Catholic School Matters

September 14, 2021

Retention, Retention

It’s not too early to think about next year’s enrollment, which drives our work such that many of us have found ourselves obsessed with recruiting and marketing. Enrollment management? Who has time? “Recruit, recruit, recruit” is the mantra.

Take a break from recruiting new students. Seriously (sort of). Spend the next four months re-recruiting your current families. Put your focus on retaining your currently enrolled students. Start focusing on recruiting new students in January.

The focus on retention would also serve to improve our sense of community and belonging. During this time of polarization and division, many opt to exclude those who don't hold similar beliefs. The temptation to purify, if you will, only leads to further division. We need to instead focus on making all feel welcome and that they belong in our communities. (For further exploration, I recommend this book).

How do you re-recruit your own families?

1. Community building activities. I know this is difficult in another COVID year. But Zoom has opened more doors. Invite parents to more meetings. Invite families to Masses. Keep inviting.

2. Communication. Find where your parents are (Instagram? Facebook? Twitter? Email? Texting?) and communicate through those media. Make it consistent and comprehensive.

3. Response time. Do you parents know where to go with questions? Complaints? Are they addressed?

4. Give them the big picture. Kinder parents need to know how successful your graduates are in high school or college. Middle School parents need to hear about the successful curricular innovations in the lower grades. Your parents are your best salespeople. Start selling your current parents!

5. Find 2-3 positive messages. Repeat them often. Parents need to hear something 8 times before it has impact. Does your school community care for each student? Is your education personalized? Is your rigor unmatched? Is your Catholic identity special?

This fall, let’s focus on retention to see if we can hang on to more of our families (and teachers) and create communities of belonging.

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

Office Updates

  1. A survey went out last week asking for numbers who will attend the Oct 8th All-Schools Mass for Catholic school personnel. Please get that back to us ASAP.

  2. Link here for the Catholic Schools Day at the BPO (Jan 18, 2022).

From Kari Buchinger

Teaching is a challenging job that requires flexibility, openness, and a growth mindset. You could walk into twenty classrooms in our Catholic schools and see twenty different approaches to instruction. But, when we take a step back and explore commonalities in schools and classrooms that demonstrate high student achievement, a few key factors emerge. The most successful classrooms focus on objective driven instruction, formative assessment, and methodology.

Today, we will dive into what it means to create clear objectives that are purposeful and relevant. This goes way beyond the need to add a "SWBAT" statement to your lesson plan template.

First, what makes up a strong objective? I like to stick to the 4 M's.

Made First- Create your objective before you begin to plan the lesson. If we don't know where we want students to go, we cannot effectively plan to get them there.

Manageable- Is this something that a student can master in one lesson? If the objective is too big, maybe there is a smaller objective that you can tackle first.

Measurable- Consider the question, "Can I ask my students one question and discover if they have mastered the objective?"

Most Important- Is this objective connected to a grade level standard? Is this a skill that they need to master to be successful in this class? Will they be able to apply this skill to future work?

Now, you may have created a strong objective. But, our work doesn't stop there. We must communicate lesson objectives to students and ensure they understand the goal and the why behind this objective. We all have had moments where students have asked, "why do I need to learn this?" The "because I said so" response just doesn't work anymore. Students are curious and eager to explore their personal interests. Sharing the "what" and "why" behind the daily objective will allow students to see connections between the teacher's direct instruction, collaborative or guided practice, their end of lesson assessment, and the potential to apply this skill in future contexts.

Time to dive in! Teachers, take an extra minute to check your objectives. Do they fit the 4 M's? If so, are you clearly communicating these objectives to your students? Give it a try.

Leaders, as you do walk-throughs this week, look for objective driven lessons. Is this already part of your teachers' practice? Or, is this a potential area for growth as you continue to grow as instructors this school year?

Are you a teacher that is already rocking the creation and communication of objectives in your classroom? Send some photos or a video to, and we will give you a shout out in future posts.

Academic Corner:

Chris Riso, Government Services

A quick reminder about the NYS HERO Act: on 9/8/21 Andrea Croce, the Diocesan HR Director, notified you that the NYS Commissioner of Health has designated COVID-19 as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health; this designation means that you must now “activate” the Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan that you designed for your school over the summer. As a reminder, this plan was very similar or identical to your school reopening plan. Please call me if you have any questions about this. Here’s a great article about how COVID might change our approach to indoor air quality.

The weekly COVID testing requirement for all staff members, contractors who work with students, and consistent volunteers who cannot produce proof of vaccination has been a challenge to implement. Hopefully you have been able to establish a way to test each week. We recommend that you test all your employees, consistent volunteers, and contractors who haven’t produced proof of vaccination every Friday. Proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test in the past 7 days would suffice for your test.

I am sure that most of you have been able to successfully submit your daily COVID-19 reports to NYSDOH via Log in | Daily School District DOH Survey ( If you are still having problems submitting your reports, please email me for assistance.

Remember that Friday, 9/17/2021 is the anchor date for the NCEA report; this means that you should print out all necessary student reports on that date to help you prepare your Excel spreadsheet (enrollment counts, race, Catholicity, parish membership, transportation, etc.). Thank you in advance for submitting your completed Excel spreadsheet to Cathryn Harrower at by the 9/30/2021 deadline.

Previous posts:

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
  2. School Visit Schedule
  3. Catechetical Day (morning, 8:30-11:30) October 8th, OLV Basilica
  4. Diocese of Buffalo Catholic days at the BPO Jan 18th


  1. "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month. If you look at this month's required tasks, pay special attention to the Safe Environment requirements. You need to get all your parent volunteers trained and make sure that all background checks have been conducted on new employees.
  2. Here's a link to the forms on our website.
  3. New Policy Manual
  4. New Operations Manual

Catholic School Matters

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

Articles for Your Reflection

How to Teach Students to Manage Their Own Conflicts

What I'm Reading

    1. The Long Ships (1954) by Frank Bengtsson
    2. The Street Stops Here: A Year at a Catholic High School in Harlem (2008) by Patrick J. McCloskey

    3. How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (2020) by Scott Newstok

    4. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (2019 edition) by Jim Collins

    5. Belonging Through a Culture of Dignity: The Keys to Successful Equity Implementation (2019) by Floyd Cobb & John Krownapple

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            September 7, 2021 "Operations Manual"

            August 31, 2021 "Swimming Upstream"

            August 24, 2021 "Learning in Community"

            August 11, 2021 "Another COVID Opening"

            August 4, 2021 "Welcome Back"

            For previous newsletters, click this link