Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

April 19, 2015

Chain of Care

My friend Jack Peterson, the former president of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma and president of the Catholic school managing firm Managing for Mission, spoke to me last week about an article he wrote last week entitled “Chain of Care” which can be found here: I encourage you to read the article.

The article introduces a new paradigm to Catholic schools. We often speak about “Chain of Command” as the essential paradigm to our governance. But chain of command simply sets up our organizational flow chart. Chain of Care imparts that flow chart with a student-centered focus.

As Peterson points out, the Jesuit concept of “cura personalis”—defined as the care for the person-- imbues our schools with the mission of as the fundamental characteristic. As Peterson writes:

The student’s first experience of cura personalis is within his family. When he is first born, nearly everything God desires for him is mediated through his parents. Through their love and care he first experiences God’s love and care. As he becomes more autonomous, his parents are no longer the sole intermediaries of God’s love. Increasingly others refract God’s love into his life. When he comes to our school, teachers become the mediators of God’s love. The care we show protects him from the ravages of a world which he is not yet ready to fully engage. It also frees him and empowers him to grow, to take risks, to inquire into the purpose of his life and what God may desire to give the world through him.

The relationship between a teacher and student is therefore paramount. Our school structures must support that relationship and must foster healthy teacher-student relationships. Therefore, every position within a school (support staff, coaches, administration, parents, Advisory Council, Superintendent, Diocese) has an important role in that chain of care.

To have a rich, sustained cura personalis for the student, therefore, there needs to be a chain of care from the student, back to the teacher, back to the administrator, back to the board, the sponsoring entity and back to the Church, and Jesus and the Trinity itself. This cura personalis must actually flow both ways, but it is more likely to first cascade down than up. So it is incumbent on the leaders to understand how cura personalis works in our school’s community model and have a strategy for tending to it.

The metaphor of a chain is instructive in another way, because each link must be anchored to the one before it and after it. You can’t skip links. Just so, an administrator’s direct care for students, while important, cannot replace the care shown by teachers. The administrator’s primary responsibility therefore is to support the teacher in her care for the student. He cannot exhaust his time or energy in direct care for the students and have too little left to support the teachers. Put another way, his best way to care for the students is to care for the teachers.

This is the time when schools are re-examining who plays the roles: teachers are hired, new families are admitted, administrative roles are changed, and Advisory Council members are appointed. Peterson’s reminders of the Chain of Care are important reminders that our focus should always remain on student care.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Monday: office (Helena)

Tuesday: office (Helena) & drive to Boise, ID

Wednesday: WCEA accreditation visit at St. Mary's (Boise)

Thursday: WCEA visit

Friday: WCEA visit

This week: 1,164 miles

Last week: 1,517 miles

2014-15: 41,052 miles

Montana Catholic Schools

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

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