Catholic School Matters

October 5, 2020

Governance Reform

Let’s recognize the present moment as a time of disruption—how we teach, where we teach, how we are managing our schools, how we are measuring success, how we are governing, and the uncertainty of what is coming next week, let alone next year. The pandemic has disrupted our leadership practices and our decision-making processes.

These days have been disruptive as we figure out how to pivot and respond to the slew of changes brought on by the pandemic. This should cause every one of us to examine whether our governing structures are set up to serve us well.

Here's another way to look at this disruption--as a time of opportunity. How can we improve our governance and decision-making? I’m going to include very few articles this week so we can focus on governance. Earlier this year, FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) came out with “Managing Governance Change in PreK12 Catholic Schools” as a follow up to their 2015 study of new governance models, “Breathing New Life into Catholic Schools: An Exploration of Governance Models.” The original study introduced the governance matrix which examines two measurements of the governing authority: local vs. central, executive vs. collegial. When you lay these two measurements out to form a 4-part matrix, it’s a fascinating way to think about Catholic school governance.

We should all stop to read these studies because they give us a framework of how to understand Catholic school governance and they give examples of different models. I asked Dr. Debbie Sullivan, the Co-Director of the Greeley Center at Loyola Chicago, to join me on the podcast this week to break open this year’s study and talk about the implications of the study. I encourage you to read the study before Wednesday so that you can join us as we discuss the study and its meaning during this time of disruption.

When you look at the matrix, look for authority. Is it held by one person? Then it’s a strong executive model. Or is the authority widely distributed between the diocese, the board, and the school administration? Then it’s collegial. But it’s also important to look at local versus centralized control. Some schools are on their own and the local authority is the only authority. But other schools come together to work with other schools and collaborate. These two dimensions (executive/collegial, local/central) form four different quadrants and studies give examples of different models for each.

Catholic elementary schools used to be almost exclusively parish schools under the local executive quadrant. Although there is no definitive tally of new models, it is estimated that less than 60 percent of Catholic elementary schools utilize the parish school model. In this time of disruption, we need to look at these different models and what might help our schools respond to these new challenges.

Below is a collection is relevant articles and links related to governance change. Hope you'll join us on Wednesday!

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Governance Reform

Catholic Schools


Teaching & Learning


Catholic School Matters podcast

Wednesday on the Catholic School Matters podcast marks a great conversation between Dr. Debbie Sullivan of the Greeley Center and myself as we break open the 2020 FADICA report on governance and reform in Catholic schools.

Check out the past episodes from this season:

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Racial Justice & the Catholic Church (2010) by Bryan N. Massingale
    2. The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011) by James H. Cone
    3. Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (2020) by Isabel Wilkerson
    4. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (2017) by Edwin H. Friedman
    5. 101 Questions & Answers on Catholic Social Teaching, 2nd ed. (2013) by Kenneth R. Himes.

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Sep 28, 2020 "Autonomy & Radar"

            Sep 21, 2020 "Learning While Doing"

            Sep 14, 2020 "Connecting the Disconnected"

            Aug 31, 2020 "Racial Injustice"

            Aug 24, 2020 "Figuring it Out"

            Aug 17, 2020 Serenity Prayer

            May 24, 2020 Value Proposition During Uncertain Times

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            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.