Catholic School Matters

March 22, 2020

Learning Without School

How do we do school when we aren’t at school? And how do we do Church when we aren’t at Church? As we’re all trying to navigate this new world, it helps to take a step back and remember that we are trying to connect with people in new ways. It seems that every waking hour in the past week has been taken up by coronavirus responses, coronavirus reading or research, or dealing with the mostly exceptional Uhl children running around our house.

Here’s how I’ve approached this crisis:

Pay attention to relationships. On my end, I’ve instituted a daily virtual meeting at 9 am with principals. They can log in and get the latest reports and ask anything. We’re trying to solve problems together. I send them a daily coronamemo with links and information. I encourage them to do the same with their staffs and I encourage every teacher to video conference with their students. As so many of us are socially isolated at home, we need to provide connections to classmates and teachers. A one-on-one between every student and teacher should be mandatory. Office hours, links to the counselor, daily emails to parents, all feed our need for connection.

Another important note about relationships. We start here to keep our focus on the needs of our students and our communities. This should be our primary concern and should be the first note of all of our communications. Yes, our school’s futures are at risk. But that should be a secondary concern.

Build routines. Part of the reason for a 9 am daily meeting is to help me establish a routine. Our students need routines. After a week, those routines will work to alleviate some of the anxiety. You should build in a morning assembly, daily prayer, weekly Mass, a daily email to parents, virtual town halls once a week, daily video checkins with faculty, etc.

Build your model of remote learning. Every school is a little different with different capacities, technology infrastructure, and expectations. Each school needs to find that sweet spot somewhere between handing out a worksheet packet and following the class schedule. How can you bring real, rigorous, relevant learning remotely? No one has it down yet. But you need to put rigorous learning as your goal, try something, and build on that. And keep learning, keep improving, keep tweaking.

Be an Educational Leader. Most of our parents don’t know how to manage their children all day. They need ideas for structure, model daily schedules, suggestions for screen use, and recommendations for books and entertainment. How do you lead a school when no one is there?

Communicate what you’re doing. This goes back to relationships and routines. Your parents and stakeholders need to know what you’re doing, what’s working, and where/how you’re concerned.

Don’t lose sight of the operational and HR needs. Federal employment law abruptly changed last week and will impact sick leave and emergency leave. Unemployment benefits have changed, too. You need to understand these to lessen the anxiety of your staff.

Share your plan for the future. What’s your cash flow look like for the rest of the year? With the loss of fundraising revenue and possible loss of some tuition, what will that do to your budget? If you don’t come back to school until August, what will this mean? You need to communicate with your parents. If you’ve done this all, then it won’t be hard to ask for support. If the first thing you do is send an invoice for tuition or ask for more money, you’re not likely to garner much response.

With a one-two punch of the coronavirus and a looming recession, many fragile Catholic schools are facing an existential crisis. We need to take care to respond appropriately to inspire confidence and prove our worth.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

A parent calls to inform you that their son (a student at your school) has tested positive for COVID-19. You know that you should provide that information to the County Health Department and to your school community. Can you provide Personal Identifying Information to either? Which applies here--HIPAA or FERPA?

For Your Reflection

Operational RESOURCES

Religion Resources

1 Jesus is Condemned to Death (Stations of the Cross)

Educational Resources

Teach Online with Zoom - Beginners Tutorial

Crisis & Communication Links

What I'm Up To

Our new reality has set in. No school, no face-to-face meetings, no travel. The stress level of our teachers, staff, students, parents, and priests is palpable. Don't lose sight of the call for leadership through these difficult times. Look for the blessings and the fact that I've gotten the chance to spend more time at home with the family has been such a blessing for me.

This week’s Catholic School Matters podcast episode presents three Catholic school practitioners who are completing their graduate degrees with dissertation topics in the field of Catholic education. Lauren Roberts from Dallas, Dr. Jim King from Maine, and Abbie Greer from Washington, DC all present their story of graduate school, research, and share interesting implications from their research.

On last week's Catholic School Matters podcast, Dr. Ann Garrido, professor of homiletics and author of the recent book “Let’s Talk About Truth: A Guide for Preachers, Teachers, and Other Catholic Leaders in a World of Doubt and Discord, joins the podcast (again!) to discuss her book on truth and what she was hoping to accomplish. The Director of the Onward Leaders program in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Meg Samaniego, describes the leadership formation program in the Archdiocese. Seventeen emerging leaders have been trained with sixteen still in the Archdiocese and six are being trained this year. Samaniego describes what they are looking for and the three levers they use to train new leaders: stewardship, navigating the Archdiocesan school system, and a sense of mission of the school as part of the parish, the Archdiocese, and the church at large.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership, 4th edition (2008) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal
    2. Fragmented Catholicity and Social Cohesion: Faith Schools in a Plural Society (2012) by Ann Casson

    3. Let's Talk About Truth: A Guide for Preachers, Teachers, and Other Catholic Leaders in a World of Doubt and Discord (2020) by Ann M. Garrido

    4. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, 3rd edition (2018) by the Arbinger Institute.
    5. Leading With Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit (2011) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • I'm sending out a Coronamemo every day which you can find in the Principal portal at For the immediate future, plan on joining us at 9 am for a virtual meeting every Mon-Friday.
            • Here is a link from the March 3rd meeting. For the April 7th meeting, school leaders are challenged to tell a story about a family which was transformed by your school
            • Here is the CDC guidance site

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Mar 15,, 2020 "Let's Talk About Truth"

            Mar 8, 2020 "Orchestrating Conflict"

            Mar 1, 2020 "Building a Stronger School Community"

            Feb 16, 2020 "Catholic but not Christian"

            Feb 9, 2020 R.I.P. Archbishop Brunett

            Feb 2, 2020 "The Nashville Exchange"

            Jan 26, 2020 "Learning from our Elders"

            Jan 12, 2020 "Shaping School Culture"

            Jan 5, 2020 "Timelessness"

            Nov 24, 2019 "Best of the Fall"

            Nov 17, 2019 "Synodality"

            Nov 3, 2019 "Finance Best Practices"

            Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooza

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"

            The Nashville Exchange

            Join this first annual conference for Diocesan high school presidents. Presented by the Greeley Center, the conference promises to provide great professional development to presidents/heads of schools for diocesan Catholic schools. However, all are welcome! Special thanks to the Diocese of Nashville for hosting. Here is a link to the Nashville Exchange flyer, here is the link to the schedule. Go to this link to register. Please go to for more information and to register.

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.