Catholic School Matters
August 30, 2022
Last spring I read a blog piece by a school director who spoke about his school's decision to change their approach to athletics. They decided to move away from performance-based tryouts toward more inclusive sports. They launched more intramurals and made more sports no-cut. The hope was to connect every student to one sport/activity. How different would your school look like if every student was connected to at least one sport/activity?
The pandemic has certainly exacerbated the lonelineness and disconnection which was outlined in Robert Putnam's 2000 masterpiece, Bowling Alone. In that book, Putnam describes how Americans have moved away from social associations such as bowling leagues as the rise of loneliness has spread. During the pandemic, many of our social ties were severed. Our students show a stronger affinity to their phones than to social groups. We need to consciously work to connect our students.
To that end, we've added some new activities and sports this fall, all premised on the idea that our students need to get connected again after the pandemic. You can read a summary here.
This is our second department strategic priority. We are giving time and resources to launching more activities and sports. Most importantly, the fall bowling leagues launch soon so I hope you're getting this information out to your families this week! Any student can bowl and schools are encouraged to reserve as many lanes as possible. After the six-week season, we will have a one-day championship to give our students a chance to compete. More sports and activities will offer all students a chance to participate in something and get connected to their school communities.
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," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.
Dr. Tim Uhl
Kari Buchinger on Academics
Word Walls vs. Sound Walls
With the beginning of the school year right around the corner teachers are busy preparing their classrooms to welcome a new group of students. That means books, paper scraps, pieces of laminate, and staples are covering the floors and desks in every room. But it also means teachers are working to create positive, organized learning environments.
With this in mind, last week I had the privilege of working with a group of early elementary teachers as they prepared to adopt a new phonics program in one of our schools. In the midst of our discussion the topic of word walls vs. sound walls came up. What is the difference between a word wall and a sound wall? Do I need both? When do I use which one?
A word wall is organized alphabetically using all 26 letters of the alphabet. This is often the home for sight words or high frequency words. When using a word wall the words “shake” and “sand” would be placed neatly under the letter s. Yes, both words begin with a “s” however, these words do not have the same beginning sound, “shhh” and “sss.” Here students can build a connection in print, but not in speech.
A sound wall on the other hand helps students connect sounds and the letter or letter patterns that represent the sounds by organizing words by sounds in a word not the letter they start with. Sound walls are often paired with pictures of mouths showing how each sound is articulated. Sound walls include the 44 phonemes in the English language and their graphemes (letters) instead of the 26 letters in the alphabet.
Are you interested in shaking up your old word wall and replacing it with a sound wall? Here are a few examples to get you started!
Sign Up Reminders:
- Do you have teachers you would like to sign up for Classroom Learning Labs? Details can be found in the handout; please use this registration form for each teacher you would like to participate. Please complete the registration form by September 14th.
- Principals, assistant principals, and other school leaders are invited to participate in this year's Academics PLN. This will take place monthly via zoom from 3:15-4:15 pm. Sign up here! Please complete the registration form by September 2nd.
- St. Joseph University School has some student workbooks available for anyone that may be interested. Please contact Debbie Raithel email@example.com for pick up information.
- Go Math! student workbooks - Grade 5 - 29 full sets
- Go Math! student workbooks - Grade K - several full sets and some not full sets
- Go Math! Teacher Editions - Grade K and 1
- Science Fusion student workbooks Volume 2 - Grade 5 - 18 copies
Are you looking for a way to make signing on student chromebooks and learning platforms even easier? Take a look at Clever! This free program allows you to house student login information for all of your online programs in one place. Students sign in to Clever and bam, they are automatically signed into programs like google classroom, newsela, Lexia, I-Ready and so much more! Did I mention it's free?
LEGO and NASA have teamed up to produce a fantastic STREAM engineering project. The project involves the exploration of the technology, STEAM concepts and careers behind the Artemis I mission to the Moon.
You do not need the LEGO education products to participate.
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
School boards interested in the Strategic Planning process are being asked to complete a commitment by September 7th
Here is the link for the Office Blog with the latest forms and information. This can be found on the website under "Blogs."
Save the Date for the November 10th Diocesan Education Summit!
For all your STREAM-related content, check out the STREAM page
In case you missed it, here's our 2021-22 Year in Review
Chris Riso on Government Services
- 8/31/22 PDF/Copy of each Signed “Written Affirmation” form sent to C. Riso
- 9/2/22 Teachers approved to be alone with students via Safe Environment
Update on New Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Management Act (from 8/18/22): Unless your Catholic school competes in a public school athletic league you are not required to use the “interval health history form” and may choose how you will assess risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in their student athletes.
Asbestos Awareness Training Requirement: The Diocese of Buffalo Department of Insurance Services sent you an email on 8/29/22 to remind you of the O.S.H.A. regulations that require all maintenance and custodial personnel who work in a location containing asbestos materials to attend an asbestos awareness training course annually. The Diocese will provide this training at no cost to your school between September 13th and October 27. Should you have any questions, please contact Insurance Services at 716-847-8396. Please see the memo/sign up here:
Employee Health Care Worker Bonus Payments from NYS: On 8/26/22 most of you should have received information on the Health Care Worker Bonus Program (ny.gov). Catholic schools are eligible to apply for this on behalf of their qualified workers. There are a number of worker titles that qualify but schools are most likely to have the following staff: Counselor, Nurse (LPN/NP), Psychologist, Social Worker, Therapist, Custodian, Maintenance, and Housekeeping.
The memo you received on Friday was a reminder that your school must have a NYS OSC Vendor ID; please let me assure you that all of our Catholic schools have Vendor ID numbers. If, for some reason, your school does receive a Vendor ID survey, please let me know.
It looks like you will need to complete a NYS Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus Program (HWB) Employer Attestation for the school and a each staff member will complete a New York State Health Care and Mental Hygiene Worker Bonus (HWB) EMployee Attestation (ny.gov) that will be submitted along with your claim. In order to submit your claim(s), your school must create an account using your SFS Vendor ID number on the HWB Program Portal.
The HWB program is being administered by the New York State (NYS) Department of Health (DOH). Information and questions regarding the program and/or eligibility should be directed to the NYS Department of Health at NYSWorkersBonus@health.ny.gov or by calling the HWB Call Center at (866) 682-0077.
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
- 9/12: Girls volleyball coaches meeting (including scheduling) 7 pm @OLV cafeteria
- 9/12: Cross country coaches meeting 7 pm @ OLV cafeteria
- 9/13: First Aid/CPR training for fall coaches in need of new or re-certification, 7 pm @ St. Paul's Kenmore
- 9/15: AD handbook & new sports meeting 7 pm @ St. Amelia
- Please see the bowling, kickball and golf flyers to sign your schools up for these new activities.
Please see the athletics/activities blog for the most up to date information.
Save the Date!
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:00 am on Wednesdays. This week we'll discuss the new sports and activities.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 13, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral. RSVP here.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 12th graders, Sep 27, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral. Please RSVP here.
- Diocesan Professional Development Day October 7, 2022 at St. Amelia's.
- Diocesan Education Summit, November 10th. This is for principals, pastors/canonical administrators, board chairs, and one other stakeholder (4 from each school).
- Strategic Planning Expectations & Application
- Academic Initiatives for 2022-23
- The Diocesan Health Scorecard.
- School Pastor's Administrative Guide
- "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
- Here's a link to the forms on our website.
- New Policy Manual for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
- New Operations Manual for Diocesan Catholic schools.
- Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form
Catholic School Matters Podcast
The podcast is on pause this month as I begin recording for the 7th season. Highlights from last year:
- David Palmieri joins the conversation. David is a high school theology teacher who has started a grassroots network of Catholic high school educators to explore issues surrounding LGBT+ students in our schools.
- Nicole Garnett of Notre Dame's Law School joins the podcast to discuss school choice and the recent Carson v. Makin case.
- Kari Buchinger and I discuss the Diocesan Health Scorecards. We discuss how they came about, how they evolved, who was involved, and how we collected the information.
- I take a look at controversies that have impacted Catholic schools. There is not a guest! It's just me exploring the issues. There is a resource page, too.
- Dan Horn, the President/Principal of St. Genevieve Parish Schools, joins the podcast to discuss his successful turnarounds at two separate Catholic school sin the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Dan is a transformational leader whose story is inspiring
Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Articles for Your Reflection
Catholic school enrollment rose for the first time in decades thanks to our Covid response. Here's how to keep it up.
For the first time in 20 years, enrollment in U.S. Catholic elementary and secondary schools increased in 2021-22, rising by 3.8 percent according to data from the National Catholic Educational Association. The enrollment boost was driven in large part by the leadership Catholic schools showed in returning to in-person learning a full year before many of their public school counterparts.
Take Away Their Cellphones
After successive school years disrupted by shutdowns, isolation, and mass experiments in remote teaching, educators returned to school in Fall 2021 to find that our classrooms and students had changed. In the first days of the return, perhaps, we didn't see the full scope of the changes.
Op-Ed: Pandemic learning loss is real. Schools must follow the science to make up for it
When the stakes are high for policy decisions, as they of course are during a public health crisis, we hear the mantra "follow the science." As millions of students are back in class for the third school year affected by COVID-19, this tenet applies to schools as well.
Community Voices: Inspire young people to strike a balance
As the new school year begins, seniors in high schools across the country shift into college application mode. It's a high-stakes time in their lives, for many the culmination of years of work building that perfect application. Good for them - but also not so good for them.
My Last 5 Books
- Just Universities: Catholic Social Teaching Confronts Corporatized Higher Education (2021) by Gerald Beyer
- What Makes Us Catholic: Eight Gifts for Life (2003) by Thomas H. Groome
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It (2017) by Chris Voss
- His Name is George Floyd: One Man's Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice (2022) by Robert Samuels & Toluse Olorunnipa
What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations (2021) by Thomas H. Groome
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
A couple of 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.