January 26th newsletter

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.

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!