Catholic School Matters

May 2, 2023

Strategic Planning

Last week marked the sixth and final Strategic Planning meeting. This was an unusual effort as 11 schools came together for their individual improvement plans. Tad Dickel, our consultant from Evansville, provided the framework for the work. Each school sent board members and school leaders to learn from Tad and complete the work.

It was unusual to see schools working side-by-side to complete individual plans. We have been trying to establish a more collaborative environment for our schools so they will support and learn from each other–as opposed to competing. In other words, we are trying to construct communities of practice as opposed to individual school islands.

In fact, when Dr. Dickel asked the participants about what they learned, one member said, “It was heartening to hear that we’re in this together.” Yes, indeed it is important for all schools to discover that most Catholic schools are struggling with enrollment and finances.

The structure of the program built accountability into the year in much the same way that accreditation will. The monthly progress reports forced the schools to continue working on the plans despite the inevitable distractions which arise in a school year. Each of the schools now has a plan that is their own and it’s now up to them to continue to develop it, monitor it, and articulate their vision going forward.

This effort was one of Bishop Fisher’s priorities he asked the Department of Catholic schools to carry out this year (along with the Educational Summit). Resources were devoted to these efforts which I hope have provided direction and insights for all schools moving forward.

Previous blogs can be found here. Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.

Dr. Tim Uhl

Kari Buchinger on Academics

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

The best part of my job is having the chance to visit schools across the Diocese of Buffalo. During each visit, I've had the privilege of seeing teachers filled with excitement, determination, and an overwhelming amount of joy. That joy often hides the exhaustion and long hours that go into planning a day's worth of lessons. But trust me, I see it. I see the time you take to help a struggling student during math class. I see the extra hug you give to a student that woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. I see the patience you exude when a student exhibits some extra attention-seeking behaviors. I see you acting as a teacher, coach, mentor, nurse, counselor, and sometimes a referee. Thank you for all the roles you play in your students' lives! Without your hard work and dedication, Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Buffalo could not live out its mission and positively impact our greater community. Your work matters, and though you will never get enough "thank yous" for everything you do, here's a million to get you started!

Science Scoring

8th grade science scoring will take place on Tuesday, June 6 at St. Andrew Country Day School. We will begin at 8:30 am with training and end as soon as all tests have been scored. If your school would like to participate in group scoring please complete the google form here.


We hope to see you and your students at X-STREAM games this Sunday, May 7 from 12-4 pm at St. Joseph Collegiate Institute.

Lunch and Learn

The Lunch and Learn with Renaissance to learn more about Freckle, Lalilo, and other Renaissance instructional support programs that link directly to STAR will be on Tuesday, May 16th. If you would like to sign up please complete the form here by Friday, May 5.

Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari

Office Updates

Safe Environment Audit materials are due May 15th.

Here's the link to the Office Blog

Chris Riso on Government Services

NYSED MST/STEM Grant Update: SORIS just told me some very rough estimates on dates for the MST Grant. They hope to release the Year 6 MST Grant application and information on their website by May 15th - this is just an estimate, so plan on seeing the forms by the end of May. I will share my advice on completing those forms once the forms are actually released. I also asked about when they anticipate paying the Year 5 claims from 8/1/22 - this even rougher estimate is that all claims should be processed and then payments made by the end of the summer; we can only hope that is the case but realistically you should not plan on seeing those funds until October or November.

Special Education Students (IESP) Must Request Services by June 1: Remember that the parents of all Special Education students must request in writing by June 1st the continuation of services from the Public School District in which your school is located. NYS law requires this even though not all districts follow through and deny services for those who fail to do so. My thought is, better safe than sorry. Please encourage parents of any student with an IESP to submit a signed letter requesting Special Education services from the Public School District by June 1st. Please remember that these letters must come from the parents. Once they write their letters, I would recommend that you ask for parents to share a copy with you so you know they sent it before the deadline. I found a sample parent letter here. If you can make up a draft letter that includes the correct District contact information so that parents can just edit the student name I am sure they would appreciate the assistance. FYI - Here is a link with the regulations on this. All that being said, NYS and Federal law allows the public school districts to deny services when a parent request for Special Ed services is not received by June 1st in almost every scenario you can imagine; if you are considering accepting a student with an IEP after June 1st, that child will not be eligible to receive Special Education services until the 2024-25 school year (if they still qualify) so make your admission determination based on the fact that the student will not be receiving Special Education services from the public school district in 2023-2024.

Title IVa Stronger Connections Grant FAQ: As a follow up on my previous post on the Stronger Connections Grant Program (“SCG”) to high-need Districts, NYS still has not released program guidance yet but the US Dept. of Education has released an FAQ on it. Some important points:

  • NYSED will competitively award subgrants to high-need Districts to establish safer and healthier learning environments and to prevent and respond to acts of bullying, violence, and hate that impact our school communities at individual and systemic levels, among other programs and activities. See Section C for discussion on possible uses (design and implement high-quality, comprehensive emergency operations plans (EOPs) and emergency drills; support safety and violence prevention programs; create and implement anti-bullying and harassment plans; develop and implement positive and fair discipline policies and practices; implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to support and respond to student needs; etc.).

  • “High-need” Public School Districts will most likely be those with high concentrations of poverty (probably at least 40% living in poverty) and with one or more of the following characteristics: (1) need for additional mental health staff, which may be demonstrated by a high student-to-mental health professional ratio; (2) high rates of chronic absenteeism, exclusionary discipline, referrals to the juvenile justice system, bullying/harassment, community and school violence, students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, or substance use; or (3) where students recently experienced a natural or manmade disaster or a traumatic event.

  • Section E explains the Equitable Participation rules for this grant (consultation with Catholic schools prior to the District’s submission of the application so your school’s needs can be included, etc.).

NYS Teacher Certification Workshop for Non-Public Teachers, 5/23/23 4:30pm

If you have any teachers in need of NYS Certification, either because their certificate expired or they never had one, please encourage them to attend the Erie 1 BOCES NYS Teacher Certification Workshop for Charter and Non-Public School Teachers. This workshop will be geared specifically to non-public school teachers. Topics will include recent/upcoming changes in NYSED certification policies (including the 3-year experience requirement), TEACH registration, CTLE (professional development) and testing requirements, and new certification titles. Attend to get your general and more specific teacher certification questions answered. The presenters are Janice Kilijanski and Michael Pasierb, the Erie County Regional Certification Officers. The event is on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 from 4:30 to 5:30pm with sign in beginning at 4:00pm at Erie 1 BOCES, 355 Harlem Road, West Seneca, NY 14224 in Building B. Fee is $10.00/person payable during sign-in, cash or money order only. Click Here To Register

Previous posts from Mr. Riso

Athletics Info

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:00 am on Wednesdays. This week, Nate Turner will be joining us.
  2. Nate Turner presentation May 4th, 7 pm, Canisius HS
  3. School safety & security presentation, May 23rd. Details TBA
  4. Celebration (Awards Ceremony) May 30, St. Stephen's
  5. June Principal Meeting, June 27th, St. Andrew's
  6. New Teacher Inservice (including VIRTUS), August 29th
  7. School Board workshop September 22nd
  8. Fall Professional Development day, October 6, 2023 @ St. Mary's HS.


  1. This spring's proposed new Operating Principles for parish schools.
  2. School Visit Form, spring 2023.
  3. Devotional Calendar 2022-23.
  4. The Fall 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard; The spring 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard.
  5. School Pastor's Administrative Guide
  6. "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
  7. New Policy Manual for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
  8. New Operations Manual for Diocesan Catholic schools.
  9. Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form

Articles for Your Reflection

Catholic School Matters Podcast

This season's Catholic School Matters podcast season is back on the air. This week, Dr. Tony Galla, Buffalo native and most recently a Regional Superintendent in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, joins the podcast to discuss his decision to return to school leadership at his alma mater, Bishop Alemany High School. Previous episodes:

Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Catholic School Matters

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

Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
Phone: 716-847-5520
Twitter: @WNYCatholicEd

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

April 25, 2023 "Clarity"

April 18, 2023 "School Security"

March 28, 2023 "News & Notes"

March 21, 2023 "Purpose & Mission"

March 14, 2023 "Financial Metrics"

For previous newsletters, click this link

A few 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. Most recently, I have completed a new book proposal so book #2 is underway!