Catholic School Matters Top 5

Over 20 years ago, I began teaching in a diocesan high school with Jim McIntyre. As our careers have taken us to different places, one thing that we’ve both noticed (Jim as a diocesan high school president, me as a superintendent) is that there doesn’t seem to be any conferences or professional development specifically designed for diocesan high school presidents/heads of school. There seems to be robust networks of order schools but nothing for (arch)diocesan schools. Our diocesan presidents, we suggest, could learn from our order schools and become better versions of themselves.

So Jim and I have put together just this type of conference July 15-17. The “Nashville Exchange” is designed to be an intimate gathering where best practices will be exchanged and relationships will be established. Our objectives are to build a network of Catholic school presidents and highlight best practices established by successful heads of school all within the context of a collaborative that promotes safe and secure communication.

The Nashville Exchange does not have multiple tracks and lots of sitting and listening. Rather we have designed an “unconference” that is based around listening to a fantastic keynote and then attending (and participating) in five guided discussions led by established leaders. The Nashville Exchange will begin at 5 pm on Wednesday, July 15 and will conclude by lunch on Friday, July 17.

The keynote speaker will be Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, CM, the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) and the former president of DePaul University from 2004-17. He will discuss leading for mission and share his experiences of leading Catholic institutions. The guided discussions will be led by: 

  • Tom Mengler, president of St. Mary’s University (TX), who will discuss successful fundraising.
  • Tom Long, FMS, a long-time Marist head of school, will lead the discussion on strategic planning.
  • Jack Peterson, current president of Managing for Mission and former president of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, will discuss spiritual leadership.
  • Melodie Wyttenbach, the Executive Director of the Roche Center at Boston College, who will speak about building positive board relationships.
  • Jim McIntyre, the president of Father Ryan HS in Nashville, and me will help put all the ideas together on the last day.

The Greeley Center of Loyola-Chicago has been kind enough to underwrite many of our expenses, and the Meitler Group and FACTS Education have signed on as partners. Here is a link to the Nashville Exchange flyer. Please go to this link for more information and to register.

Top 5

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 Next Workshop” 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!

Have a great week!


This week on the Catholic School Matters podcast, I welcome two interesting guests. The first is my old friend Jim McIntyre. We talk about our new venture, The Nashville Exchange, which we designed for presidents/heads of schools in diocesan/archdiocesan high schools. We talk about why the conference is important and how it will work. Then, I’m joined by one of the presenters at the conference, Dr. Melodie Wyttenbach, the newly-appointed Executive Director of the Roche Center at Boston College. We discuss her pathway to leadership and lessons learned from her time leading a school in Milwaukee, teaching at Notre Dame, and everywhere in between.