Catholic School Matters

March 7, 2023

Operating Principles

Our vision for Catholic schools involves collaboration between Catholic schools, not competition. Together we can become better. It also involves more active involvement of our school boards. The new proposed operating principles for school boards accomplishes both goals of collaboration and board involvement.

The Road to Renewal is bringing many changes to our Catholic schools. When the dust settles this fall, perhaps only 2-3 of our Catholic schools will have the same pastor/Canonical Administrator as two years before. At the same time, the organizational structure of our parishes is changing. Few of our schools will have a priest living next door–and even then, that priest might not be involved with the school.

Consider the following realities:

  • The family pastor has the final approval of a parish’s budget so this means that he will sign off on the parish school’s budget. But the parochial vicar assigned to the school should have more familiarity with the school itself. Who signs the principal’s contract? Who evaluates the principal?

  • What do we call the parochial vicar assigned to the school? What is his position in the bylaws of the school board?

  • In some of our smaller parish families, the pastor might have to serve as the school pastor or the canonical administrator. With all the demands on his time, it might be unrealistic to expect him to chair the school board and coordinate the evaluation and hiring process of the principal..

  • For regional schools, the canonical administrator might come from outside the family of parishes. How does he garner support from the parishes?

  • We have gone almost 9 months without a canonical administrator for one of our regional schools. What happens when we run out of priests interested in serving as school pastors or canonical administrators?

These challenges also provide us an opportunity to reevaluate our governance models. With so many variations of school boards, it’s proven difficult to train our priests when a few turn over every year. Now the task of training will be much more difficult.

To that end, we’ve begun a process to replace our school board bylaws by September. The first step was to contact the Healey Foundation, who has earned a reputation for producing quality training materials for board formation. They provided their sample operating principles which we (department staff and Chancery officials) modified for our context. Then we asked the Diocesan Education Advisory Council to weigh in and we asked legal counsel to review, too.

The next step in the process is to ask principals to review these operating principles before our meeting on Thursday. Our plan is to spend some time reviewing and receiving input before we proceed to the next group of stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to have priests, Diocesan leadership, and school board members review these operating principles and then put these in place by September 1st. We’ve already begun planning our board workshop on Friday, September 22nd, when all board members will be invited to learn about the bylaws and functions of the school boards.

The issues that should generate the most conversation:

  1. The role of the pastoral leader of the school is “chaplain.” This would be a title that would encompass school pastor, parochial vicar for education, canonical administrator, and other titles. It would also leave open the possibility of a deacon, religious sister, or layperson serving the role.

  2. The chaplain is no longer the de facto chair of the board but he is an ex-officio voting member of the board.

  3. There is a process for the board to hire, evaluate, and terminate the principal. It no longer relies solely on the pastor/canonical administrator.

  4. There are specified responsibilities for the school board–namely, finance and development.

While much work and wisdom has been invested into this draft, it’s important to get input on these changes to bylaws which are a direct response to the changes brought by the Road to Renewal.

Previous blogs can be found here. Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Pick a Reading Partner (PARP)

Ss. Peter & Paul (Williamsville) held a pep rally last week to celebrate their adoption of the Pick a Reading Partner program. PARP is a statewide literacy incentive program that asks a partner (parent, grandparent, babysitter, older sibling, cousin, friend, etc) to ready with a child for 15 minutes every day. SSPP is introducing the program to encourage a lifelong love of reading in its students.

Kari Buchinger on Academics

Time to nominate your February Character Award Winner for inclusion. Nominate your student here!

March Character Trait

This month we are inviting our schools, principals, teachers, and students to focus on problem solving. Students face problems at school every day. These problems can range from forgetting homework to disagreeing with a friend. If students do not learn problem solving skills they may avoid taking action when faced with a problem whether in the classroom or on the playground. Taking the time to teach and model problem solving skills is paramount. Consider teaching the following steps to assist students with their own problem solving.

  • Allow Failure: Give students the space to make mistakes and hold back from intervening right away

  • Encourage Creative Play: Encourage students to use their imagination, build structures, robots, obstacle courses (hmm… that sounds like STREAM to me!)

  • Give Students Choices: Allow students to practice making choices, this is a key piece of problem solving.

  • Read Problem Solving Stories: Stories can help model key problem solving skills

  • Be Hands On: Model step-by-step processes and ask students questions along the way.

Book Recommendations:

  • Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty
  • Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
  • Going Places by Paul Reynolds
  • Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
  • Flight School by Lita Judge

Video Clips:

Looking for some fun projects to challenge your students’ problem solving skills? Don’t forget about our STREAM website!

Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari

Office Updates

  1. Golden Apple Nomination Form; St. Sebastian Award Nomination Form. Both due by March 27th.

  2. Here is a link to sign up for the 8th grade retreat and Here is the flyer .

  3. The March Principals Meeting Registration link (for the March 9th meeting). Working agenda link can be found here.

  4. Here is the link for the Office Blog with the latest forms and information. This can be found on the website under "Blogs.

Chris Riso on Government Services

Catholic School Advocacy Update and Action Alert: Thank you for finding time to attend any of the Legislative Zoom meetings you were invited to. It is important that we tell our NYS Legislators our thoughts on how the NYS Budget can support Catholic Education. To support this in-person advocacy, make sure you and your school community send the requested emails to your legislators based on the “Action Alert” I sent out on 2/28/23 -

Mandated Services Update: Remember, there are only 19 school days until the 4/1/23 Mandated Services claim submission deadline, so if you have not started working on your claim I would encourage you to start this week. At this point, your school should have your payroll and benefits reports from your Business Manager and have updated your school-specific Excel spreadsheet with those amounts while also updating the “Days in the School Year” and indicating the staff members participating in each Mandate. Once your Excel spreadsheet is accurate and complete, you can work on the additional sections on “Form 2” and then begin to enter your claim online at the NYSED Business Portal. If you have not yet opened your 2022 claim online yet, please do so this week - you can enter the information later. Remember, I am hosting Mandated Services Data Entry Sessions 3/20 & 3/21 for those who have completed their Excel spreadsheets and “Form 2” and want to enter the data online with me nearby for questions. If you ask, I can look your claim over once it has been entered online (but NOT submitted!) on the NYSED Business Portal. So far I have reviewed 4 claims and one has been submitted and approved; that leaves 49 schools left to assist in the next 4 weeks so I really need you to enter your claim online on your own or at a Data Entry session (but do not submit) by 3/24/23 and then send me an email to request a review. Any reviews left until after that date may result in insufficient time to correct any areas of concern prior to the submission deadline.

Mandated Services – Forward any NYSED “Post Review” or “Hold” emails: As your Mandated Services claims are submitted, some schools labeled as “Post Review” or “Hold” will get an email from NYSED at some point. Please forward to me any emails you get from the state that request follow-up on your end to resolve a claim. I highly recommend you allow me to assist you during this review process. Be especially careful with anything you say to NYSED representatives on the phone – I recommend you get their requests in writing and make your responses in writing.

Print a Copy of your Submitted 2021-2022 Mandated Services Claim: Once you complete and submit your 2021-2022 Mandated Services Claim, I recommend that you print a copy of your claim and put it in your Mandated Services folder. Since it now seems that NYSED only retains claims from the past three years, it would make sense for you to have a hard copy of your claim for your records. To print your claim, first click on “Summary of Expenditures” and then expand all Mandates that you are receiving reimbursement for. Then right click and select “print”. Once you are on the print/preview screen, you will probably need to change the layout to “Landscape” in order to ensure that all of the information prints (check the preview).

Public School District Nonpublic School Meetings – Please Share Dates: Often at this time of year public school districts will hold individual or district-wide Title services or nonpublic school meetings regarding Federal funds, Special Education, and Health Services. As you are notified of these meetings, please consider sharing the invitations with me so that I might arrange to attend and support your school.

NPSE and AIS 3/31/23 Deadline for Purchases/Project Completion for 2022-23 Reimbursement: I just wanted to remind you that March 31, 2023 is the deadline for purchasing supplies or paying for and completing projects under both the Nonpublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) and Elementary AIS programs for reimbursement this school year. If you plan to apply for 2022-2023 reimbursement, please make sure all work has been completed and paid for by March 31st. Failure to pay for and complete projects by the deadline means that you will not be able to submit for reimbursement until next year’s 2023-2024 forms are made available by NYSED closer to December 2023 for reimbursement after 3/31/2024. Please email me if you have any questions about either of these programs. Here are the links for both programs:

Nonpublic School Safety Equipment (NPSE) Reimbursement – Year 9 (2022-23)

NYSED Elementary AIS Reimbursement Funds – Year 6 (2022-23)

Transportation Requests Due to Public School Districts on April 1: Parents of Catholic school students must request transportation services directly from the public school district in which they live. The deadline for submitting written requests for transportation is April 1, 2023 for the 2023-2024 school year. Failure to submit a request by this deadline might lead to the suspension of bus privileges for those families. Administrators are urged to remind current parents of the necessity to meet this deadline and to alert parents of prospective and newly-registered students of this requirement as well.

Anniversary: Just over one year ago, on March 2, 2022, the Governor lifted the mask mandate in NYS. It’s amazing how much has changed in our schools in just one short year!

Previous posts from Mr. Riso

Athletics Info

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:00 am on Wednesdays
  2. Meeting with Catholic high school principals/presidents March 8th.
  3. Principal Meeting, March 9th, St. Andrew CDS
  4. Catholic High School information nights March 21st Nativity of Our Lord, March 28th St. Andrew CDS, 6-7:30 pm each night. Open to all students/parents in grades 6-8.
  5. 8th grade retreat April 21st.
  6. Diocesan Awards Ceremony May 30, St. Stephen's
  7. New Teacher Inservice (including VIRTUS), August
  8. School Board workshop September 22nd
  9. Fall Professional Development day, October 6, 2023 @ St. Mary's HS.


  1. School Visit Form, spring 2023.
  2. Devotional Calendar 2022-23.
  3. The Fall 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard; The spring 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard.
  4. School Pastor's Administrative Guide
  5. "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
  6. New Policy Manual for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
  7. New Operations Manual for Diocesan Catholic schools.
  8. Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form

Articles for Your Reflection

Catholic School Matters Podcast

This season's Catholic School Matters podcast season is underway with a conversation with Greg Dhuyvetter, the Executive Director of WCEA (Western Catholic Education Association). We discuss their new accreditation protocol based on the NSBCS. Previous episodes:

Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Catholic School Matters

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

Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
Phone: 716-847-5520
Twitter: @WNYCatholicEd

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

Feb 28th "How to Use the Newsletter"

Feb 14th "Activities & Retention"

Feb 7th "Anchor Churches"

Jan 31, 2023 "Catholic Schools Week"

Jan 24, 2023 "Accreditation"

For previous newsletters, click this link

A few 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.