Catholic School Matters

October 26, 2021

Our Strategic Priorities

At last week’s Advisory Council meeting, I shared our strategic priorities for this year. If you define a strategic plan as a binder produced by a team of consultants after months of meetings (and a hefty price tag), then this isn’t a strategic plan. But if you define a strategic plan as an outline of your strategic priorities aligned to your vision, then yes, this is it.

Our vision is more students, better schools. Everything we do must align with this vision of bringing more students into our schools and improving the quality of our schools. So the question is what are the 3-4 things we can do differently this year to bring this about?

1. Improve leadership formation. Skilled and mission-focused leaders are paramount to a school’s success. Good leaders pay attention to what’s important, bring a sense of mission, and attract new families. We have dedicated resources to our PLNs where principals are receiving high quality training in operational vitality and Mission/Catholic Identity. 16 current principals and 3 future principals are enrolled and we’re excited to see the difference this will make. We’re also conducting weekly principal Zooms as well as monthly Zooms for new teachers and new principals as well as the five full days of principal formation held throughout the year. There are a lot of ways our school leaders can get better.

2. Improve school governance. We need to articulate effective school governance at all levels (school administration, pastoral support, school boards), train boards in best practices, and raise the level of expectation for all. We have dedicated resources to our new partnership with the Healey Foundation who is working with five of our regional school boards to assess the quality of the school program and governance from top to bottom. We have also created an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on governance to carry this work to every school.

3. Clear communication from the Department of Catholic Schools. We have consolidated our communication to Tuesday’s Catholic School Matters and have now begun turning our attention to the website to make it more of a resource for current schools as well as future families. Stay tuned!

4. Respond to the Road to Renewal. The work of the Road to Renewal is ramping up as well as its demands from Catholic schools. We have begun an Operational Vitality Committee of the Advisory Council to develop and implement metrics of vitality. We have also charged the Finance Committee to review monthly financials and school budgets. We will also continue to explore cost savings such as diocesan benefits as well as common marketing efforts.

These are the four things that are different this year. Our other efforts will continue as part of our operational plan. It’s important for you to recognize what our strategic priorities are so that we can all work to increase our enrollments and improve our schools.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Office Updates

  1. Here's the link to the registration form for the November CPR/First Aid class.

    The Albert Lenhard Family Scholarship Fund was established in 1985 through a bequest of the estate of Albert M. Lenhard. The Scholarship was developed to assist applicants who wanted to continue their formal education beyond high school at the undergraduate and graduate levels. To be eligible for the Scholarship the candidate will have to be residing in the geographic boundaries of the Catholic Churches of Central Buffalo: (Blessed Trinity, SS Columba Brigid, St. Ann, St. Katherine Drexel, St. Lawrence, and St. Martin De Porres). The Lenhard Scholarship fund is administered by the pastor of St Martin De Porres in collaboration with the African American Commission of the Diocese of Buffalo and the director of the Office of Cultural Diversity. This Scholarship is awarded annually. You may apply every year, but you are not guaranteed to receive an award yearly.


    The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship was established in 1987 to help an 8th-grade student in attaining a Catholic High School Education. The African American Commission through its Scholarship Committee, awards scholarships to 8th-grade students for continuing their education in a Catholic High School. Our goal is to support our recipients so they may continue to serve in their churches, in their communities, and their world. Applicants for this award must meet the criteria stated below.

    To be eligible for the Scholarship Program applicants must:

    1. Be actively involved in their parish/ church, (religion classes, retreats, parish or diocesan activities, youth group, lector, altar server, etc.)

    2. Engage in service at the parish/church, school, and in their communities.

    3. Applicant shall have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 (high school cumulative). A current official transcript must be sent to The Office of Cultural Diversity, 795 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203.

    4. Be a member of an ethnic minority group.

Kari Buchinger on Academics

I hope you had a chance to protect independent reading time in your classroom over the last week. If so, you may have witnessed some students jumping from book to book and struggling to stay on task. Your first reaction may be to put a book in that student's hands and say, "just read this one!" But, when it comes to impactful independent reading, student choice is a must. When students have the opportunity to choose what they read, they tend to read more, have stronger comprehension, and are more likely to keep reading. Sometimes, finding that "just right" book for a student is worth that little bit of indecision. Isn't that how we all read? We have all picked up a book from the library, read a couple of chapters, and moved on to another one that seemed more entertaining. If adults do it, why would we expect kids not to?

There are many approaches to supporting students in finding the right book. You may encourage students to ask the following questions:

1. Am I interested in this book?

2. Can I read it?

(Some like to use the "Five Finger Rule."

0-1 unknown words=book is too easy

2-3 unknown words=book is just right

4-5 unknown words=book is too difficult)

*My personal caveat- this can be a helpful guide to get students started. But, having students become fully engaged in a text and read it with focus and excitement is worth a whole lot more than fitting into a structured "rule" for book selection. Maybe that means sometimes students are reading books that are a little easier for them. That "at bat" with a comfort text can still help improve fluency, comprehension, and reading confidence. At the same time, if a student has become engaged in a series of books they love, the Harry Potter series is an excellent example of this; it would be heartbreaking to keep them from continuing the series because they are up against more unknown words than usual. It is important to strike a balance and be in tune with student interest and engagement.

3. Does it give me something to think and talk about?

4. Will it help me practice what I'm/we're learning how to do in class?

The next time students have an opportunity to select a new independent reading book, pose these questions and enjoy the adventure of finding the "just right" book for your students.

We've protected time for independent reading, and we're ready to support students with book choices. Next week we will dive into key elements to consider when building a classroom library to support a robust independent reading practice.

See you Thursday for our principals’ meeting at Our Lady of Victory. If you have not completed the survey from last week you still have time! Please be welcome to bring along any observation data you may have collected so far this quarter. You may want it as a reference.

Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari

Chris Riso on Government Services

Although the Mandated Training for Child Abuse Prevention became law in 2019, last year we learned that NYS Education Law §100.2(hh) also requires our teachers, administrators, teacher aides, and bus drivers to comply with Section (8) of Chapter 363 of the Laws of 2018; they must complete two hours of coursework or training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment, including the new “Child Abuse in an Educational Setting Training”. The training requirements, separated by personnel categories, can be found at Child Abuse Prevention Training | New York State Education Department ( We recommend that your staff to do this training via the BOCES or other approved providers and then save the receipts for NPSE (Non Public Safety Equipment) reimbursement. NYSED has partnered with Capital Region BOCES and PowerSchool to offer an online version of the new trainings that will fulfill the requirements associated with the amendments to the reports of child abuse in an educational setting adopted by the Board of Regents at their October 2019 Board of Regents meeting. To learn more about the online course offerings, including how to easily register, complete, and access your completion certificate, please visit the website here.

The BOCES online offering indicated above is the only option for the one course which must be completed each year: “Child Abuse in an Educational Setting Training” ( Each individual staff member will pay for the online course (which I think is still $10) because the school cannot pay directly with the way it is currently set up; you would then reimburse each staff member for the cost of the course and retain all the documents (proof of attendance, payment receipts, school cancelled checks from payment to each employee) to submit with your next NPSE reimbursement request and as proof that your staff met the training requirement.

If you have anyone who still needs to take the once-in-a-lifetime training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment, you may want to instead have them take the free online course at so you don’t have to pay another $10. All certified teachers and administrators would have had to complete this course prior to becoming certified to teach in NYS.

Free Virtual Emergency Response Planning Training is available for school employees that are involved in the annual development, review, and revision of District-Wide School Safety Plans and Building-Level Emergency Response Plans. This training may be specifically intended for public school staff but you may find some useful information to help you update your own School Safety/Emergency Plan. Available trainings include:

· Developing District-Wide & Building-Level Emergency Response Plans;

· Developing and Enhancing Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with your Community Partners;

· The Incident Command System (ICS) for Schools;

· Integrating the Needs of Students and Staff with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Emergency Plans.

See the attached flyer titled, “Free Emergency Response Planning Trainings October-December 2021.pdf” for a description of available trainings and instructions on how to register. Questions may be directed to the Office of Student Support Services at

Important Dates:

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

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

11/2/21 VOTE! Also encourage all staff and parents to vote, as well

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

12/1/21 Fire Safety Inspection Must be Completed; Report Due 12/15/2021

Previous posts from Mr. Riso

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays. This week we'll discuss our strategic priorities.
  2. School Administrators meeting (in person) October 28th at OLV, 8:30-2:30. Please fill out this survey in advance. Here is the link to a map of OLV and here are the directions to enter the building.
  3. School Visit Schedule
  4. 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

Articles for Your Reflection

Catholic School Matters

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

What I'm Reading

    1. Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen (2020) by Dan Heath
    2. TrustED: The Bridge to School Improvement (2021) by Toby A. Travis

    3. Leading Change: An Action Plan from the World's Foremost Expert on Business Leadership (1996) by John P. Kotter

    4. Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World (2003) by Chris Lowney

    5. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (2009) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            October 19, 2021 "Enrollment Numbers"

            October 12, 2021 "Core Beliefs"

            October 5, 2021 "A Culture of Collaboration"

            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