Catholic School Matters

February 19, 2017

What Makes a School Catholic?

How do we establish, cultivate, and grow our Catholic identity? Commonweal has a great article entitled “What Makes a University Catholic?” examining how universities struggle to establish their Catholic identity. The president of Catholic University argues that over 50 percent of the faculty must be Catholic while a Notre Dame professor argues for hiring for mission. I interviewed Dr. Tom Evans, the president of Carroll College in Helena, Montana and we discussed hiring for mission at a small, Catholic college. It’s really not that different from the struggles of K-12 schools. That episode is now live.

Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel of Catholic University has an interesting perspective in her October 2016 article about the contemplative practice of school leaders. Catholic schools should view themselves as faith internship communities, she argues, that train our students about the faith, allowing for experiences and growth in the faith. Schuttloffel also argues that school leaders should be metacognitive—that is, thinking about their thinking about Catholic identity. We need to be deliberately examining how we are viewing and shaping the Catholic identities of our schools.

This is part of a larger (and longer) conversation. Dr. Tim Cook of Creighton, for example, wrote about this in 2001 with his work, Architects of Catholic Culture. The work was reviewed by Michael Caruso. Ultimately, our attempts to design and form Catholic culture is based on the spiritual capacity of our teachers, many of whom haven’t developed their faith since Confirmation (if they are even Catholic at all). Some believe their Catholic formation is complete and are too busy and uninterested in learning about their faith. Really?

In our Montana Catholic schools this year, we have adopted Jonathan Doyle’s Going Deeper faith formation program. This program allows for teachers to receive a personalized faith formation video every week along with discussion questions and a prayer service which can be used with students or fellow staff members. The program is short, personal, and relevant.

Here’s a link to one of the videos from last month which talks about Church teachings and the Internet. The weekly series can include inspiration, teachings, and humor. It sends the message that taking care of our teachers’ faith formation needs is a priority for our Catholic school communities. It challenges our principals to motivate our teachers to watch the videos. It doesn’t solve our struggle for a more authentic Catholic identity, but it certainly moves us closer. Watch the video because the message and the style are really appropriate for our schools.

Jonathan will be coming to St. Louis in April to keynote the NCEA convention and will also be travelling to Montana this fall for our Professional Development days. Jonathan is working hard to plant the seeds of Catholic identity across the States.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

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"Catholic School Matters" Podcast

Tomorrow's podcast (#29) is an interview with Julian Hanlon, the Executive Director of the Canadian Catholic Schools Trustees' Association (CCSTA). If you've ever wondered how they operate schools in Canada--especially Catholic schools which receive government funding--this is a great podcast to listen to.

Last week's pocast (#27) is an interview with Jessica Lahey, the author of The Gift of Failure. Lahey shares her views of overparenting and offers suggestions for dealing with helicopter parents. I also dropped an interview with Dr. Tom Evans (#28), the president of Carroll College. We talked about setting tuition rates, ensurng the Catholic identity of your school, and strategic planning.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Please subscribe to the podcast so new episodes will automatically download. The show is also available on Stitcher and Google Play. If you don't have accounts with any of those content providers, here is the link to my basic page with the podcasts.

Last week, Dr. Uhl blogged about:

  • TUESDAY: Jessica Lahey's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: The Gift of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu
  • FRIDAY: "Cultivating Catholic Identity"

This week, Dr. Uhl will blog about:

  • TUESDAY: Julian Hanlon's podcast
  • WEDNESDAY: Book Blog: Our Kids by Robert Putnam

You can find and subscribe to the blog at

The Week Ahead

Monday: office (Helena)

Tuesday: Missoula meetings

Wed: Missoula meetings

Thurs: office (Helena)

Fri: 7th & 8th grade days at the Legislature (Helena)

Next week: 512 miles

Last week: 740 miles

2016-17: 23,899 driving miles; 14,376 air miles

What I'm Reading 2016-17

  1. Spillover by David Quammen. (underway)
  2. Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman.
  3. The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
  4. Weathering the Storm: Moving Catholic Schools Forward by DeFiore, Convey, & Schuttloffel
  5. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
  6. Redeeming Administration by Ann Garrido.
  7. Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be by Frank Bruni.
  8. Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
  9. Stall Points by Matthew S. Olson & Derek van Bever
  10. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  11. Why Don't Kids Like School? by Daniel Willingham
  12. Tom Clancy: Commander in Chief by Mark Greaney
  13. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
  14. The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  15. Reading with the daughter: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (7 books).
  16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  17. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
  18. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  19. The Purple Goldfish by Stan Phelps
  20. The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
  21. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman.
  22. Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption Cragun & Sweetman
  23. Cultures Built to Last: Systemic PLCs at Work by Fullan and DuFour
  24. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  25. Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time by Margaret J. Wheatley
  26. The Orange Frog by Shawn Achor

For Principals & Teachers

  1. If any of your parents are concerned about their immigration status and the impact of new immigration policies, the USCCB has a page entitled "Justice for Immigrants." The most relevant page is a series of resources, including videos in English and in Spanish.
  2. It appears that OPI is now allowing private schools to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment (not the MONT-CAS as I previously reported). If you haven't received an invitation, you'll need to request (that is, if you want to participate). It's your choice. I don't believe the data is timely enough to impact instruction but if you want to compare your students with the public schools in your area, this is your test.
  3. All religion teachers in our Montana Catholic Schools are kindly asked to fill out this survey in order to help us make decisions and acquire funding for our catechetical certification programs.
  4. Interested in coding? The Montana Teachers Teaching Tech is a new free resource. Here is the link.
  5. NWEA has released an on-demand webinar for analyzing student performance. It's only 10 minutes! Renaissance Learning is offering a great free math webinar. HMH has a great webinar on early learning.
  6. Accreditation progress reports are due March 1st. All schools are required except for the 6 schools who are undergoing/underwent visits this year.
  7. Diocesan principal/president letters of intent have been issued. Please return ASAP.
  8. Of all the bills in the legislature now, the Special Education ESA bill has the most promise. This bill passed two years ago but was vetoed.
  9. On the Horizon:
  • 7th/8th grade days at the legislature Feb 24th
  • Loyola Sacred Heart WCEA visit: March 15-17
  • St. Paul MGS WCEA visit: March 19-21
  • St. Mary's WCEA visit: March 27-29
  • Regional principal meetings: April 10 (GF), 11 (Missoula), 12 (Billings).

American Catholic News

Catholic Schools Closing, Consolidating, and Opening

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Teaching & Learning

Cybraryman's catalog of resources to fight Fake News


La Chuscada Preschool - Day 1