Catholic School Matters

November 29, 2022

4 Lessons of the Pandemic

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading The Prepared Leader by Erika James & Lynn Perry Wooten. The subtitle is “Emerge from any crisis more resilient than before” and the authors spend some time talking about the pandemic responses of leaders such as the NBA’s Adam Silver, who suspended league play then helped created the bubble in Orlando.

It’s strange to consider that in our rush to get back to normal, we’ve forgotten some of the fundamental lessons of the pandemic. Do you remember those strange days from 2020? And the ways we met the challenges certain that the world would never be the same? James & Wooten’s book reminded me of the lessons I thought would be essential to navigating this new world:

  1. Be curious. There was a lot to learn in the early days of the pandemic. Remember that sometimes what we thought was true on Monday had been debunked on Tuesday. We had to stay curious and humble and keep learning.

  2. Share the data. We saw a focus on the actual data. How many people were showing symptoms? Who had tested positive? We were reporting data, looking for data to justify decisions, and emphasizing data.

  3. Be transparent. We all quickly learned that whatever decision we made would make a segment of our population unhappy. So we learned to be transparent about the rationale of our decisions. And though that didn’t always satisfy some of our parents (!), at least we consistently transparent.

  4. Be together. Our principals gathered monthly to share best practices and be a community of principals. Usually those gatherings happened virtually. Once COVID hit, however, we met at 9 am every morning. We suddenly had almost 100% participation as principals figured out that it was easier to make tough decisions when you had the support of fellow principals.

As we all look to meet the more “normal” challenges of Catholic school leadership such as enrollment, hiring mission-driven teachers, and forming students, we could all benefit from remember those four lessons of the pandemic. If we were all more curious, data-driven, transparent, and collaborative we could create more vibrant Catholic schools.

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

November Character Award Winners

It is time once again to nominate one student from your school who best exemplifies the value of service. Please enter them here!

December Value

This past Sunday, the Advent season began. Advent is a time when we are called to prepare our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. This time can often get lost in the midst of decorating, gift giving, holiday parties, and stress. This December we call on our Catholic School leaders, teachers, and students to take some time to teach and live out the value of appreciation.

Exercising appreciation can help us create positive energy amongst our students, colleagues, and the greater community. That positive energy can help us create school communities filled with joy as we prepare for Christmas.

Resources for Teachers:

4 Ways to Practice Gratitude

Kid President’s 25 Reasons to be Thankful!

Jack Hartmann Appreciation and Thankfulness

Thankful by The Juicebox Jukebox

Read Alouds

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Don’t Say A Word, Mama by Joe Hayes

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari

Office Updates

  1. Nominations for the "Making a Difference" teaching award and the Distinguished Principal Award are due December 8th. Please fill out the appropriate nomination Google Form ASAP. (links above)

  2. To get registered for the Learning Platform, send Laurie W your staff emails and she'll get an account for everyone.

  3. Here is the link for the Office Blog with the latest forms and information. This can be found on the website under "Blogs.

Chris Riso on Government Services

Fire Drills; Fire Safety Report: As December approaches, remember to finish your first eight required safety drills by the December 31st deadline. Hopefully you were able to complete the six recommended evacuation (fire) drills so you have December to complete two of your four required lockdown drills. Click here for a sample fire drill tracking form.

As I mentioned previously, all schools that are located outside of the city of Buffalo with more than 25 students must submit their completed Fire Safety Report via the NYSED Business Portal by 12/16/22. Information on the process and the required forms can be found on this webpage. Several schools had trouble locating the online report so here is the best way to get to your report (from Directions on Accessing the Nonpublic School Annual Fire Safety Report (

  • 1. Log into the NYSED Business Portal
  • 2. Under “My Applications”, choose “Facilities Planning-Fire Safety”.
  • 3. Once you select “SEDREF Buildings” your school will appear.
  • 4. Select “Enter Report” to input the data from your completed Fire Safety inspection.

Previous posts from Mr. Riso

Athletics Info

With basketball seasons right around the corner, reminder to all coaches that one change to the Athletics Handbook is the requirement that every player gets to play every game. We also hope that if there are cuts, they are based on lack of commitment or effort, not on talent.

Basketball schedules have been finalized. Principals, ADs, coaches, and parents should all have seen them.

Please see the athletics/activities blog for the most up to date information.

Save the Date!

  1. Weekly principal Zooms at 9:00 am on Wednesdays


  1. Devotional Calendar 2022-23.
  2. The Fall 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard; The spring 2022 Diocesan Health Scorecard.
  3. School Pastor's Administrative Guide
  4. "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
  5. New Policy Manual for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
  6. New Operations Manual for Diocesan Catholic schools.
  7. Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form

Articles for Your Reflection

Catholic School Matters Podcast

This season's Catholic School Matters podcast season is back with two recent conversations with Dr. Thomas Groome of Boston College. The first conversation centers on religious education and evangelization. The second conversation is centered on Catholic schools and his recent publication, What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations. Other recent episodes:

  • Dr. Kevin Baxter, the co-editor of Conscience & Catholic Education and the keynote for thisf all's Diocesan Education Summit. We discuss the book and how it pertains to current issues in Catholic education. Here is the direct link to the podcast episode.
  • I spoke to Shaka Rawls, the principal of Leo Catholic HS on Chicago's Southside. He is a dynamic leader of this predominantly African-American Catholic high school who describes the mission of the school as one which serves the community. Here is a direct link to the podcast.
  • I talk with Greg Richmond, the Superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago. In his second year, Greg comes from the charter world and shares his unique perspective on this new position which he loves.
  • This week's podcast gives us a chance to hear the perspective of a person fired from her position at a Catholic high school due to same-sex marriage.
  • Season 7 kicked off with a great conversation with Rich Clark of Cleveland. He helped found a Cristo Rey High School and played a pivotal role in Partnership School's Expansion to Cleveland. Our interview was recorded on September 2nd and Rich passed away on September 20th.

Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Catholic School Matters

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

Location: Buffalo, NY, USA
Phone: 716-847-5520
Twitter: @WNYCatholicEd

My Last 5 Books

  1. The White Noise of Survivorship (2022) by Tara Rolle
  2. On Change Management (2011) HBR's 10 Must Reads

  3. On the Edge: Your Catholic School Guide to Student Recruitment & Retention (2013) by Daniel Horn

  4. Jesus' Alternative Plan: The Sermon on the Mount (2022) by Richard Rohr

  5. The Prepared Leader: Emerge from any Crisis More Resilient than Before (2022) by Erika James & Lynn Perry Wooten

          Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

          Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

          Nov 15, 2022 "Resources"

          Nov 8, 2022 "Summiting"

          Nov 1, 2022 "Good News for Catholic Schools"

          Oct 25, 2022 "Updates"

          Oct 18 2022 "Health Scorecards"

          For previous newsletters, click this link

          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.