog about:

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

You can find and subscribe to the blog at

The Week Ahead

Sunday: travel to San Diego

Monday: WCEA visit to St. Patrick's (Carlsbad), Day 1

Tuesday: Day 2 of visit

Wed: Day 3 of visit

Thurs: return to Helena

Fri: office (Helena)

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

Last week: 512 miles

2016-17: 24,411 driving miles; 14,376 air miles

What I'm Reading 2016-17

  1. Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of an American Town by Brian Alexander (underway)
  2. Architects of Catholic Culture by Timothy Cook. (on deck)
  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. Ash Wednesday is coming up. I've compiled my Top 10 Lenten resources. There are reflections for your own faith formation as well as ideas for your classrooms and schools.
  2. Reminder that March 1st is the deadline for all Safe Environment reports in the Diocese of Great-Falls Billings. Please submit to Laurie Horton at the Chancery.
  3. This is called a "quiet open" or a "buried lead." 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.
  4. If any of your parents are concerned about their immigration status and the impact of new immigration policies, the USCCB has a page entitled "Justice for Immigrants." The most relevant page is a series of resources, including videos in English and in Spanish.
  5. Interested in coding? The Montana Teachers Teaching Tech is a new free resource. Here is the link.
  6. Accreditation progress reports are due March 1st. All schools are required except for the 6 schools who are undergoing/underwent visits this year.
  7. Diocesan principal/president letters of intent have been issued. Please return ASAP.
  8. 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).

Parent Communication Philosophy

Parent Communication Problems

Parent Communication Tools