Catholic School Matters

March 8, 2020

Orchestrating Conflict

This week’s blog centers around my new book, Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic School Leadership. I hope to explain why I wrote it, why I think it’s valuable, and why I think you should read it.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen friends in Catholic education endure some really difficult situations. As the pressure on keeping enrollments at sustainable levels have reached critical stages, the moral quandaries have seemingly become more difficult. How does one prepare for the kinds of conflicts which can divide a school community when we can least afford any division? Or, perhaps better, how do we learn from the experience of other Catholic school leaders as they’ve navigated these troubled waters?

A couple of years ago, I read a book on deliberate practice entitled Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool. It inspired me to begin thinking about how we could apply deliberate practice principles to forming Catholic school leaders. I started writing scenarios, then some of them became case studies, and before I knew it, I had a book proposal!

I finished the book last fall and it’s now published. Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic School Leadership is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I believe the book will enrich your understanding of the conflicts in our Catholic school communities and will help stakeholders navigate those controversies.

The case study method and deliberate practice—involving a systematic method of analyzing and reflecting on conflicts—will help Catholic school leaders to meet the challenges of Catholic school leadership as they face a myriad of conflicts and controversies which are dividing many school communities. Inside are twelve case studies, a method for learning from these controversies, and an appendix full of other potential scenarios for further study. The case studies cover topics that are controversial now in Catholic schools and reveal the conflicts between different factions in Catholic schools.

The book suggests paying attention to the particulars in each situation and orchestrating the conflicts between community and policy. The title came from Ron Heifetz who suggested we need to spend time on the balcony as well as on the dance floor, orchestrating and acting simultaneously. We need to talk about the controversies and this book allows for leaders to explore ways to explore ways to orchestrate conflict.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

Even though New York City passed a law banning discrimination against cultural hairstyles, several NYC Catholic schools imposed discipline on African-American students for braids. A San Diego Catholic HS originally imposed discipline but reversed course. Both America magazine and NCR offered commentary on the controversy. Are Catholic schools right to ban braids on African-American students? What is your school's policy? How would you respond if this issue came up in your school?

American Catholic School News

Catholic Schools Opening & Closing

Leadership Links

The Arrupe Virtual Learning Initiative is now offering a very reasonably priced 4-hour course on strategic planning. Jack Peterson from Managing for Mission provides the content and it's really an excellent introduction and could serve as a template for how to proceed. See this link for more information.
The secret to giving great feedback | The Way We Work, a TED series

Teaching & Learning


Can you solve the death race riddle? - Alex Gendler

What I'm Up To

Every day, the work surrounding the Coronavirus keeps increasing. We are working to get our schools ready for virtual days in case school is canceled and making sure we communicate effectively with our parents.

This week I'll be in the office working on some projects for three of the days--namely, the research paper on the Discerning Catholic Worldviews survey instrument and the Archbishop Murphy accreditation. My trip to Washington, DC for the USCCB Education Committee's spring meeting was just canceled and made virtual.

On this week's Catholic School Matters Radio Hour, I brought on three guests to discuss different chapters of my new book, Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic School Leadership. Dr. Ann Garrido, Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel, and Joe Womac join me to discuss the chapter they've read and the thoughts and ideas it spurred.

On last week's Catholic School Matters Radio Hour, I welcomed two fascinating guests. The founding principal of Juan Diego High School in Salt Lake City, Dr. Galey Colosimo, joins the podcast to tell the story of the origins of the school which began in 1999. The project began in 1995 and Colosimo tells the on-again, off-again story of the newest Catholic high school in Salt Lake City. Then the Diocese of Sacramento’s Executive Director of Schools, Lincoln Snyder, joins the podcast to discuss new governance models in his diocese. Taking a unique path to the superintendency, Snyder’s business experience and work on school boards prepared him for the challenges of his current experience. He is also the first naturalized Polish citizen to join the podcast.

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

  • Monday: Great Falls meetings
  • Tuesday: Office (Helena)
  • Wednesday: Great Falls & Helena meetings
  • Thursday: USCCB Committee on Education (virtual)
  • Friday: Office (Helena)

Miles this week: 435 road miles

Miles travelled in 2019-20: 23,003 road miles; 34,561 air miles

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. True Self, False Self by Richard Rohr
    2. Catholic Identity or Identities: Refounding Ministries in Chaotic Times (2013) by Gerald A. Arbuckle

    3. A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America (2003) by Peter Steinfels

    4. Awareness: Conversations with the Masters by Anthony de Mello

    5. The Vindication of Tradition (1984) Jaroslav Pelikan

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            For Montana Administrators & Teachers

            • Here is a link fro the March 3rd meeting. For the April 7th meeting, school leaders are challenged to tell a story about a family which was transformed by your school

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Mar 1, 2020 "Building a Stronger School Community"

            Feb 16, 2020 "Catholic but not Christian"

            Feb 9, 2020 R.I.P. Archbishop Brunett

            Feb 2, 2020 "The Nashville Exchange"

            Jan 26, 2020 "Learning from our Elders"

            Jan 12, 2020 "Shaping School Culture"

            Jan 5, 2020 "Timelessness"

            Nov 24, 2019 "Best of the Fall"

            Nov 17, 2019 "Synodality"

            Nov 3, 2019 "Finance Best Practices"

            Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"

            Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"

            Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooza

            Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"

            Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"

            Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"

            Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"

            Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"

            The Nashville Exchange

            Join this first annual conference for Diocesan high school presidents. Presented by the Greeley Center, the conference promises to provide great professional development to presidents/heads of schools for diocesan Catholic schools. However, all are welcome! Special thanks to the Diocese of Nashville for hosting. Here is a link to the Nashville Exchange flyer, here is the link to the schedule. Go to this link to register. Please go to for more information and to register.

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.