Author Archives: Dr. Tim Uhl | Superintendent

Nov 17th Newsletter

I’m back at it this week with a newsletter after spending last weekend chaperoning a field trip to Boise.  Trust me, I’d rather be writing!  I plan to put together a “Best Of” edition for next Sunday so I can spend December working on the book project.  The Top links for this week:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic News section is about churches but is just as relevant for Catholic schools. “There is No Such Thing as Church Revitalization” from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership describes how church communities who are suffering from losses in membership need to look to their mission, not simply recreating their past practices.  This conflict between tradition and innovation is playing out in countless Catholic schools right now.
  2. The next article, “It’s Not Easy When One’s School is Closed” is a well-written piece about seeing one’s alma mater closed as well as a reflection about poor planning which doomed a diocesan Catholic school system. This week I brought back the “Catholic Schools Opening and Closing” section–not for self-flagellation or to promote despair but to learn from the experiences of others.  Over the next few months we’ll see these announcements become more frequent.
  3. The next three articles are all referred to in the blog but I recommend “Synodality Isn’t Just an Option” as a way to understand the current reality.
  4. The last link in the section “Language Immersion Program” details an innovative program offered by the Archdiocese of Boston giving Catholic school faculty and staff (and administrators!) full scholarships to enroll in an intensive summer language institute. Couple this article with this video about the Latino Enrollment Institute at ND (which is now accepting applications for next summer).  We can’t lose sight of the fact that ministering to Latino Catholic families is the largest opportunity for growth in our schools and will keep the V Encuentro momentum rolling.
  5. In the Leadership Section, “5 Mental Mistakes That Kill Your Productivity” from HBR is a great little reminder about productivity.
  6. In the Teaching & Learning section, “The Right Way to Lead Teacher Learning” is a great piece on effective professional development and facilitation.

November 3, 2019 newsletter

This week’s newsletter focuses on financial best practices in Catholic schools.  Selecting the top 5 articles this week was very, very difficult.

  1. Following the theme of financial best practices in the blog, I present three articles in the American Catholic News section which touch on the same subject: “Twelve Lessons about the Future of Catholic Schools” in the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, “Ten Essentials for Sustaining Catholic Education” from the Healey Education Foundation, and “The Era of the Parochial School is Over” from America magazine. These articles provide further context for the discussion about the need for better financial practices in our Catholic schools.
  2. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first link is to MSU’s extension magazine. On page 10, there’s a great article about the efforts to establish a STEM program at one of our reservation schools, Pretty Eagle.  Their fantastic teacher, Jack Joyce, and principal Garla Williamson are featured—as well as their incredible folding bridge project.
  3. The second link is a blog post from Z-Winning Mindset entitled “The Big 6 Mindset Red Flags for Schools” and serves as a reminder of the warning signs for a flagging school culture.
  4. In the Miscellany section, this great article from Reader’s Digest describes the efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism from Billings in the early 1990s. There’s a great little piece on the role that Billings Central Catholic HS played about half way through.  Most of us don’t see anti-Semitism as part of our world or even our role in eradicating this prejudice.  This article provides an example for all Catholic schools to follow.
  5. The second article in that section is a great story of a hearing-impaired student at Loyola Sacred Heart High School (Missoula) who has found a home at the Catholic school.

Oct 27th Newsletter

In the newsletter blog, I explore the potentially landmark school choice, Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue which might overturn all Blaine amendments and change the educational funding landscape.  Here are the Top 5:

  1. The Atlantic has a great article (“Your Neighbor’s Christian Education , Courtesy of Your Tax Dollars”) exploring the implications of the case.  It’s a great way to see how opponents of school choice are viewing this case.
  2. The Catholic Herald has a great article arguing for the overthrow “A Chance to End Discrimination Against Catholic Schools.”
  3. Ashley Berner, a former podcast guest, has a great argument for pluralism in American schools that should be read by everyone.  Here’s a short argument in the Hill, and here’s a longer read with much more detail.
  4. George Will’s op-ed about ending the Blaine amendments is a great read.

Have a great week!

Oct 20th Newsletter

In the newsletter blog, I discuss the importance of belongingness in our Catholic schools.  The Top 5 all center on this theme:

  1. In the blog I share an article about a bullied student in Billings who found a new home at Billings Central Catholic HS.
  2. When discussing the podcast with Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ of Regis Jesuit in Denver and Tony Ferraro from Dynamic Catholic, I share an article about how difficult it is for adults to find and cultivate their passions.
  3. In the American Catholic News section, there are two articles about inclusion, one about the SPICE program in Columbus and another about the FIRE Foundation in Kansas City. Inclusion is about creating a space of belongingness for all students.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, Mind/Shift offer suggestions to teachers for creating community in your classroom and Edutopia offers strategies for turning classrooms into communities.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the first article from Quartz offers suggestions on how to make friends, build a community, and create the life you want. I’m not sure we’re teaching adults how to build community.

Oct 13th Newsletter

This week’s newsletter focuses on Sr. Angie and her perspective on hot topics in Catholic school law.  This will also be the focus on this week’s podcast.  The Top 5 links:

  1. In the American Catholic news section, the first article focuses on a Philadelphia Catholic school controversy. When the Archdiocese considered leasing part of a building to a charter school, they received criticism.  Read about the divisions, the conceptions of community, and the perception of Catholic school parents.
  2. In the Leadership section, the first article from Daniel Pink in Education Week focuses on how schools use time. How we organize the school day usually has more to do with institutional traditions or factors other than what are the most optimal conditions for children to learn.  It’s interesting to hear Pink’s take on the school day.
  3. The next article in the Leadership section highlight’s Disney’s creative strategy.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article from Tom Barrett’s blog explores how to build better relationships with our students. We all talk about how important relationships are with our students but we often don’t talk out HOW.  We just assume that teachers can figure out how to reach students.  In the same way, we ask new administrators to build relationships with parents but we never really explain how.  So this is a great practical article!
  5. The next article in that section focuses on student engagement. Finding ways to make the material relevant to students is the key.

Oct 6th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I explore the impactful new book from Sr. Helen Prejean, River of Fire, and its implications to our work in Catholic schools.  The Top 5 links:

  1. The NPR review and interview of Prejean are worth your time. You can find them near the end of the blog.
  2. In the Leadership section, George Couros’s latest blog post on “Sharing our Story” is practical advice to school leaders to help find the right stories to tell.
  3. The next article “The Wrong Ways to Strengthen Culture” is a good reminder of the importance of working to improve our school cultures.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, “Class Size Matters” explores the current research and misconceptions about class size. It seems this comes up every year as schools struggle to find the right balance between classrooms of vitality and individual attention.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the article on how Costco broke the rules of retail by focusing on customers, not shareholders, has implications for how we run our schools.

Have a great week!

Sep 29th newsletter

This week’s newsletter and podcast are focusing on the Vatican document on gender theory, “Male and Female He Created Them” released this year and intended for Catholic educators.  The Top 5 links:

  1. Jim Heft’s take on the Vatican document is the best piece I’ve read on the document and will give you the context around the document.
  2. In the American Catholic News section, “When Professional Catholics Burn Out” is a great piece exploring how lay Catholics struggle with their vocations in the church as well as their faith.
  3. Keeping with the same theme in the Leadership section, “6 Causes of Burnout” will help you consider how well your school is functioning. We’ve all heard the adage, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person.”  Is that really the best approach?
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article on protecting teacher time is a great piece on guarding instructional time from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the New York Times piece on the growth of anti-vaccine sentiment is really enlightening. It speaks to the challenges all of us are dealing with in education—if, like medical professionals, we are simply another voice, instead of the professionals—that are reshaping our profession.  As people turn against science, experts, and authority, how does that impact your work?

Have a great week!

Sep 22nd Newsletter

In this week’s blog, I describe my collaborative effort (with Dr. Jorge Pena) to create a survey instrument to measure Catholic culture. We are actively soliciting participants to join the 50 schools who’ve already signed up.

The Top 5:

  1. In the blog, I highlight an article last summer about a parish in turmoil which has lessons for our schools. Hierarchy, lay participation, and visions of church all enter into the story and shed light on the types of conflicts we are all encountering in our school communities.
  2. In the American Catholic News section, Archbishop Gomez spoke challenged white nationalism and his perspective is worth considering.
  3. The next article from NCR explores the monetary backing of EWTN.
  4. From the New York Times, the first article in the Leadership section discusses our tendency toward perfectionism and the need to accept good enough when we can.
  5. In the Teaching section, the long article from the Guardian about generalization, not specialization is written by David Epstein. It counterbalances the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell

Sep 15th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I spotlight the new Catholic schools which opened their doors this fall semester.  I hope you take the time to learn from each story and reach out to congratulate the founders if you’re moved.  I’ve pulled out an additional four links which follow the theme of enrollment and mission.  The Top 5 Articles:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, there’s a great 7-minute video about a dual language school in Texas. The principal, Bill Daily, casually mentions that the school’s enrollment has dipped to 98 students and now it was around 450.  Why are we not paying more attention to this?!?  He talks about the risk of adopting a dual language model, the “messiness” of the church at times, and the need for innovation.
  2. Two blog posts were sent to me which touch on enrollment and deserve a look. Rob Birdsell, the Executive Director for the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship in Education, writes about the need for Catholic schools to change their focus to what parents want based on the NCEA marketing report. Frank Donaldson, the President of IPSD, described how one school increased its enrollment by 50 students. It’s a great reminder of the simple steps that every school can take.
  3. In the Leadership section, the first article from HBR explores how to lead change in a company that is traditionally not open to change. Sound familiar?  We all need to be leaders for change whether we are superintendents, principals, teachers, or parents.
  4. In the Miscellaneous Section, the first article explores how positive experiences in childhood can mitigate the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Isn’t that what we’re trying to provide with a loving community where every person feels like he/she belongs?

Have a great week!

Sep 8th Newsletter

Welcome back to another season of Catholic School MattersThis week’s newsletter focuses on the Mustard Seed Project (Oct 7-9) in Chicago, the great annual conference put on by the Greeley Center of Loyola-Chicago.  This year’s conference focuses on the mental health of our students.  The Top 5 articles this week:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic news section spotlights the great work being done at ACE at Notre Dame as seen through the eyes of Dr. Bill Mattison from the program. He talks about the importance of formation of our leaders, which we often overlook in favor of formation of our students.
  2. The second article features a great school leader at a fantastic school—Bryan Carter from Gesu School in Philadelphia. The article has a school choice bent but it’s a insightful celebration of what makes the school succeed.
  3. In the leadership section, I present three great articles on feedback. While they are all great, the article on how to ask for feedback is probably the one which stuck with me the longest.  It’s an often overlooked skill.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article about how learning is supposed to feel uncomfortable is timely and insightful. Like our students, we often believe we should be able to to pick up and master new skills without any problems.  But … c’mon!
  5. The next article in that section on the rise of the haphazard self is great reading for anyone feeling disjointed and adrift at times. In other words, all of us! #catholicschoolmatters