Catholic School Matters
February 8, 2022
Fences & Jedi
As we celebrated Catholic Schools Week, I couldn’t figure out why this article from Farnam Street was making my CD skip. If you have a minute, read this article about Chesterton’s fence. The quick summary--before we remove any fences that don’t seem to have practical value, let’s take a moment to understand why they were put there in the first place. I have driven past many closed Catholic schools, some in very small towns, who are metaphorical fences that are no longer useful.
There seems to be no shortage of people ready to declare that the time has passed for Catholic schools, a la Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi when he declares that it’s time for the Jedi to die. Today’s Catholic school critics usually center on the cost or lack of interest in the faith. But we first should take the time to understand why Catholic schools were here to begin with and explore whether those reasons might be fueling disappointment.
Catholic schools were originally formed as a response to the Protestant influence in public schooling as well as the unique immigrant cultural milieus. They were numerous, rigorous, and cheap when Catholic families were large and growing larger. At their enrollment height, they represented a muscular and militant Catholicism when the Church was declaring its position in the United States. That’s why those fences were built.
As the immigrant communities dispersed, families shrunk, vocations decreased, and buildings aged, the challenges began to mount for Catholic schools. More importantly, Catholic parishes serving as the center of family life through schools, activities, and Mass became the exception, not the norm. So we no longer have numerous, excellent, cheap schools serving at the center of a parish’s mission. Thus the disappointment.
The value of Catholic schools must be found in something other than numerous and cheap. Let’s focus on excellence and see if we can’t attract families to this model of school. After all, people will pay for what they value. Consider that families never used to pay for television (and it only used to be three channels and only on during the day!) or Internet, they paid only a small fee for a land line, and the thought of paying $8 for a cup of coffee would have been inconceivable (yes, I’m using that word correctly) a couple of decades ago. How much money do our families (who we think cannot afford Catholic education) pay for television, cell phones, and coffee? Our family pays $250 per month and I can’t imagine we’re far from the norm. I’m not arguing that we should *guilt* our families for paying so much for these items, simply that we should be placing the values of our Catholic schools alongside those other items.
If you don’t think Catholic schools do enough to promote Catholic identity and belonging in the Church, read this testimony. It’s a great story of how Catholic schools can form our faith. Or read this story of the impact of Catholic schools on a first-generation immigrant.
Luke Skywalker didn’t mean that the Jedi should die permanently. He meant that our old paradigm of what the Jedi order was should pass. And we should consider a new approach. In the same way, we should acknowledge that the “fence” of Catholic schools has become disappointing and we should focus on new expectations for what Catholic schools be. Focus on excellence and argue for the value of your school’s tuition.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Visit to NDHS
Bishop Fisher and I stopped in to see the great school community in Batavia during Catholic Schools Week
Immaculate Conception in Wellsville
Bishop Fisher, Fr. Jim Hartwell, and the mayor of Wellsville joined the students and staff members for this historic photograph
The January 25th COVID mitigation memo suggests ways for schools to navigate the post-mask world.
It is our pleasure to share with you a scholarship opportunity for an eighth grade student who embodies the charism of the late Tim Russert – a student who has strong writing skills, is considered a leader in the classroom, is attune to the political landscape and who exercises critical thinking skills. The scholarship includes a one year, $2,500 Catholic high school tuition voucher. Here is the nomination form and additional details about the award.
Here is the nomination form for The Natalie Mattimore Lewis “Kindness Counts Character Award” presented to a seventh grade student. The deadline for submission is Friday, February 18th, 2022.
Kari Buchinger on Academics
Our dive into sentence expansion continues with the introduction of kernel sentences. Kernel sentences have only one verb and no modifiers. For example, "Sally sang." These kernel sentences often appear in writing, especially for early writers. So, how can we use a sentence like this and expand it into an engaging, complex, and detailed sentence? Dive into question words! Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? If you want to expand the sentence, "Sally sang," you may prompt the writer to add detail about when and where Sally sang. Your kernel sentence "Sally sang" could become "Sally sang yesterday at the theater."
You may consider the following exercise with your students. Present the kernel sentence "Jane ran" and ask students to answer the when, where, and why question words.
- When: 7 am
- Where: park
- Why: to get into shape
Now mix it all together, and you get, "At seven in the morning, Jane ran in the park because she wanted to get in shape." (Hochman)
Once your students are comfortable with this process, you can build sentence expansion activities into the content areas. This can even come alive in the math classroom. Take a look at the example below from The Writing Revolution.
Prompt to students: She made a mistake.
- Who: Jasmine
- When: Step 1
- Why: Didn't distribute 2 to both terms inside ()
Expanded sentence: In step 1, Jasmine made a mistake because she didn't distribute the 2 to both of the terms inside the parentheses.
Wow! A student's writing can transform into a complex and detailed sentence with a bit of prompting. How will you bring this to life in your ELA class and in math, science, social studies, and religion?
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
Buffalo CARES Act Funds: From Jim Mule – “Cares Act funds (ESSER and GEER) are coming to an end. If you have funds available to spend through Buffalo Public Schools, you should have received an email on 2/2/2022. Buffalo is requesting all quotes be submitted by March 4th, 2022. Please send them via email to email@example.com. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Lindsey Smaldino, Associate Account Clerk, at 716-816-4014 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim Mulé at email@example.com.”
RISE Conference Feedback Requested: To better meet the needs of the religious and independent school community, the NYS Coalition for Independent & Religious Schools and the Commissioner's Advisory Council created a very short questionnaire to gather your input on the design of the RISE 2022 Conference. I've been asked to share the link and encourage you to complete it, if you have not already done so: https://forms.gle/i1xXbYNFrfQjRwaA9.
Mandated Services Update: If you have not already done so, please consider opening a new 2020-2021 Mandated Services claim via the NYSED Business Portal (http://portal.nysed.gov/); see last week’s Catholic School Matters for information on how to do this. Even though you may not be ready to enter any information for your claim, having the claim open will allow me to look it over to make sure everything from NYSED loaded properly (BEDS enrollment; test counts) and we have plenty of time to correct any problems.
Regarding your BOCES expenses for Mandate 19, I have copies of all elementary school invoices from 2020-2021 (Initial Service Request, Regents and NYS Science Scanning, and NYS ELA and Math Scanning) so I can help you determine what to claim for that Mandate. High Schools: if you share your invoices with me I certainly can help you as well.
2/11/22 Buffalo Public Schools Special Education Meeting for Nonpublic Schools
2/14/22 High School Scholarship for Academic Excellence (SAE) Nomination Due
3/18/22 Last Day to Submit Erie 1 BOCES Textbook Orders
3/23/22 Deadline to Save Mandated Services Claim online for C. Riso Review
3/31/22 NYSED Nonpublic Safety Equipment (NPSE) Application Due
3/31/22 NYSED Elementary School AIS Purchases/Projects/Payments Completed
4/1/22 Online 2020-21 Mandated Services Claim Due to NYSED
4/1/22 Parent Requests for 2022-23 Transportation Due to Public School Districts
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- Principal meeting with pastors/canonical administrators on Thursday, March 10th
- Primetime televised segment to support Catholic Education on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 from 8:00-9:00 PM on WBBZ-TV
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Diocesan Professional Development Day October 7, 2022 at St. Amelia's.
- The Executive Summary. of this year's school data.
- 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, my old friend Neal Wilkinson, SJ joins me to discuss his vocation and work as well as his struggles with living with Parkinson's. Previous episodes:
- Roy Petitfils joins the podcast to discuss the impact the pandemic has had on us all.
- Dr. Lauren Casella of LMU joins the podcast to discuss her work with our Principal PLN to strengthen Catholic identity.
- Last week's podcast is a discussion with author Mark Shea about the divisions and tensions within the Catholic Church.
- Last week's podcast is a great conversation with Diocese of Orlando Superintendent Henry Fortier. One of the few African-American Catholic school superintendents, Henry discusses the challenges of the past few year
- I was joined on the podcast by Dr. Ann Garrido, the author/speaker/ professor of homiletics.
- The December 27th episode was a conversation with Jennifer Daniels of the USCCB about government programs and school choice.
- In the December 20th episode, Bridgette Theurer discusses Resilient Leadership
- In the December 13th episode, I'm talking with Jodee Blanco about parents bullying the school.
- Here is the link to the Dec 7th conversation 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
DEVASTATING NEWS FOR THIS TEACHER, updated
Each year I grow more and more grateful for the gift of Catholic education in my own life and in the lives of my five children. As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week I was reminded of an old blog post that I wrote -- for myself actually; it was cathartic to put my thoughts down in writing.
A History of Black Catholics in the United States
Editor's note: The following essay was authored by Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. in the May 3, 1980 issue of America. Father Davis was an expert in Black Catholic history and died in 2015. You can read his obituary here . This article maintains the magazine style in use at the time of its publication.
So Much More Than Uniforms and Strictness: A First-Generation College Student Reflects on Catholic Schools' Impact - Partnership Schools
Many Americans share the same limited view on Catholic schools that Gisselle Reyes had when she was in sixth grade at a New York City public school. "The only perspective I had was uniforms, church, and the strictness you see in movies," she explains. Seven years later, she has a far different view.
NJ Catholic school that kept in-class instruction during pandemic is shutting down
HOWELL - A parents group trying to stop the closure of Mother Seton Academy at the end of June and lay blame for the school's financial situation at its leadership. Mother Seton was created in 2019 by the merger of two struggling Catholic schools, St. Veronica School in Howell and St.
When Subtraction Adds Value
Imagining ways to introduce change is an essential skill no matter one's occupation, role, or rank. To distinguish an app, a designer envisions a unique new feature. To enhance workplace culture, a manager considers new training modules or incentives. To increase corporate social responsibility, an advisory board identifies green-energy investment opportunities.
My Last 5 Books
- The Power Broker: Robert Moses & the Fall of New York (1975) by Robert A. Caro
The Best of Me (2020) by David Sedaris
A Disarming Spirit: The Life of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen (2018) by Frank Fromherz
Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence & the Problem of Control (2019) by Stuart Russell
In the Midst of our Storms (2014) by Roc O'Connor, SJ
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.