Catholic School Matters
January 4, 2022
When the calendar turns, our focus immediately becomes divided as part of our attention turns to next school year (and maybe a little toward summer!). As the challenges of the immediate have multiplied during the pandemic, you’ve probably found yourself forgoing or at least cutting back strategic thinking for next year because you simply don’t have time.
A good leader has bifocal vision with the ability to read the page her lap as well a half mile down the road. I’ve struggled with that reality (seeing both near and far as well as the leadership metaphor) and know that these past two years have challenged our farsightedness.
So let’s do a little exercise to prime your strategic thinking in four areas:
1. How is your enrollment? Do you have a strategy to retain your families, for example? We’ve seen abysmal retention from Pre-K to Kindergarten across the diocese. How are you reaching out to Pre-K parents? Do you have a strategy for attracting new families to your school?
2. How is your school’s financial position? My guess is that PPP and other government programs have benefited your school. The gravy train has dried up. What’s next? In this time of inflation are you making plans to raise tuition? Or increase fundraising?
3. How are your academics? Do you have any plans to improve teaching and learning?
4. Are you happy with the expression of Catholic identity at your school? With concern for the common good? If not, what are you planning to do about it? How can your school become more authentically Catholic? And who can help you?
If you believe your school needs to improve in these areas, you have to find time to address these issues and you have to find people to help you.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
We're going to try for an inperson meeting on January 13th. One of the reasons we selected St. Andrew's was the ability to social distance. A copule of our presentations will be virual but a big component of the day is cooperative learning. Here's a copy of the agenda.
Years of Service Recognition Form - https://forms.gle/s2BAznMkaCNFc3G67
Kari Buchinger on Academics
Happy New Year! I hope you all had the opportunity to rest over this much needed Christmas break. I pray that you have returned with excitement, joy, and an endless desire to see your students learn and grow.
A little less than a year ago, I heard the story of a nine year old girl who said, “my favorite author, other than myself, is Judy Blume.” I was struck by the confidence of this nine-year-old child who identified as an author. Can you imagine what the students in your classrooms could accomplish if they shared this writing confidence? What could they accomplish if they viewed writing as a thrill instead of an inconvenience?
Writing tends to be one of those things that students either love or hate. We have all heard the groans when it is time to take out journals, write an essay, or support mathematical thinking with a written explanation. What causes those groans? Often, teachers can fall into the trap of assigning writing but not explicitly teaching it. This can be especially true for upper elementary, middle, and high school classes that assume students have already mastered the skills they need to write effectively and may, in turn, ask students to write too much before they are ready for it. Instead, we often need to take a step back and ensure that students learn to write interesting and grammatically correct sentences first. This shift to provide explicit writing instruction can also assist in identifying comprehension gaps, boost reading comprehension, enhance speaking skills, improve organizational and study skills, and develop strong analytical abilities.
In the coming weeks, I will share some key strategies to support students in their writing journey in hopes that students across the Diocese of Buffalo will learn to see themselves as writers.
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
Dr. Uhl and I thought we should summarize some of the information shared with us recently about COVID-19 testing and quarantine. Even though we sent most of this information to you via email on 1/2/21, I wanted to also include it in the Catholic School Matters along with some additionional info.
Test Kits for Catholic Schools:
Many of you have heard that the public schools have received an allotment of rapid tests to distribute to their students in the hopes that they will complete these tests prior to arriving at school on 1/3/21. Staff from the Governor’s office called Jim Cultrara at the NYS Catholic Conference last week to assure us that a separate allocation of Rapid Test kits is being distributed to the religious and independent school community. Unfortunately, those tests will not be available to our schools by tomorrow. Here is what we know so far:
1. The most recent BEDS enrollment data is being used to ensure that the INITIAL distribution for our schools will ensure at least one rapid test per student. They recognize that adjustments will need to be made as distribution of tests continue beyond the initial distribution.
2. Each of you should have received an email on Monday from the Governor’s office (SchoolTestDistribution@exec.ny.gov) about how they will distribute the rapid, over-the-counter COVID-19 self-test kits to your school. Just in case you did not, here are the specifics:
“For the next month, within the school [COVID] report card survey that schools are required to complete on a daily basis, a new section will be available for nonpublic schools in the State entitled “Rapid Test Distribution Survey.” Nonpublic schools that wish to receive free rapid, over-the-counter COVID-19 self-test kits from the State must fully complete the information in this section.” If you wish to receive rapid COVID-19 test kits from the State you only need to complete this section once. The number of rapid COVID-19 test kits each school is eligible to receive has been determined based on overall school enrollment. Upon completion of this section, rapid COVID-19 test kits will be shipped directly to your school. Schools that do not wish to receive rapid COVID-19 test kits from the State can skip the section.
Test to Stay (TTS), “Return to School after COVID-like Symptoms”, and “Test Out of Quarantine”:
You all should have received the Test to Stay (TTS) Update from NYSDOH December 23, 2021. This document included guidance on TTS, “Return to School after COVID-like Symptoms”, and “Test Out of Quarantine” for the LHDs (Local [County] Health Departments) to consider adopting. Before you decide to share this information with your school community, please ensure your county Health Department has determined if they intend to adopt any or all of the proposed TTS, “Return to School after COVID-like Symptoms”, and “Test Out of Quarantine” strategies.
Quarantine Not Required for those Vaccinated or for students “engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks:
I just wanted to remind you that, per NYSDOH updated “Interim NYSDOH Guidance for Classroom Instruction in P-12 Schools During the 2021-2022 Academic Year,” people who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 unless they also present symptoms of possible infection; however, they should follow current CDC recommendations for what vaccinated people should do after exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, remember that “in the P-12 indoor classroom setting or a structured outdoor setting where mask use can be observed (i.e., holding class outdoors with educator supervision), the CDC specifies that students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory-confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting masks are not considered close contacts; this exception to the close contact definition does not apply to teachers, staff, or other adults in the indoor classroom or structured outdoor setting.”
Return to Work for Fully-Vaccinated Teachers in Isolation due to COVID Infection:
Schools may allow a teacher to return to work after day 5 of their isolation period (where day zero is defined as either date of symptom onset if symptomatic, or date of collection of first positive test if asymptomatic) if they meet all the following criteria:
1. The individual is a School Teacher, aide, auxiliary staff member, or provide support services needed to maintain a safe and effective educational environment, which includes employed and contracted school bus drivers.
a. Individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are not eligible to return to work under this guidance.
2. The individual is fully vaccinated (e.g. completed 1 dose of Janssen or 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine at least 2 weeks before the day they become symptomatic or, if asymptomatic, the day of collection of the first positive specimen).
3. The individual is asymptomatic, or, if they had mild symptoms, when they return to work they must:
a. Not have a fever for at least 72 hours without fever-reducing medication
b. Have resolution of symptoms or, if still with residual symptoms, then all are improving
c. Not have rhinorrhea (runny nose)
d. Have no more than minimal, non-productive cough (i.e., not disruptive to work and does not stop the person from wearing their mask continuously, not coughing up phlegm)
4. The individual is able to consistently and correctly wear a well-fitting face mask, a higher-level mask such as a KN95, or a fit-tested N95 respirator while at work. The mask should fit with no air gaps around the edges.
Individuals working under this policy must return to their homes for isolation after they leave work each day, take precautions to avoid household transmission, and observe other required elements of isolation while not at work until the end of the 10-day period. Testing is not required. Workers participating in this program should be instructed that:
- They should practice social distancing from coworkers at all times except when job duties do not permit such distancing.
- If they must remove their respirator or well-fitting facemask, for example, in order to eat or drink, they should separate themselves from others.
- They should self-monitor for symptoms and seek re-evaluation from occupational health or their personal healthcare provider if symptoms recur or worsen.
Please see “Advisory on Shortening Isolation Period for Certain Fully Vaccinated Healthcare Workers and Other Critical Workforce” from December 24, 2021 for full details of this policy.
I know this is quite a bit of information but I know many of you have been receiving calls from your school community about many of these issues. I hope this helps you to clarify your policies related to these concerns. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions about my summary or the NYSDOH guidance.
On another topic, Catholic school teachers and administrators can take select online Graduate courses for free through UB or SUNY Empire State College. Details can be found at Professional Development | New York State Education Department (nysed.gov). Online application deadline for University at Buffalo Spring 2022 courses is January 14, 2022 (classes begin 1/31/2022 - Available online courses for Spring 2022 - University at Buffalo).
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- Administrators Meeting, 8-3, January 13th, St. Andrew Country Day School.
- Cocktails for Catholic Education, January 27 2022, 6-8 pm.
- Bishop Fisher's schedule for Catholic Schools Week is listed here.
- The National Day of Giving for Catholic Schools is scheduled for Feb 2, 2022. Here's a link for more information.
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Video recording of All-schools Mass at OLV with Bishop Fisher. Here is the link to Dr. Uhl's talk.
- "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
- Here's a link to the forms on our website.
- New Policy Manual
- New Operations Manual
- Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form
Catholic School Matters Podcast
This week I'm joined on the podcast by Dr. Ann Garrido, the author/speaker/ professor of homiletics. Previous episodes:
- The December 27th episode was a conversation with Jennifer Daniels of the USCCB about government programs and school choice.
- In the December 20th episode, I'm talking with Jodee Blanco about parents bullying the school.
- Here is the link to the Dec 13th convversation with Faustin Weber, the author of the great blog post "Top Ten Suggestions to Avoid Principal Burnout."
Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Articles for Your Reflection
Did you Know?
Lay teachers began teaching at St. Mary's school in Swormville in 1840 and weren't replaced by religious sisters until 1902
My Last 5 Books
- Retention: A Systems Approach to Growing Enrollment (2018) by Mike Ziemski
Creation: A Catholic's Guide to God and the Universe (2021) by Christopher T. Baglow
Connections Over Compliance: Rewiring our Perceptions of Discipline (2021) by Lori L. Desautels
Our Little Secret: The True Story of a Teenage Killer and the Silence of a Small New England Town (2021) by Kevin Flynn & Rebecca Lavoie
St. Francis of Assisi (2015) by G.K. Chesterton
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
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.