Catholic School Matters

February 10, 2019

What's Your Specialty?

During my first year of graduate school, I lived in a dorm with medical students. I learned that the choice of specialty for them was much more than simply which branch of medicine looked interesting or which ones they could get into. It was about personality, lifestyle, and tolerance for further training. I saw that not every doctor and not every specialty was created equally. Some specialties put a high demand on analytical thinking while others demanded quick thinking. Some positions are research-based while others required highly developed emotional intelligence.

I thought of this as we began the process of hiring a new principal for one of our schools. Every leadership position is not created equally. Some require an internist to diagnose symptoms in order to determine if there is a chronic disease. Other positions require a surgeon to cut out a diseased part, a psychiatrist to administer therapy, a radiologist for ongoing treatments, a dermatologist to help clear up an unsightly growth, or an orthopedist to reshape our training. And, of course, there are many schools who only need an annual checkup!

While we all might have our strengths in leadership, we are not hired to be leadership specialists. We all need to learn the different skills and traits of leadership. Knowing the demands of a leadership position is not only important when an opening occurs. Leaders are challenged to keep their fingers on the pulse of their community to know what kind of leadership skills are needed. If you’re a turnaround principal used to making quick decisions, for example, you might need to adjust when your financial/enrollment situation settles. Or if you’re used to simply managing your school, you might need to become bolder when your test scores begin to slide.

Here are a few great articles about leadership which caused me to stop and think about my practice:

1. “The Best Leaders are Great Teachers” in HBR (Harvard Business Review) explores how leaders make their styles stick—that is, how they show their work.

2. “Bruce Springsteen, Artful Leadership, and What Great Rock Star Bosses Do” in HBR is a great reflection about Springsteen before his Broadway show. One of his best reflections in leadership comes from his book. “1+1=3” is what he calls a good band when the sum far exceeds its parts. Listen to it on track 15 on his new broadway album.

3. “What the Best Transformational Leaders Do” from HBR marries analysis of hot companies with leadership theory. The authors argue that the best leaders are “insider outsiders” who truly understand a company’s culture AND work to modify it.

4. “Why School Leaders Need to be Trained Like Jet Pilots” in EdSurge argues that simulations and case studies make for effective leadership training.

5. “5 Habits of Disruptive Leaders” from the Economist is a great look at what some people hold to be the ideal of leadership—disrupting the status quo.

6. Balance the previous article with “Hares, Tortoises, and the Problem of Genius” from Farnam Street which looks at the problems with disruptive leaders in systems.

7. “If Strategy is So Important, Then Why Don’t We Make Time for It?” from HBR is an argument for carving out time for strategic thinking.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Leadership Scenarios

Your school’s enrollment and finances are healthy. But you could always use more students! By all measures, however, your school is strong with a good reputation. You begin fielding inquiries in February from families from a nearby struggling Catholic school. Families say they are leaving the school and if they can’t attend your school they will move to a charter school. So far, you have room for the inquiries but your superintendent is asking you to decline the admissions, fearing it will lead to the school’s closure.

American Catholic News

Catholic Schools Closing, Opening & Merging

  1. Houma (LA) Catholic school to close.
  2. Archdiocese of NY announces closure of 7 Catholic schools.
  3. Elyria (OH) Catholic school struggling to stay open

Leadership Links

February's CAPE Outlook

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

This week I'm in Guam enjoying island hospitality! I'm chairing two elementary school accreditation visits as well as helping Superintendent Richard Alvia in whatever way I can. I might even record a podcast or two while I'm here.

On this week's podcast, I bring on three great guests. Dr. Brandi Odom-Lucas, the principal of Verbum Dei HS in South Central LA, comes on to discuss her work at the Cristo Rey high school in Los Angeles. Then Brigid Cashman, the religion coordinator at an independent Catholic inner-city school in Chicago, discusses the Frances Xavier Warde School model. Finally, Dr. Timothy Walch, author of NCEA's Parish School, joins me to discuss the 19th century American Catholic movement of Americanism which resembles today's Catholic charter movement.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Sunday: Dominican School WCEA visit, Day 1 (Guam)
  • Monday: Dominican School WCEA visit, Day 2 (Guam)
  • Tuesday: Dominican School WCEA visit, Day 3 (Guam)
  • Wednesday: Santa Barbara School WCEA visit, Day 1 (Guam)
  • Thursday: Santa Barbara School WCEA visit, Day 2 (Guam)
  • Friday: Santa Barbara School WCEA visit, Day 3 (Guam)
  • Saturday: return to Montana

Miles this week: 0 driving miles; 8,204 air miles

Miles travelled in 2018-19: 22,689 road miles; 50,556 air miles

Last 5 Books

  1. From Brokenness to Community (1992) by Jean Vanier.
  2. American Grace: How American Religion Divides and Unites Us (2012) by Robert D. Putnam & David E. Campbell
  3. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2001) by Robert D. Putnam.
  4. Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes: Finding Religion in Everyday Life (2014) by Nancy Tatom Ammerman
  5. Timothy O'Connell's Tend Your Own Garden: Sharing Our Core Values, Good People Make Tough Choices: Facing Everyday Value Conflicts, and Let Your Spirit Breathe: Living a Value-Based Life

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Here is the slideshow from the Feb 5th Virtual Admin Meeting
  • We are scheduled for the Middle School day at the Legislature on April 5th
  • Here is the link to the survey to assess our professional development needs for this fall's Catholic Teacher Days
  • We are currently looking for a principal for Holy Spirit Catholic School in Great Falls

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

February 3, 2019 "NCEA Convention Preview"

January 27, 2019 "Catholic Schools Week"

January 20, 2019 "School Choice"

January 13, 2019 "What's Your Story?"

January 6, 2018 "Happy New Year"

December 2, 2018 "Building Community"

November 18, 2018 "Reframing Enrollment"

November 4, 2018 "Looking at Disaffiliation"

October 21, 2018 "Getting out of the Ditch"

October 7, 2018 "Truth, Mercy, and the Synod"

September 23, 2018 "Native American Experience"

September 16, 2018 "How Are We Forming our Leaders?"

September 9, 2018 "Where is Your Attention?"