Category Archives: Newsletters

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

May 19th Newsletter

In this week’s Catholic School Matters newsletter, I present the most impactful six books I read this year and the most popular links from each edition this year.  I looked at those links and have picked out my favorite 5.  The Top 5:

  1. The story about Brother Placid resonated with me. “With No More Cowboys, Monastery Quits the Cattle Business” is the story of how Assumption Abbey in North Dakota moved Brother Placid out of the feedlot.
  2. Ideological Bias Cannot Taint Our Approach to Sexual Abuse” from America magazine challenges our thinking about the sexual and leadership crises in the church.
  3. ’We’re a Family’ and Other School Norms Which Can Cause Burnout” from Jennifer Gonzalez (the Cult of Pedagogy blogger) challenges our approach to establishing school norms.
  4. I love articles on feeback. One of the best was HBR’s “What Good Feedback Really Looks Like.”
  5. Finally, “Schools as Places of Joy: We are Responsible for the Cultures We Create” is a reminder of what we’re supposed to be about.

Those were my favorites.  Enjoy!  Have a great summer!


May 12th Newsletter

This week’s newsletter features a blog on Social Emotional Leadership and some great articles, too.  The Top 5:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, “Ideological Bias Cannot Taint Our Approach to Sexual Abuse” is a thoughtful piece from Matt Malone, SJ of America magazine. He’s right—many people find in the abuse crisis what they’re looking for rather than approaching the crisis (and the concurrent leadership crisis) with a beginner’s mind.  You might be growing tired of reading about the abuse crisis but I encourage you to read this article.  It’s really good.
  2. The next article is a piece on a retiring priest from Butte, Montana. It’s interesting to look at the Catholic-rich background of his life in the 1940s and 1950s.  Haffey is the real deal and it’s been a privilege for me to work with him a little.  It’s a great feature article and provides great insight into the priesthood.
  3. In the Leadership section, “3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking” is a great reminder about how we need to challenge our own thinking. The article recommends steps to take.  As we transition to summer, we welcome a little more time and space to do quality thinking.
  4. The next article is about “Fixing a Toxic Work Culture” and highlights the “toxic triad.” As we are encountering the May mayhem, it’s important to keep our eyes and ears open for toxicity.  We’re here to serve students and build the Kingdom.
  5. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article is a challenging piece about how teaching has changed: “It’s Not Them, You Need to Evolve.” If you’ve ever spoken with a veteran teacher who is struggling to figure out how to reach students, you’ll see the same struggle in this article.

April 14th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about a holy brother I met in North Dakota, a simple story which surfaced last week.  I hope spring has sprung in your world.  Here in Montana, we’re still waiting!

The Top 5 this week:

  1. The first article of the Leadership section is about the Wallace Foundation’s latest principal study. They found impacts on student learning through their program.
  2. In the Leadership section, I included Jennifer Gonzalez’s South by Southwest talk “The Aerodynamics of Exceptional Schools.” It’s a long one (55 minutes) but is really thought-provoking.  Jennifer runs the “Cult of Pedagogy” website and is fill of great ideas.
  3. The first article in the Teaching & Learning section “Teaching for Deeper Learning” from the Harvard Graduate School of Education is filled with practical tips for teachers.
  4. The second article from Pernille Ripp is topical for today “A Few Things to Do Before the End of the Year.” Pernille is a great blogger and is worth the follow.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the first article from Farnam Street is entitled “How Mental Models Unlock Your Thinking.” Shane Parrish has just published a book on mental models and I can’t wait to read it.

April 7th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about the laity’s role in combatting clericalism and then include a number of great articles.  The top 5:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic News section is from NCR and focuses on a tour of Indian Catholic schools in Montana and South Dakota I took last fall. It’s a great look at the challenges and successes of those schools.
  2. In the Leadership section, the first article (from HBR) focuses on how to accept and process criticism, “How to Keep Criticism from Undermining Your Confidence.” In this season when school leaders are evaluating and being evaluated, this article should help.
  3. The next article is a summary of a podcast on managing adult conflict. This is the conflict season!
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article is a blog by David Guerin on lifelong learning. We often purport to want students to become lifelong learners, but how well are we modeling this?
  5. In the miscellaneous section, the first article on attention management in the New York Times was very thought-provoking. As my number of tasks keeps adding up, the article is a reminder of how valuable even 15 minutes can be to focus on a project.