March 8th Newsletter

March 8th Newsletter

In this week’s blog and podcast, I introduce my new book, Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic School Leadership.  I’ve also included a case study about discipline and African-American braids and some great articles.  The Top 5:

  1. In the Leadership section, the first link is to information about a new Strategic Planning course produced by the Arrupe Virtual Learning Initiative. I’ve taken the course and found it extremely useful.  See this link for more information.
  2. In that same section is a 5-minute TED video on effective feedback. It’s a very interesting and practical video.
  3. In the Teaching & Learning section, the best link I can provide in this issue is from the great blogger Larry Ferlazzo entitled “Gold Mine of Resources for Educators Preparing for School Closures.” He provides a link to many resources and it will be a page I will want to continue to check.  How does one plan for a Virtual Day for 2nd graders?  (this is a question I ponder since I have one of those living in my house!).  Larry delivers once again!  We need to be prepared for how the Coronavirus response will impact our schools.
  4. In the Miscellaneous section, the first article “The Definitive Guide for Handling Haters” by Maria Popova (of the “Brain Pickings” blog) is simply fantastic. It gives you inspiration on how to handle criticism and push forward with your ideas.  If you’re a school leader facing criticism about a tuition increase, or the parent of a middle schooler (!), or guiding a project toward completion, you’ll find this article speaks to your reality.
  5. The next article in that section details Mitch Daniels’ efforts to freeze tuition at Purdue. In Catholic schools, I hear talk about what we don’t have (resources, students) or what we can’t provide (higher salaries, better facilities) but we don’t focus on what we do—provide an excellent education for as little cost as possible.  Mitch Daniels has done this on the university level and it’s worth considering.

March 1st newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I discuss one school’s successful innovation to build community and morale.  It should serve as good food for thought for this crazy month.  With one foot firmly planted in finishing this year, we all have another foot planted in planning for next year.  Add to that the inevitable meltdown (staff member or student) and it’s usually an interesting month.  The Top 5:

  1. In the Leadership section, blogger David Geurin has a great piece called “Experience Alone is Not Enough” where he explores the idea that simply doing something for a few years doesn’t make you a master. There is an old joke about a retiring teacher (“he had one year of teaching experience that he repeated 24 times”) that could just as easily apply to school leaders.  How are you learning from your experience?
  2. The next link in that same section is from Tom Barrett who explores the meaning and application of design thinking principles. Have you heard “design thinking” thrown around educational circles?  Barrett’s article provides you with a great framework for understanding.
  3. In the Teaching & Learning section, George Couros has a great blog piece on learning new skills, “Switching it Up.”
  4. The next article discusses the academic benefits of hiring a school counselor. It’s worth considering the priority of student mental health.
  5. In the miscellaneous section, Farnam Street’s article on the mental models of an astronaut is worth a read. The discussion of mental models is thought-provoking and Shane Parrish is doing great work in this area.

Feb 16th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I discuss the reality that most of us face at one point in our Catholic school careers—we can often be treated in a very un-Christian manner.  I’ve also collected some great articles and here are the Top 5:

  1. In the American Catholic news section, the first article is an in-depth look at All Hallows High School in the Bronx. It’s inspiring, well-written, and worth your time.
  2. Take a look at the Catholic schools opening & closing section to read about the brand new Catholic school opening in Henderson, Nevada as well as the stark contrast in Flint, Michigan whose St. Pius X Catholic School is closing. In one place, the sheer number of Catholics is staggering compared to the dwindling numbers in the school and parish in Flint.
  3. At the end of the “Leadership” section, this 22-minute video from Brené Brown “Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count” is a great reflection on responding to criticism. It was shared by educational blogger Tom Barrett from Australia.  Not caring what people think shuts us off to human connection, according to Brown, but allowing us to be defined by what others say cuts us off from vulnerability.
  4. In the Miscellaneous section, the New Yorker article on Richard Rohr (“How Richard Rohr is Reordering the Universe”) is a fascinating piece which reveals his appeal and explains his theology in very clear terms.
  5. In the same section, the next two articles highlight the phenomenon affecting private, small, and often Catholic universities. Concordia University in Portland just announced it is closing, the Chronicle of Higher Ed gives a guideline on school closings.  Small Catholic liberal arts colleges are closing at the rate of one every 10 months and there are lessons that K-12 schools can learn.

Feb 9th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about a tough lesson I learned in 2004 from the now-deceased Archbishop of Seattle, Alexander Brunett.  I’ve also collected a wide number of articles for your reading pleasure.  The Top 5:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, Kathleen Porter-Magee is at it again! This week’s featured article is from America magazine entitled “In An Age of Extreme Individualism, Catholic Schools Are More Important Than Ever.”
  2. In the Leadership section, the Harvard Business Review’s “5 Tips for a Great Presentation” is worth reading. In this month when I encourage school leaders to give a “State of the School” presentation, these tips might help.
  3. The next article from the Farnam Street blog is about elastic thinking. Letting go of our patterns of thinking and learning to navigate a confusing world is essential.
  4. In the Teaching and Learning section, blogger Tom Barrett from Down Under presents two articles on the SOLO taxonomy which I found to be a different paradigm for learning.
  5. The next two articles are on Project-based Learning (PBL) and center on research and practical ideas for implementation. Who says these articles can’t be practical?

Feb 2nd Catholic School Matters Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I discuss the new conference for diocesan high school presidents called “The Nashville Exchange.”  It’s February and not too early to think about your summer professional development.  It’s also the doldrums of the school year and we need to keep reading and learning in order to lead our staff members through this period of the school year.  The Top 5 articles:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, Kathleen Porter-Magee brings it with another great article about the purpose and value of Catholic schools entitled “An ‘Alienated America’ Needs Community-Building Schools—Something Catholic Schools Have Been Doing for Generations.” The article reminded me of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone which explored the death of bowling leagues as a symptom that Americans are just not joining clubs any more—but they report feeling lonelier and more isolated.
  2. The next article highlights the efforts of the Big Shoulders fund in Chicago to support Catholic schools. Coming off the announcement that at least seven more Catholic schools will close in Chicago, notice that the Fund is not only providing money but also demanding a voice in governance.
  3. In the Leadership section, the first article “Why Self-Awareness is the Key to More Effective Team Discussions” is a great article exploring why some board meeting discussions work well and why others sputter. Not every opinion is created equally and listening means more than waiting for someone to stop speaking!
  4. The next link is to a great little blog post by Tom Barrett entitled “3 Steps to Improve Your” It’s remarkable insightful, calling for leaders to give time for reflection, creating the conditions for dialogue, and responding to the people in front of you.  Simple and powerful.
  5. In the Miscellany section, “Most People are bad at arguing. These 2 techniques will make you better” is a great article about truth, morals, and listening.  Definitely worth a read!

January 26th newsletter

Happy Catholic Schools Week!  It’s time to celebrate and build community.  I have a great blog in this week’s newsletter about a book written by a former Catholic school teacher, The Way of Fuzzy Faith, and a collection of interesting articles for your reading enjoyment.  Notice that this is the (unfortunate) season for school closing announcements.  In the past two weeks, I have come across announcements for 16 school closings.  Don’t ignore this news.  Read the stories and vow to take action in your own school to build a brighter future.  The Top 5:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic News section is about the Espinoza case which was heard by the US Supreme Court last week. The decision should be announced in June, but we want to stay on top of the issues and be prepared to talk about the facts.
  2. In the Leadership section, the first article about the 70-20-10 rule for Leadership is very thought-provoking. How much of your leadership expertise is due to education?  Or experience?  This article will challenge your thinking.
  3. The second and third articles in that section are about time. “How busyness leads to bad decisions” is a good reminder to leaders about how to tackle the challenges amid a busy schedule and “Why Americans are always running out of time” is a great reflection on how technology is not making our lives easier, just more complex.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, “The New Reading Environment” explores the challenges of reading amid all the different formats and technologies.
  5. The video at the end of that section is from AVLI (Arrupe Virtual Learning Institute) and explores the ways that AVLI is building and supporting instructional capacity in Catholic schools. It’s worth a look!

Have a great Catholic Schools Week!


Jan 12th Newsletter

In this week’s newsletter, I blog about forming school culture, inspired by Deal & Peterson’s great book, Shaping School Culture.  I’ve also collected some great articles.  The Top 5:

  1. The absolute must read is Kathleen Porter-Magee’s “Catholic on the Inside.” Stop everything and read this now. Her point is that often charter schools are called “Catholic on the Outside” because they adopt many traditional Catholic school practices.  But she traces the true success of Catholic schools—namely, the values on the inside!  I recorded a podcast conversation with her which will air next month.
  2. Former Catholic school teacher and administrator Sister Ann Durst is the focus on the US Catholic article “The Nun Working to Bring Justice to Immigrants at the Border.” It’s a great story about how someone set out to make a difference.  This week’s podcast highlights two Catholic school leaders on the border.
  3. In the Leadership section, the first two articles focus on decision-making: “Algorithms and Decision-Making” and “Trade-offs and Decision Making” are both great articles illuminating different aspects of decision making.
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article describes what an autism-friendly classroom would look like. It’s fascinating and de-mystifies many misconceptions about autistic children.
  5. In the Miscellany section, I found the article about the Society of St. Pius X group in St. Marys, Kansas, to be fascinating. They have purchased an old Jesuit novitiate and built a community of breakaway Catholics.  The tension between living in the world and trying to transform it and withdrawing from it completely plays out in the article.  It raises the question of what is the purpose of church—to serve its own or transform society?

January 5th Newsletter

I’ve been able to collect some great articles and links to share in this week’s newsletter.  The Top 5:

  1. The first article in the American Catholic News section highlights the upcoming court case pitting religious freedom against anti-discrimination laws. The second article, courtesy of Superintendent Kevin Kijewski highlights the Supreme Court Blaine Amendment case (oral arguments will be heard on January 22nd) and argues for the wiping out of the amendments.
  2. In the past couple of months, there have been quite a few Catholic school closure announcements. I encourage you to read their stories in the “Catholic Schools Opening & Closing section.”
  3. In the Leadership section, the first link is to Emanuel Harper’s great blog post “Four Principles I Learned as a Teacher and Administrator.”
  4. In the Teaching & Learning section, the first article “4 Strategies to Recharge Your Teaching” is a great reminder of what’s important at this time of year.
  5. In the Miscellany section, the NY Times article on the rising number of mothers in prison and the impact on their children is devastating.

Nov 24th Newsletter

Here is the link to this week’s newsletter.  Since I’m selecting a Top 5 of a Top 10, this feels like March Madness!  Here are my favorites from the Top 10 celebrating a great fall season of Catholic School Matters.

  1. From the September 15th newsletter: 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 had 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. From the September 22nd newsletter: 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.
  3. From the September 29th newsletter: 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.
  4. From the November 3rd newsletter: 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.
  5. In the November 17th newsletter: I recommend “Synodality Isn’t Just an Option” as a way to understand the current reality.

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.