Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

April 18, 2016

Safe Environment & Sexual Abuse

Every year around this time as we approach the deadline for Safe Environment compliance, the same question arises: Why do we need to do this? Or, more pointedly, Shouldn’t this have to be done by the priests?


Have you read any recent articles about church sexual abuse? My guess is no. Most of us have a bit of PTSD and react with an “Oh, no, not again” whenever we hear about another story about sexual abuse. The sexual abuse crisis has had a serious morale and financial impact on the Church (which therefore has impacted enrollment and financial support of Catholic schools). Whenever we talk about trends in Catholic school enrollment the elephant in the room is the sexual abuse crisis. The Catholic brand has been damaged and its effects are far-reaching.


But I believe we should not turn away but should read these stories in order to educate ourselves about how this abuse occurred and how it could have been prevented. Here’s a few samples:

· The recently recently-released grand jury report from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.

· A story which ran last month in the Seattle Times about the shifting of a pedophile priest (Michael Cody) as recently as a few years ago.

· The devastating story of a predatory Irish Christian Brother in Seattle.


When I read these articles, I am struck by the lack of imagination and capacity. A lack of imagination because people never could have imagined that a member of the clergy would perpetrate those crimes. Yes, it was a different era when authority was respected (the “good old days”?) but even bishops and provincials failed to expect the worst.

The lack of capacity means that parents seemed to be powerless to see the signs of abuse, seemed to lack the skills to take any action, and all involved seemed to fail to grasp the impact that this abuse would have on the future.


If we don’t read to remind ourselves of what happened, we are turning the same blind eye to the abuse that happened when bishops and provincials transferred pedophile priests from parish to parish, hoping that a new setting would bring out new strategy. But hope is not a strategy. And though we didn’t cause this problem, it is ours to solve. So we ask teachers to educate their students on safety—how to protect themselves, protect their friends, and what to do when you suspect something is awry.


We educate parents and volunteers to recognize the telltale symptoms of abusers, to recognize the signs of abuse, and we teach the policies which will protect our youth. We work to increase the (unfortunate) imagination and work to increase the capacity of our young people, parents, and volunteers to take action and prevent abuse. This is all carried out in the Safe Environment program which we need to promote diligently and with purpose.



Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Monday: Helena meetings

Tuesday: GF Central Catholic visit & listening sessions

Wednesday: Great Falls chancery meetings

Thursday: St. Francis WCEA visit (Billings) and groundbreaking for new school

Friday: St. Mary's (Livingston) visit


This week: 880 miles

Last week: 1,441 miles

2015-16: 24,248 driving miles; 12,625 air miles

What I'm Reading in 2016

  1. What College Trustees Need to Know (underway)
  2. HBR's 10 Must Reads "On Emotional Intelligence" (underway)
  3. A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne (finished)
  4. The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations by John P. Kotter (finished)
  5. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (finished)
  6. Motion Leadership by Michael Fullan (finished)
  7. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda (finished)
  8. It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff (finished)
  9. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Greg Heath (finished)
  10. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeon (finished)
  11. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (finished)
  12. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (finished)
  13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (finished)
  14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (finished)
  15. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (finished)

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. Congratulations to Sacred Heart School in Miles City for a successful WCEA Accreditation visit. This is the 6th WCEA visit this year in our Montana Catholic Schools. We have one visit left next week in Billings for St. Francis School, which will also be holding its groundbreaking for its new school on Thursday. It's a big week for Billings Catholic Schools!
  2. The first meeting of the St. Paul Education Association convened last week in Hays, Montana. The St. Paul Board was created to build a brighter future for the reservation school in the wake of the Jesuit's departure last summer. St. Labre and the Diocese are equally involved and committed to this endeavor.
  3. The WCEA has a new Executive Director. Here is the announcement
  4. The Great Falls Task Force will begin holding listening sessions this week. Here is the schduled: April 19th, 6:00 pm at GFCC; April 25th, 6:00 pm at OLL; and April 26th, 6:00 pm at HS. All parents and staff members are welcome to come to any of the sessions. There will be a closed staff meeting each of those days to listen to parental concerns. And the survey will close tomorrow, so please get your feedback in ASAP.
  5. The Principal/President Evaluation process is now underway. Today is the last day to participate in the Perception Check surveys. Principals & presidents filled out goal statements last fall and will be asked to evaluate themselves as part of the process. Here is the form that I will fill out, too. I have scheduled dates for these interviews when I will come and visit the school and observe the learning climate, share the perception data, and talk about the principal's performance this year. These dates: Bart Freese, Sacred Heart (April 13th); Sr. Helen, St. Paul Mission Grade School (April 15th); Vickie Donisthorpe, GFCC (April 19th); Catherine Kirchner, St. Mary's (April 22nd); Sarah Zook, OLL (April 25th); Jim Wichman, Holy Spirit (April 26th); Jeremy Beck (April 27th); Don Peoples, Butte Central (May 9th); Lauren Smith, St. Matt's (May 11th); Br. Dale Mooney, DLSBS (May 12th); Julanne Gauger, St. Jude (TBD).
  6. The Annual Report template is now posted and ready for each principal. This Annual Report is due June 9th at the June Principal Meeting in Livingston.
  7. Safe Environment update for the Diocese of Helena--please track your employees' progress in the VIRTUS program. We've already seen some volunteers fall so far behind they need to repeat the initial class.
  8. Safe Environment update for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings: even though the LIFE program is new, it's not optional! Please schedule and complete the requirements. Here is the instruction sheet: http://diocesegfb.org/Safe%20Environment/Forms%20&%20Materials/2015_2016_Children_Training_Support_Docs.pdf
  9. The survey for Catholic school teachers will be sent out this week.
  10. NCEA has a full slate of webinars available for member schools. Take a look at the lineup.
  11. I have come across a great and affordable web designer to spice up the Montana Catholic Schools website. Lucy Ross of Hello Lucy Design is offering a 12 hour design package for approximately $700. If you need a spruce up for your website, I recommend contacting her.

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