Catholic School Matters

October 5, 2021

Culture of Collaboration

So far this fall, we (Kari, Chris, and I) have visited 12 schools and today we're visiting 3 more. It's amazing to see the full spectrum of responses. At one school, for instance, the pastor and almost the entire school board were there to greet us and we had a robust discussion about the school, the diocese, and the future. At another school, however, only the principal was there and we suspect she had forgotten we were even coming!

One comment stuck out. When I reached out to one principal in anticipation of our visit, she asked, "Why are you coming?" She went on to question why we would like to see certain documents such as financial reports, why would we like to meet with the pastor, and why are we even bothering. The answer is collaboration. We're trying to build a culture of collaboration.

I realize that many schools have been deeply hurt by the actions of priests and bishops. Also, some of our school leaders were at other Catholic schools which were closed by the diocese in less than pastoral ways. And I realize that many schools felt betrayed when their diocesan subsidies were promptly cut off. Add to this mix, the site-based orientation of many of our schools who would rather just be left alone to solve their own problems.

Our hope is to establish a culture of collaboration so that we can work together to reverse the downward decline of our Catholic schools in the diocese. We want to help, we want to bring forward resources and best practices, and we want to convene our stakeholders to find common ground and spur innovation.

We're coming and we'll keep coming. We need to work together for all of our students.

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

Office Updates

  1. On Friday, October 8th the Department of Catholic Schools will be hosting an All-Schools Mass at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. The activities will begin at 8:00 AM and end at 11:30 AM. As a reminder we strongly encourage all schools to ask their teachers to please carpool. All people will be required to mask during the event. Here's a link to a map showing where parking is available. Please carpool.

  2. We were hoping to gather everyone together in person. However, we realize that certain schools are struggling with outbreaks AND many people are fearful to gather in large groups. Notes:

  • We are putting out additional folding chairs so the capacity of the large, airy basilica will be over 1200 people. If all 700 who RSVPed arrive, there should be availability to distance.
  • We are asking school groups to carpool sit together.
  • If livestream is necessary, we are asking schools to have watch parties at the school. Here is the link.
  • Here is the link to the Mass program

  1. Link here for the Catholic Schools Day at the BPO (Jan 18, 2022). Here's the link to the registration form.

  2. Registration has begun for the free annual Religious and Independent Schools Educators (RISE) conference taking place virtually on November 9th and 10th. Here are the Links for more information: RISE Conference | nyscirs and Program. To register, go to RISE 2021 Conference Registration Form (

  3. The Erie County DA Office has offered to speak to your students about cyberbullying and internet threats. Contact Assistant DA Danielle D'Abate at 858-2431

  4. October is Respect Life Month. If your school is interested in sponsoring one of the 5 families at the Mother Teresa Home by purchasing Christmas gifts or raising money for gift cards, let us know. This is a great way to promote life issues.

Kari Buchinger on Academics

Think alouds are a great tool to enhance direct instruction and better support student learning. When doing a think aloud, it is important to use the first person perspective and describe in detail how to make decisions, apply a skill, and/or evaluate personal performance. This is an opportunity to invite students into the thought process of their teacher, the expert in the classroom. When creating a think aloud, consider the following:

  1. Keep the focus of the think aloud brief- consider one math word problem or one example of a procedure.
  2. Pay attention to your own thinking processes as you design the think-aloud. Think about all of the little things you do as an expert that may be second nature to you. This is not always the case for a new learner, and those little pieces are necessary for greater understanding.
  3. Find your authentic voice. Focus on the "I" statements and use student friendly language. In our own minds, we would think, "I looked at the image," not "I analyzed the diagram."
  4. Think like the expert you are. Share unique insights and demonstrate what it means to think like a mathematician, scientist, artist, historian, etc.
  5. Name your cognitive and metacognitive processes. Hmmm, what does that mean? Cognition is the mental process we engage in daily such as memory, learning, reasoning. Metacognition is thinking about thinking such as planning, monitoring, evaluating. A think aloud can be enhanced with metacognition such as sharing with students, "ok, that didn't work, now let's try…" (Fisher and Frey, Better Learning Through Structured Teaching)

Take a moment to watch this video from Smekens Education. This simple example will help get you ready to construct a think aloud.

Attention principals! Here is a copy of the diocesan observation form. We will review this in detail when we gather for our meeting on the 28th. This can also be found on the principals’ resource section on our website.

Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari

Chris Riso on Government Services

On 10/4/2021, Cathryn Harrower sent you information and an Excel template to help you prepare for NYS BEDS report based on student and staff attendance from Wednesday, 10/6/2021. The actual online BEDS report is not due to NYSED until November 19th using the Business Portal (via “IRS Data Exchange” under “My Applications”, not “BEDS/IMF”). I would encourage you to use the Excel spreadsheet we created and the associated instructions to help you organize your information prior to the online submission to NYSED using their Business Portal. My instructions include some tricks I have learned over the years to avoid data entry issues. I would be glad to assist you with any questions you might have while you are working on your BEDS report.

Thank you to everyone for taking the time needed to prepare and submit the NCEA reports. Now that we have them, Cathryn and I will be reviewing the documents to look for any confusing or missing information. If we notice anything on your report we’ll drop you an email and request any needed clarification. Please try to respond to these requests in a timely manner as we have a quickly approaching deadline for the Diocesan Summary report.

If you have any students who qualify for free or reduced lunch (or would be based on their family income if you had a free/reduced lunch program), please be sure to send a list of these students to the each of the public school districts in which they live for the purpose of identifying those who qualify for 2022-2023 Title I funding. The number of qualified students on these lists who live in the Title I attendance areas will help determine your 2022-2023 Title I allocation from each district. Feel free to use this template when writing to the school districts.

I recommend you send these letters out to each affected school district by November 2nd. If you are familiar with the school district, address this letter to the correct person or use the contact information in this Excel spreadsheet; if you are unsure you can always send it to the superintendent. Either way, you should follow up a week or so after you sent it to make sure someone at the district received it. Be sure you keep copies of these letters for future reference.

If you have not already done so for this school year, please make arrangements to order hardware, software, and library materials through the Public School District in which your school is located using the state funds available for such items to be loaned to you.

If your Fire Safety Inspection has not yet been completed, you must arrange to complete one prior to December 1st and the inspection report must be filed with the Commissioner prior to December 16th. This year the Fire Safety Reports for all schools not located in the city of Buffalo must be submitted via the NYSED Business Portal. Information on the process and the required Non-Public forms can be found on the bottom of this webpage

Since all Elementary Schools and some High Schools use eSchool or another SIS program for both attendance and grades, you need to make sure you print out hard copies of both the student attendance registers and individual student transcripts regularly. I discovered that eSchool purges all data when a student “transfers out” of your school. If you forget to print a final attendance register and final transcript (both required legal documents for students) for that student before they are “transferred” to another school in eSchool then you may not be able to recover any of that information. This is important because your school has an obligation to retain hard copies of both transcripts and attendance registers essentially forever. Thank you for making sure you have a procedure in place to ensure this information is printed out before a child leaves your school.

The NYS Department of Health will soon remind you that schools are required to post influenza educational material, in plain view, within their facilities. Information should be posted starting now. See the following websites for posters you could use.

For those of you interested, a second Emergency Connectivity Fund Program (ECF) application filing window has opened for schools to request funding for connected devices and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons for the current 2021-22 school year. The second application filing window opened on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 and will close on October 13, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. During this window, eligible schools can submit requests for funding to purchase eligible equipment and services between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022 to meet the remote learning needs of students, school staff and library patrons with unmet needs. The FCC’s announcement of the second application filing window is available on their website. Remember, if you work through Denton Clark from Mondavi Design for this program you are looking at paying anywhere from $700 to $1,500 for his services so the likely reimbursement should far exceed the amount you have to pay for the paperwork processing.

Important Dates:

10/6/21 BEDS Enrollment Anchor Date – Count All Staff & Students

10/8/21 Last day to register to vote in NYS – Encourage all Families to Vote!

10/15/21 NCEA Updates/Corrections Due to our Office

10/29/21 Register for Albany RISE Conference – Online Conference

11/1/21 Title I Letters Sent to Each Public School District w/Poverty Students

11/19/21 BEDS Report Due to NYSED via Business Portal IRS-Data Exchange

12/1/21 Fire Safety Inspection Must be Completed; Online Report Due 12/16/2021

Previous posts from Mr. Riso

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays. This week we'll be hearing from Catholic Charities about the annual fund.
  2. Diocesan Advisory Council meeting October 21st.
  3. School Administrators meeting (in person) October 28th at OLV, 8:30-2:30
  4. School Visit Schedule
  5. Diocese of Buffalo Catholic days at the BPO Jan 18th


  1. "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
  2. Here's a link to the forms on our website.
  3. New Policy Manual
  4. New Operations Manual
  5. Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form

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. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (2019 edition) by Jim Collins
    2. Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity: The Keys to Successful Equity Implementation (2019) by Floyd Cobb & John Krownapple

    3. The Edge: How Ten CEOs Learned to Lead - and the Lessons for Us All (2021) by Michael Useem

    4. Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen (2020) by Dan Heath

    5. TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement (2021) by Toby A. Travis

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            September 28, 2021 "Coming Together"

            September 21, 2021 "How We Doing?"

            September 14, 2021 "Retention, Retention"

            September 7, 2021 "Operations Manual"

            August 31, 2021 "Swimming Upstream"

            August 24, 2021 "Learning in Community"

            August 11, 2021 "Another COVID Opening"

            August 4, 2021 "Welcome Back"

            For previous newsletters, click this link