Catholic School Matters

August 31, 2021

Swimming Upstream

In Dan Heath’s great new book Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, he tells a story of swimming in a river and a child struggling to stay afloat. He and his friend rescue the child, then along comes another who they also rescue. The children keep coming and he and his friend barely have enough time to rescue one before another needs to be rescued. Soon his friend wades out of the river, ignoring the children in distress.

“Where are you going?” he asks. His friend says, “I’m going to find the guy who keeps throwing these kids in the water.”

In the book, Heath examines ways that governments, schools, and businesses have all looked to solve problems upstream. Many times, they aren’t even aware that there is a problem or the problem seems so large that no one can begin to fathom how to solve them, such as homelessness or graduation rates. “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets,” writes Heath.

An example of upstream thinking is policy. We have worked to write and to develop new policies to solve problems before they happen. “Who has time for policy?” you might be asking. Well, let’s think of the background check policy. Without it, we’d be spending more time on solving problems caused by bad hiring decisions. The hope is that performing background checks (and proclaiming we perform background checks) weeds out inappropriate candidates.

We’ll spend some time on this week’s Zoom exploring the new policy manual and some immediate impacts. We’ll begin to explore new possibilities for policy, too. A few school leaders are upset that they’ve lost Catholic school teachers to other Catholic schools. Perhaps we could all agree to not hire other Catholic school teachers after August 1st? This is an example of upstream thinking that would solve a problem many schools are experiencing.

Join us Wednesday morning (the recurring Zoom link was sent out last week) at 9:30 for this discussion and more!

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Office Updates

  1. We would like to collect the names and emails of your Board chairs. Thanks to the 21 schools who have done so. For the others, please fill out this 30 second survey.

  2. We have received applications for the PLNs and the Faith Formation Pilot Groups. It looks like we'll have 2 Operational Vitality PLNs and 1 Mission PLN. There are 9 schools signed up to be pilot groups. We'll be reaching out to the individuals/schools directly to set things up.

  3. We have scheduled the annual meetings for Regional School Boards Sep 13 & 15. Look for an email with instructions.

  4. Elementary Athletics should start Oct 1st. There is a meeting planned for Sep 13 for all Athletic Directors & fall coaches and First Aid/CPR classes are scheduled for Sept 20 & 22

From Kari Buchinger

The history of the Catholic Church is filled with Marian apparitions. Moments in time when Mary appeared with a special message to followers around the world. Some have been approved by the Vatican, others by local bishops, and some live on as stories in the greater Catholic community. What I find so striking about these apparitions is that no matter where Mary appeared, she spoke in the native tongue and wore traditional clothing representative of those she was visiting. For example, she appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill on December 9, 1531, speaking Nahuatl, a language common to Central Mexico. Centuries later, in 1798, Christians were being persecuted in Vietnam. Despite the danger, a group of believers gathered together to pray the rosary. Mary appeared to them wearing traditional Vietnamese garments and shared words of love and comfort. In 1877 Mary appeared to two teenage girls in Poland speaking the local dialect and providing encouragement to engage in prayer daily.

Mary has a beautiful way of connecting with people regardless of their nationality, social standing, or education level. She truly is a representative of meeting people where they are. That phrase will be flowing through schools in the coming weeks as students return to our buildings. Each student comes to us with different experiences, backgrounds, and needs. As educators, we are called to follow Mary's example and meet them where they are. To celebrate students' experiences, efforts, and accomplishments and, most importantly, create a classroom community that ensures all students feel safe, heard, loved, and appreciated.

Mary, our Mother, pray for us.

Academic Corner: August 24 August 11, August 4th

Kari's message to new principals August 5th

Chris Riso, Government Services

Masks and social distancing…that is all we seem to be discussing lately. I am sure you all received the email on Friday from NYSDOH regarding the new mask mandate for people over the age of 2 at all times while in indoor in school buildings. This mandate also applies to all people who enter your building (staff, teachers, visitors) prior to the arrival of students on your first day of school. Although it looks like 6-foot physical distancing while eating or drinking has been reinstated under the NYSDOH order, Erie County DOH reasserted its guidance on 8/30/21 only requiring 3 feet of distance while eating. I have some emails out to request clarification and will share what I learn. I highly recommend you reach out to your County Department of Health if you have questions about this conflicting guidance.

As a quick reminder, Mandatory benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on December 31, 2020. This means that any staff member who is required to stay home from work and/or placed in quarantine due to the presence of COVID-19 symptoms or by being identified as a close contact will need to use available PTO or designated sick time for those missed days of work. This may become an issue for your unvaccinated staff because they will be required to quarantine when identified as close contacts whereas fully vaccinated staff identified as close contacts are not required to quarantine. Please be sure to remind your staff of this recent change and encourage them to complete their COVID vaccinations if they have not done so already.

Cathryn Harrower will be sending out this year’s school-specific NCEA Report spreadsheets along with instructions and advice. Please call me or Cathryn if you have any questions about the forms or reporting process.

The FCC announced on Friday that they will open a second application filing window for schools to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students and school staff for the current 2021-22 school year. The second application filing window will run from September 28 to October 13; eligible schools can apply for financial support to purchase eligible equipment and services for students and school staff with unmet needs. As a reminder, your school can apply for financial support to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students and school staff who would not otherwise have the devices or online access needed for remote teaching or learning. The program will only reimburse applicants a maximum of $400 for each laptop or tablet, and a maximum of $250 for Wi-Fi hotpots; monthly service costs may be reimbursed but must be reasonable. If schools do not have funds to cover upfront costs, there is a way to submit for reimbursement requests before paying for equipment and services then requiring you to pay the service providers within 30 days of receiving ECF program support. Reminder: schools that receive funds directly from this program are considered “recipients of Federal Funds” so you may want to have your technology vendor submit for reimbursement from the government rather than your applying to receive funding directly. I am sure that Denton Clark from Mondavi Design would assist schools interested in applying for ECF but he does charge a fee so please make sure your potential reimbursement justifies the cost. Let me know if you would like his contact information.

An exciting, free PD opportunity is being offered through the UB Safe Schools Initiative. The free seminar titled “Addressing the Misuse, Overuse & Abuse of Social Media and Technology in Schools and Online Spaces” will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 from 8:30AM – 3:00PM. This seminar is designed for educators and other youth Professionals & school stakeholders who desire a deeper understanding of, and action plan to deal with, the perils of social media and technology use confronting our youth today. The seminar is FREE and open to all who deal with school safety issues, including elementary school, middle school, high school and district faculty, staff (administrators, counselors, etc.) and school board members. Registration will open after Labor Day; save the date if you are interested.

Previous posts: August 24 August 11, August 4

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am. Email sent separately
  2. Annual Regional School Board meetings Sep 13 & 15, 2-4 pm.
  3. School Visit Schedule
  4. Catechetical Day (morning, 8:30-11:30) October 8th, OLV Basilica


  1. As we work to transform our website to be more user-friendly with resources, we'll be rolling out resources. The first is our "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
  2. Here's a link to the forms on our website.

Catholic School Matters

A weekly newsletter of resources to spur enrollment and excellence in our Catholic schools.

Articles for Your Reflection

What I'm Reading

    1. Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good (2020) by Sr. Simone Campbell
    2. American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West (2018) by Nate Blakeslee

    3. The Long Ships (1954) by Frank Bengtsson

    4. The Street Stops Here: A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem (2008) by Patrick J. McCloskey

    5. How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (2020) by Scott Newstok

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            August 24, 2021 "Learning in Community"

            August 11, 2021 "Another COVID Opening"

            August 4, 2021 "Welcome Back"

            May 24, 2021 "What Have you Learned?"

            For previous newsletters, click this link