Catholic School Matters

March 15, 2021

Urban Catholic Schools

How are we going to keep urban Catholic schools (defined as Catholic schools located inside urban areas) open? Those schools—especially those in non-school choice states—were hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic. This week and next we’re going to explore different angles, starting with this week when we’ll set the context.

A group of researchers at Boston College and the NCEA join me on the podcast this week to discuss the update of the work of Joseph O’Keefe, SJ from 20 years ago. O’Keefe explored the problems of urban Catholic schools around. His work was fundamental to understanding the changes taking place in Catholic schools and we’re all better for his work. Here is a link to the Commonweal article that O’Keefe wrote about the study (which gives you a quick overview) and here is the link to his book here.

Charles Cownie and Andrew Miller from BC have set out to update O’Keefe’s work and figure out what is happening in the urban Catholic school environments. Annie Smith from NCEA is also joining in the effort. They are starting with surveys (have you seen the email? Have you filled it out?). They are going to follow up these quantitative surveys with interviews so they’ll have both quantitative and qualitative looks at the positive and negative trends.

The researchers are looking at why some urban Catholic schools are succeeding and why others are not. They are focusing on three areas:

1. Students: who is being served by these schools?

2. Staffing: who is working at these schools?

3. Structures: what are the programs and governance at these schools?

Why are we concerned? The issue cuts to the core of mission. If the purpose of Catholic schools is to serve only those who can afford it, then we will become a tuition-driven private school network. But if we aspire to be schools in and for the world, urban schools make up an important (and historic) component.

The study promises to give us real data to discuss the reality of our urban schools, instead of anecdotal evidence that is reshaped by every person’s perspective. It also promises to give us a window to what’s working. Here’s a link to more information about the study.

Listen to the podcast and join the conversation.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Catholic School Matters

Highlighting innovation and best practices in and for Catholic schools

Catholic School Links

Catholic Schools Closing & Opening

  1. St. Bridget of Kildare Elementary School in Parma, Ohio, is closing
  2. Julie Billiart Schools opening a third campus in Westlake, Ohio in August 2021
  3. Academy of the Holy Angels in Demarest NJ is opening a middle school
  4. Two Catholic schools in Buffalo will unify on one campus
  5. Notre Dame in Wichita Falls, TX to close

Here is the curated list of Catholic schools closing at the end of the 2021 school year and new schools opening for the 2021-22 year.

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning


How does artificial intelligence learn? - Briana Brownell

Catholic School Matters podcast

Check out the past episodes from this season:

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Parable of the Sower (1993) by Octavia Butler
    2. #Rules of Engagement: 8 Christian Habits for Being Good & Doing Good Online (2021) by Ann M. Garrido

    3. Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life (2017) by Makoto Fujimura

    4. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2013) by Isabel Wilkerson

    5. I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography (2020) by John Thompson

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Mar 8, 2021 "Catholic Social Teaching"

            Mar 1, 2021 "Collective Conscience"

            Feb 22, 2021 "Pope Francis & the Politics We Need"

            Feb 15, 2021 "Fraternity of All"

            Feb 8, 2021 "Mercy"

            Feb 1, 2021 "Fratelli Tutti"

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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.