Category Archives: Catholic School Matters

Classroom Management

This week, I return to a special issue, this one on classroom management.  We can’t forget to give our teachers the best resources possible so they can continue to improve their craft.

My top 5:

  1. Last year’s Classroom Management Issue was full of great resources.
  2. Combine the second and third articles for a reflection on motivation and punishments.
  3. The fourth article is full of practical suggestions on how to manage misbehavior.
  4. The fifth article focuses on “classroom leadership” as opposed to classroom management.
  5. The sixth article is a compliance-focused article focused on how to get your students to follow directions which is perfect for teachers with out of control classes. (or for parents with a 5 year old who has a mind of your own.  You know who you are!)

Have a great week!

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in a classroom with one of our principals and conduct a side-by-side observation of one of her teachers.  Afterward we talked about what we saw and what good instruction looks like.  It was a stark reminder to me that for all of our talk about national and system issues surrounding schools, it all begins in the classroom.  We need to give our teachers good resources and coach them to improve.  Our students deserve the best teachers!

Last October, I presented a special issue on Classroom Management.  I’m only going to list resources I came across in the past year.  Here is the link to the last Classroom Management special issue (Oct 23rd, 2016) : Here are some resources:

Podcast Blog: Dr. Tom Burnford

This week, I spoke to Dr. Tom Burnford, the President/CEO of NCEA, about creating a new vision for Catholic schools on the Catholic School Matters podcast.  Coming one week after the marketing research podcast and two weeks after the Joy of the Gospel podcast, this trilogy of podcasts is designed to explain the foundation of creating a new vision for Catholic schools.

What do you parents say?  What are the perceptions of Catholic schools?  We need to know this and Tom mentions that he’s planning to distill the information into bite-sized bits of information (Top 10 Things Principals Need to Know, for example).

But we also need to be in touch with our mission.  Pope Francis describes our mission in Joy of the Gospel.  Tom has asked superintendents to explore the meaning and implications of that exhortation, which will be placed alongside the marketing research in Tempe as we try to develop a new vision for Catholic schools.

“Why are we trying to establish a new vision?” I asked Tom.  He displays a remarkable degree of transparency as he explains the crisis/opportunities of Catholic schools, which is a church problem.  Tom is leading the NCEA and as I like to say to the critics, “Who else is there?”   In other words, NCEA might not be perfect but it’s the best solution we have right now so we should all come together to rally around our Catholic schools.

Give the podcast a listen!

October 1st eNewsletter

It’s now October!  Can you feel it?  Our focus is being divided into the myriad of different directions.  We’re entering the heart of a school year.  To that end, I’m going to present a smorgasbord of different articles in this “un-themed” newsletter.

My top 5:

  1. In the American Catholic News section, the first article is a blog post by Kathleen Porter-Magee, the Superintendent of New York City’s Partnership Schools. It’s encouraging, inspiring, and worth the read!
  2. the second article focuses on the Parish Consolidation plan in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The article illuminates trends that we are all confronting—fewer priests, fewer attendees, lower sacramental participation.  It’s a stark wake-up call.
  3. I love the stories surrounding Father Stanley Rother who was beatified last week.
  4. I have presented two articles on open-mindedness in the Leadership section. I encourage you to read them (with an open mind!).
  5. The fifth article in the Miscellaneous section is about how marriage has declined in popularity and practice.

Next week, I’ll be sharing the annual “Classroom Management” issue.  

In the American Catholic news section:

In the Leadership section:

In the Teaching & Instruction section:

In the Miscellaneous section:


You might have caught the story this week that some Catholics have accused Pope Francis of heresy, mostly centering on the teaching of whether divorced/remarried Catholics can receive Communion.  Pope Francis’s words in Amoris Laetitia have been construed to mean that he is arguing that a divorced/remarried Catholic can receive Communion although no doctrinal changes are forthcoming.  (NCR has a great analysis of this news here).

Partner this story with the New York Times piece on the decline of marriage.  The dividing line between the marriage “have’s” and the “have-nots,” according to the authors, is a bachelor’s degree.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults are married, according to a research brief published…from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.  In 1970, about 82 percent of adults were married, and in 1990, about two-thirds were, with little difference based on class and education.

In regions where manufacturing and blue-collar jobs have declined, so have marriage rates.  As you can see from the numbers above, the decline has been steep.  Fewer and fewer people are getting married.  In the Church, we have a matrimony crisis because the number of Catholic weddings has declined precipitously along with other sacraments.  This has seemingly raised the anxiety in the church and has inserted marriage into the culture wars.

But listen to Pope Francis in Joy of the Gospel.

The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.  These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness.  Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. (paragraph 47)

If you view the Eucharist as something to be earned by good behavior, you’re going to view the offering or reception of Communion by divorced/remarried Catholics as sinful and a violation of the purpose of Communion.  But if you view the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment, you’ll take a different view.

I can see the validity of both arguments.  But if we harken back to Jesus, he was welcoming to all (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc) so I imagine he would come down on the side of Pope Francis.

Joy of the Gospel Part 2


In my special podcast this week, David Faber, the outstanding superintendent of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, joins me to discuss Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel.  In our conversation, we explore the implications of the work on our work—that is, as superintendents.

I have modified the following quote (paragraph 31):

The superintendent must always foster this missionary communion in his/her diocesan school system, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Act 4:32).  To do so, she/he will sometimes go before her/his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant.  At other times, he/she will simply be in their midst with his/her unassuming and merciful presence.  At yet other times, she/he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and—above all—allowing the flock to strike out on new paths.

Leading from the front is visionary and necessary.  But if no one is following you, you can’t point the way.  Leading from the middle will lead to “smelling like the sheep” and a “bruised and battered Church” but it will be a leadership of accompaniment.  However, sometimes the sheep are lagging behind and perhaps even lost.  In this instance, the superintendent must drop back and help.

Pope Francis shows a remarkable understanding of leadership which should impact our work as superintendents.  But isn’t the same model applicable to principals dealing with teachers and teachers dealing with students.  We need to lead from the front, from the middle, and from the back depending on the needs of our followers.

In paragraph 173, Pope Francis also emphasizes accompaniment and thus sheds light on the demands upon an educational leader.

Genuine spiritual accompaniment always begins and flourishes in the context of service to the mission of evangelization.  Paul’s relationship with Timothy and Titus provides an example of this accompaniment and formation which takes place in the midst of apostolic activity.  Entrusting them with the mission of remaining in each city to ‘put in order what remains to be done’ (Ti 1:5; cf. 1 Tm 1:3-5), Paul also gives them rules for their personal lives and their pastoral activity.

Accompaniment is based in relationship.  We establish a relationship, find what they need, and then equip our school leaders with the necessary policies and procedures.  And then we leave them in charge and keep listening to hear what else they might need.  This is our job as superintendents but again I imagine it’s not unlike the job of a principal in relation to his/her teachers as well as a teacher in relation to his/her students.

We are encouraging people to read Joy of the Gospel as part of our re-visioning process of Catholic schools.  But I find value in the leadership reflections and encourage educational leaders to read for personal and spiritual development.

Click here to read Part 1: Joy of the Gospel.

Joy of the Gospel

In the first year of his papacy, Pope Francis published the apostolic exhortation Joy of the Gospel, a book-length ode to evangelization. Four years later, the meaning of missionary discipleship is beginning to bubble to the surface. Last summer, the USCCB convened a special meeting to analyze, celebrate, and establish a common understanding for the American Catholic Church.

This fall, the NCEA has decided to use Joy of the Gospel as the source for its new vision for Catholic schools. Do you want to be part of the conversation? Then you need to read Joy of the Gospel. Start by picking up a copy then read my Wednesday Book Blog describing how to approach it.

Next, read the coverage of its release and the introductory pieces on it:

  1. Fr. Stephen Bevans, SVD, offers a great introductionto Joy of the Gospel.
  2. The National Catholic Register describes 9 Things to Know and Shareabout Joy of the Gospel
  3. America presents an introduction to Joy of the Gospel

Have you read it yet? You really need to make the effort to read Joy of the Gospel. Once you do, listen to my podcast with David Faber, the outstanding superintendent of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, on the Catholic School Matters podcast. This podcast will drop Monday, September 25th and is intended to help superintendents and other Catholic school leaders as they prepare for the Catholic Leadership Summit in October.

Then, try reading some of the lengthier pieces on Joy of the Gospel:

  1. Kevin Cotter’s “Focus on Campus” blogoffers some helpful tips on how to read Joy of the Gospel—including sharing great resources. He provides a great way to understand it depending on your level of interest.
  2. Cardinal DiNardo shares his thoughts on Joy of the Gospel in a Crux interview. It’s interesting and a quick read.
  3. Bishop Robert Barron describes Joy of the Gospelin a short video(9 minutes). Bishop Barron is always interesting to watch and the 9 minutes go by very quickly.
  4. The Vatican provides a synthesisof the apostolic exhortation. Do you want to know the official word? The party line? Here it is!
  5. Church Life, a scholarly magazine published by the Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, published a special issueon Joy of the Gospel with lots of scholarly takes. The introduction is especially insightful but the issue itself will lead readers in a variety of directions.

If you’re interested in developing a faith formation program for your staff, here are 3 great options:

  1. Paula Gooder from Church House Publishing offers a six-session study coursein sharing faith based on Joy of the Gospel
  2. The Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice produced a resource for discussion and reflectionon the Joy of the Gospel.
  3. Catholic Theological Union (CTU) has a great introductionand a study guidewith a 12- part series of videos/podcasts which can serve as an online PLC. These are short little vignettes from a variety of different topics. I’ve listened these and really enjoyed their thought-provoking nature.

CLS Preview Podcasts (Week Two)

This week, the Catholic School Matters podcast is coming to you every day with more Catholic Leadership Summit (CLS) previews.  This NCEA Conference held Oct 21-25 is right around the corner and involves superintendents and central office leaders.

Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes.  On the day a podcast is scheduled to drop, the podcasts described below will appear on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts).  If you’ve subscribed to the podcast, they will automatically appear in your feed.  Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Monday, Sep 18th: Episode #71, Dr. Barbara Edmondson. Barbara discusses her new position at NCEA and discusses her work with school leaders across the country.  She pays special attention to the Superintendent’s Academy which runs Saturday Oct 21st through Oct 22nd before the Catholic Leadership Summit.  Here is the preview link to her podcast.
  • Tuesday, Sep 19th: Episode #72, Dr. Michael Boyle. Mike, the Director of the Greeley Center at the University of Loyola-Chicago and a strong advocate/expert on inclusive Catholic education, talks about his background and work supporting Catholic schools.  Here is the preview link.
  • Wednesday, Sep 20th: Episode #73, Dr. Kurt Nelson. The Superintendent of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Kurt discusses his work building and developing a school vitality dashboard.  Here is the preview link.
  • Thursday, Sep 21st: Episode #74, Dr. Mary Kearney. The Associate Superintendent in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Mary discusses her presentation on identifying and bringing about change in school systems.  Here is the preview link.
  • Friday, Sep 22nd: Episode #75, Sr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy, SCN. Angie talks about current legal issues and previews some of the hot topics she will discuss.  Here is the preview link.


Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?

For this September 17th issue, I return to the more traditional newsletter approach with a short blog and four separate sections.  In my blog, I point out that ESSA is now in effect which will probably mean more Title dollars for you.  I suggest identifying priorities for how you will spend this new allocation before the money becomes part of your regular budget and I identified one suggestion (the spring NCEA conference) and two providers who can help with focused professional development.

I have provided a lot of articles because I’m finally catching up to all the articles that I curated over the summer.  Next week I’ll be providing a special issue on classroom management.

This week’s Top 5:

  1. In the Leadership section, the first article details the story of one school which ditched its award ceremonies. The next two articles build on this theme with stories about ending behavior rewards and the importance of relationships.
  2. The fourth article in that section offers suggestions to principals “Simple Ways to Support Your Faculty.” The next two articles follow this theme with articles on principal best practices and “2 Practices That Increase Faculty Retention.”
  3. The first article in the Teaching & Learning section focuses on attention. Rarely do I run into research-based articles about student attention and this one is superb.
  4. The second article in that same section focuses on “Teens Knee-Deep in Negativity.” It’s a great sociological study of what many of our students are dealing with AND it provides concrete suggestions for parents and teachers.
  5. In the Miscellaneous section, the first two articles focus on DACA. The second one (Larry Ferlazzo’s blog) is especially rich.

Have a great week!

Mentoring, Cohorts & Mindsets

In Episode #67 of the Catholic School Matters podcast, Dr. Patty Weitzel-O’Neill and I share a great conversation full of insight.

First, we reveal a remarkable mentoring moment.  Over 3 years ago, I was given a remarkable opportunity to become the superintendent of Montana Catholic schools.  This happened in June when I was in Boston at a BC event.  I pulled Patty aside and explained the situation.  When I mention in the podcast that she was instrumental in my choice to accept it, I meant it.  If Patty would have told me “Don’t do it” I would have rejected it.  I’m not sure Patty knew that until now.

When Patty described her emphasis on cohorts in their signature programs, it reveals the importance of community.  BC is building intentional communities of practice and support because they know how critical community is to professional growth.

As we began discussing the importance of the National Standards & Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools, Patty pointed out that we have begun moving beyond an “auditing” mindset into a planning mindset which identifies best practices.  Auditing.  Haven’t we seen that?  Accreditation can devolve into checklists, policy manuals as well.

When we discussed the pitfalls of chanceries, Patty mentioned that we need to build communities and break down silos.  Displaying remarkable insight, she systematically suggests reasons why chanceries can become dysfunctional—silos separating different offices, culture of distrust, leaders fighting over scarce resources, lack of communication and collaboration, and competition.  She calls for solidarity and communication.

It’s a great conversation which reveals the remarkable mind of Patty Weitzel-O’Neill.

Week 3 of the Podcast (CLS Previews!)

Week 3 of the Catholic School Matters podcast kicked off yesterday (Monday, Sep 11th) with Harry Kraemer of the Kellogg School at Northwestern U kicks off the week of CLS (Catholic Leadership Summit) preview podcasts.  Harry is nationally known as a speaker on leadership.  He doesn’t disappoint as he discusses how to “lead up” and gauge a person’s leadership potential.  We tried to apply his leadership insights into a superintendent’s role.  Here’s the link to the podcast on iTunes.

Today (Tuesday), podcast #67 includes a great interview with Dr. Patty Weitzel-O’Neill of BC’s Roche Centre.  Patty was one of the original authors of the National Standards & Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools so we discuss the impacts and implications of the NSBECS.  Patty is also the Executive Director of the Roche Center for Catholic Education at BC and so she describes all the great work going on at BC.  Here’s an advance version of the podcast.

Wednesday, podcast #68 is an interview with Dr. Ron Valenti of Catapult.  Ron will discuss his work supporting operational vitality of Catholic schools.  A former Catholic school superintendent, he’s keenly aware of the needs of Catholic school systems and has positioned himself as someone who can serve.  Here’s an advance copy.

Thursday, podcast #69 will be Dr. Lorraine Ozar’s chance to shine.  We’ll continue talking about the NSBECS since Lorraine is also one of the co-authors.  She’ll also describe the great work going on at the Greeley Center at Loyola-Chicago.  Here’s an advance copy.

Friday, Dr. Matt Vereecke, the tallest (and second-youngest) Catholic school superintendent in the country, will discuss his work in Dallas.  A former ACE’er, Matt discusses his philosophy of supporting principal leadership and innovation.  Here’s an advance copy.

All five speakers will be sharing their insights at NCEA’s Catholic Leadership Summit this October in Tempe, AZ.