Catholic School Matters

August 24, 2021

Learning in Community

At last week’s school administrator meeting, we introduced the ideas of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) centered on Mission & Catholic Identity and on Operational Vitality (the deadline to apply is this Friday btw). We're excited to welcome Dr. Susan Abelein from FACTS Education and Dr. Lauren Casella from Loyola Marymount to lead these efforts.

These PLNs capture our emphasis on formation but it became apparent that perhaps not everyone understands what we mean by formation. In one of the fundamental Church documents on Catholic education, To Teach as Jesus Did, the US Bishops claim that “The educational efforts of the Church must therefore be directed to forming persons-in-community; for the education of the individual Christian is important not only to his[her] solitary destiny but also to the destinies of the many communities in which he[she] lives” (13). As the bishops point out later in paragraph 43, learning is a “lifelong” experience. But we are not simply trying to build up the leadership capacity of our principals. We want to learn together to promote community.

Four years later, the US Bishops were more explicit in their definition of formation in To Teach Them. “Appreciation has increased … that the Catholic school is not simply an institution which offers academic instruction of high quality, but, even more important, is an effective vehicle of total Christian formation (21).” The PLNs are our attempt to provide formation to principals in community. And isn’t this what we’re trying to do with all of our schools? Formation in community?

The PLNs are a commitment of time, of effort, and of changing your approach to how you’ve been doing your job. Pope Francis addresses this attitude of complacency in Gaudate et Exsultate (2018):

Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations. We can resist leaving behind a familiar and easy way of doing things (134).

Pope Francis is calling us to be bold and to try something new. But he also calls us to community. “Growth in holiness is a journey in community, side by side with others” (141). This call to community was echoed by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2018 which wrote (in Educating to Fraternal Humanism): “Humanizing education means putting the person at the centre [sic] of education, in a framework of relationships that make up a living community, which is interdependent and bound to a common destiny” (7). The Congregation continues by calling for “cooperative networks” and collaboration.

No one has all the answers for how best to lead our schools. Our hope, however, is that you’ll embrace a call to collaborate and learn together. Join us!

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Office Updates

  1. There is new guidance from the Erie County of Health. Masks and screenings are now required

  2. We would like to collect the names and emails of your Board chairs. Please fill out this 30 second survey.

  3. Are you encountering any last minute teacher openings that you can't fill? Dr. Tom Burnford from Catholic Virtual is going to schedule some Zoom times on Wed, August 25th. Email him for the Zoom invite:

  4. We are on track for our weekly 9:30 am (optional) principal Zooms. All principals, presidents, and assistant principals from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo are welcome to join us. Mary Tepley has sent out the Zoom link. If you haven't received it, reach out to Mary. This week (tomorrow), join us as we talk COVID!

  5. Please fill out your textbook survey that Shelly Reidy sent out last week.

  6. The deadline to apply for one of the PLNs and the Faith Formation pilot groups is this Friday.

From Kari Buchinger

Over the years, I have had the blessing of working with a truly inspirational pastor. When I think about his compassionate leadership, I am often reminded of a quote by Pope Francis; “a shepherd should smell like their sheep.” This man lives amongst his people, supports them in the face of challenges, and I kid you not; he even donated a kidney to a parishioner. He is a true disciple of Christ and encourages others to follow. Or, in the words of Pope Francis, he smells like his sheep. It may be easy to connect a priest’s job with this thought, but I can’t help but wonder, what does it mean for an educator to “smell like their sheep”?

As educators, we call on our students to be curious, collaborative, and lifelong learners. They come to school each day eager to learn and grow. Now it is time to turn that back on ourselves. Are we living up to these expectations in our own practice? Are we working to smell like our sheep and lead by example? If you aren’t yet, I challenge you to make that change and study your own profession in the same way we expect students to hone their academic skills.

We are ready to put that to the test on Thursday as we gather for the new principal and new teacher orientation. Together we will take advantage of our greater community and grow in our practice just as our students do each day in our classrooms. Want to get a sneak peek of the day? New Principal Topics: Mission and Catholic Identity, Special Education Support, School Culture and Climate, and School Structures/Operations. New Teacher Topics: Mission and Catholic Identity, Building a Faith Community in the Classroom, Classroom Management and Operating Norms, and "Find Your Marigold" (Want to get a jump on this reading by Jennifer Gonzalez? Find it here).

If you have not yet registered but wish to attend, please sign up in the staff portal on our website or email

Academic Corner: August 11, August 4th

Kari's message to new principals August 5th

Chris Riso, Government Services

For the second year in a row, I cannot thank you all enough for the work you have done to prepare for school reopening this year while COVID-19 is still a health concern. I know your school community appreciates your efforts, even if they don’t remember to say so. We will continue to keep you notified of any updated COVID guidance or mandates from the Governor, NYSDOH, or NYSED.

Several principals have asked me for information on the free COVID diagnostic testing sites. The Erie County DOH offers free COVID-19 PCR testing collected via nasal swab to symptomatic Erie County residents and close contacts of confirmed cases. Call 716-858-2929 to schedule an appointment at one of the ECDOH testing sites. Other local testing sites are listed at Remember, COVID-19 diagnostic testing is fully covered by all health insurance plans per federal mandate but the visit to the site (doctor, pharmacy, or Urgent Care Center) may still result in a charge.

For those of you outside of Erie County, you can find your free local COVID-19 testing sites (if available) by calling your County Department of Health; other sites that may not be completely free can be found on the state website at For specific county DOH information:

- Allegany County:

- Cattaraugus County:

- Chautauqua County:

- Genesee and Orleans Counties:

- Niagara County:

- Wyoming County:

And finally, once you have completed the “2021-2022 Written Affirmation of LEA Consultation with Private School Officials” for each school district, please email (or mail) a signed copy to me. Have a great start to the school year!

Previous posts: August 11, August 4

Save the Date!

  1. School Visit Schedule
  2. New Principal and New Teachers meeting August 26th, 1-4 pm, UB Newman Center. RSVP on the portal.


  1. For those of you who asked about the online catechist course entitled "Spirituality for Teachers & Catechists" More information here.
  2. Here is the link to the information for our August 18th meeting, Here is the link to the slide deck for the meeting, and here is the link to Dr. Abelein's presentation.
  3. 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.

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. The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain (2021) by Annie Murphy Paul
    2. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks (2016) by Mark Woods
    3. Hunger for Hope: Prophetic Communities, Contemplation, and the Common Good (2020) by Sr. Simone Campbell

    4. American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West (2018) by Nate Blakeslee

    5. The Long Ships (1954) by Frank Bengtsson

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            August 11, 2021 "Another COVID Opening"

            August 4, 2021 "Welcome Back"

            May 24, 2021 "What Have you Learned?"

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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.