March 4th Newsletter

March 4th Newsletter

Here is the link to the March 4th newsletter.  In my blog today I spotlight Bishop McNamara HS in suburban Washington, DC.  Founded as a mostly-white all-boys school, it’s now a beacon of diversity.  My top 5 articles:

  1. Why Increased Enrollment of Hispanic Student Benefits Catholic Schools” is a great piece by Dr. Hosffman Ospino of Boston College in America. This is the first article in the American Catholic News section.
  2. Pair that article with the next two article in the American Catholic News section—the NY Times opinion piece “The Cruel Ploy of Taking Immigrant Children From Their Parents” and “Why Do Hispanics Leave the Church?” We need to face the realities (declining enrollments alongside a growing population of Hispanics in the Church) and we need to respond.  I think every Catholic school should put up a not-so-subtle banner outside the front door saying “Welcome Dreamers.”
  3. In the Leadership section, “Plan a Better Meeting with Design Thinking” from Harvard Business Review should help you re-think your faculty meetings, your Advisory Council meetings, and those boring meetings with the superintendent!
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, I’ve included great articles on project-based learning and a great common craft video on flipping classrooms.
  5. In the Miscellaneous section, Matt Brower’s essay “Reflections on Human Life and Dignity” is a well-articulated argument for a consistent ethic of life.

Have a great week!

Feb 25th Newsletter

This week’s newsletter highlights 5 more new Catholic schools and their great stories in the blog and podcasts.  In the newsletter, however, I’ve also included some of my favorite articles about school communication.  Specifically, I’ve included resources to help school leaders.  My favorite five articles are the first 5 listed:

  1. Justin Baeder’s “Brevity Challenge” has been very popular. He gives some great advice on effective emails.
  2. Shane Parrish’s blog post “Carl Braun on Communicating Like a Grown Up” is full of great advice. I’ve always thought that being willing to have the difficult conversations and enter into the fray is part of being an effective leader.
  3. It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It” is a great advice for school leaders for effective communication. It supports the notion that it’s not about having the right words (i.e. in an email or written memo) but it’s paying attention to the relationships that matter.
  4. To be effective, school leaders need to engender and build trust. Thomas Murray’s “7 Ways to Build Trust With Your School Community” is a great reflection full of great ideas.
  5. Edutopia’s “Turning Classes Into Communities” strikes at the heart of what makes Catholic schools successful—community. Yes, we’re faith communities.  But ultimately if you ask any Catholic school parent what they like about Catholic schools they will point to the community or family feel.  We must continue to be intentional about building and supporting this.  This approach might mean making more phone calls rather than emails or memos as outlined by the Harvard Business Review’s “How Customer Service Can Turn Angry Customers Into Loyal Ones.”

Have a great week!

FEb 18th Newsletter

Here is the link to the newsletter.  The Top 5:

  1. At the top of the American Catholic News section, there is a great feature story on Dr. RaeNell Houston, the superintendent for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Listen to my podcast interview from last fall with Dr. RaeNell here.
  2. As the immigration debate rages, Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners has a great article examining the Christian ethos of immigration reform. Replacing a family-based immigration system with a merit-based system has implications for our values.  Is economic value the best way to value citizenship?
  3. 6 School Culture Building Components,” a blog by Dr. Toby Travis, is a great reflection on building school culture. There’s a little bit of insight for everyone in this.
  4. I recommend you read the editorial “Gun Control is a Pro-Life Issue” as well as the NPR article entitled “Is There Any Way for Schools to Prevent Shootings?” and the story of the victims “Musician, Budding Scholars, Wrestling Coach, Soccer Player Among Fla. Shooting Victims.” We need to do a little bit of everything—put the story in context, figure how we can improve school security, and grieve the loss of our fellow Americans.  Gun violence is not a technical problem with a simple fix.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up trying to resist this “new normal” which has become a ritual for disaffected teens.

Feb 11th Newsletter

Here is the link to the Feb 11th Newsletter.  My Top 5:

  1. The Need to Think Differently” in the American Catholic News section is a great blog post by Don Drees (President) Dr. Bill Hughes (Chief Academic Officer) of Seton Schools in Milwaukee. They argues that we (Catholic school leaders) need new thinking to avoid catastrophes such as the closing of Jubilee Catholic schools.
  2. The next article, “The Scariest Catholic in America” is a feature of Fr. James Martin. It should serve as a wake-up to Catholics to listen to one another and open our hearts to each other.  Otherwise, with friends like these, who needs enemies?  Divided we fall, folks.
  3. In the Catholic School News section, there is a combined NCEA/USCCB document on 529 plans. This FAQ would be a great resource for Catholic school marketing.  You might want to insert these in parish bulletins, post on your website, pass out to your parents, etc.
  4. In the Leadership section, the HBR article entitled “If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?” is a great article examining what we define as success and what role negative motivators such as insecurity and perfectionism play in our lives.
  5. In the Miscellany section, I love the first article on individualism which appeared in the month’s Sojourners magazine. “Bowling Together” examines how communities have become separated and we need more emphasis on the common good.

Feb 4th Newsletter

Here is the link to the Feb 4th Newsletter

The Top 5 Links:

  1. NCR was very kind in writing a great article about Catholic School Matters. The host of “In Conversations” also invited me onto the show.  I encourage you to click on the links.  Outlets like NCR pay attention to metrics.  The more hits and downloads, the more likely it is they’ll devote resources to telling our stories.
  2. Education Gadfly (part of the Thomas Fordham Institute) has two great blog posts—one very personal essay by Stephanie Saroki de Garcia (of Seton Fellows) about the need for more miracles in education and another by Kathleen Porter-Magee (of Partnership Schools in NYC) entitled “Charter Schools are Not the Future of Catholic Education.”
  3. I came across an article a couple of weeks ago referencing Rod Dreher’s monastic vision and the “Benedict Option.” Last week, Cardinal Cupich spoke out about what he characterized as “withdrawal.”  So I included the three articles in case you weren’t aware of this movement.
  4. In the Leadership section, the first article about decision-making and fighter pilots was one of the best things I read this week.
  5. Campaign Counsel produced a great guide to how the new tax code will impact giving and this can be found in the Leadership section.

Turnaround Catholic Schools

Here is the link to the January 28th newsletter.  This week’s top 5:

  1. I’ve included links to the turnaround schools and a few articles about this schools. They are amazing stories.  Clearly, there is no silver bullet to turn around every Catholic school’s fortunes.  But you’ll be inspired by the efforts!
  2. However, school closing announcements have been pouring in. It’s important to read these stories because there are still people out who aren’t woke to our reality.  We have to help people understand that innovative approaches are necessary.  This section can be found after the American Catholic News section.
  3. Speaking of which, look no further than the first article in the American Catholic News section by Partnership School’s Kathleen Porter-Magee’s essay “To Spark a Catholic School Renaissance, We Need to Put Our Faith in Autonomous School Networks” is a must read.
  4. I recommend the article by HBR on Customer Service in the Leadership section. Sure, it’s common sense to pick up the phone and call parents to hear their concerns.  But it’s not common!  I’ve heard of principals who call a set of families every Friday to check in.  Not email.  Not letters and memos.  Phone calls.
  5. It’s Oscar season so enjoy this article on Lady Bird’s creator and her affinity for Catholic schools.

Have a great week celebrating Catholic schools!

January 21st newsletter

Here is the link to the Jan 21st newsletter

This week, I have a very lengthy blog which tries to bring together lessons I have learned from the Church Documents series.  Monday’s podcast marks the final podcast in the series and I wanted to draw your attention to the landing page for the Church Documents PLC.  My top 5 links:

  1. Religious Education is Broken is more than one year old but I find it remarkably relevant. How we are conducting religious education in parishes and religion classes in schools is simply not working.  I think treating it like a subject is part of the problem.  Activity-based programs such as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd have met with success.
  2. Further down in the American Catholic news section, Sarah Silverman’s interview with Fr. Greg Boyle is stunningly effective. They begin to talk about brokenness and humanity and it is surprisingly sweet.
  3. ‘Tis the seasons for announcements of school closings. Check out the School News section for information on schools as well as parents who are rallying to save certain schools.  It can get depressing but believe it or not there are still people out there who don’t full grasp the enormity of the crisis.  They are the proverbial frogs in the water as it is slowly heating to a boil.
  4. The Disciplined Pursuit of Less is a great article about time management but it also serves as a reminder for Catholic schools to be mission-driven/market-sensitive as opposed to mission-sensitive/market-driven. What are you supposed to be doing?  Spend most of your time doing that, says McKeon.
  5. Complexity Bias is a great article in the Miscellany section which explores our preference for complex solutions. Beware the consultant who makes the simple seem complex!


Innovation in Catholic Schools

Here is the link to the Jan 14th newsletter.

This edition of Catholic School Matters is devoted to Catholic school innovation.  I blog about my visit last month to Seton Catholic Schools in Milwaukee, a remarkable charter-like Catholic school network.  It would benefit any school or diocesan school leader to pay attention to what’s going on there.

I then include descriptions and links to thirteen other innovative models: ACE Academies, Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, Cristo Rey, Faith in the Future, Drexel Schools, Healey Education Foundation, Independence Mission Schools, Jubilee Schools, Lumen Christi Schools, Nativity/Miguel network, Partnership Schools (NYC), Seton Education Partners, and TWIN-CS.

My top 5 all focus on Seton Catholic Schools (Milwaukee):