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How Catholic Educators Can Allocate Their EANS II Funding

Education is in fact the primary vehicle of integral human development, for it makes individuals free and responsible…The pandemic prevented many young people from attending school to the detriment of their personal and social development.” – Pope Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, January 10, 2022

Whenever federal funds are made available to schools, questions inevitably follow. This article is intended to help Catholic schools determine how to spend their Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) allocations responsibly and effectively to help both students and teachers.

What Principals Should Consider Before Spending EANS II Funds

When contemplating how principals can effectively use their EANS II funding once it’s available, it is helpful to reflect on the last two years. The impact of COVID-19 has caused students across the globe to feel the effects of learning loss, coupled with an increase in behavioral issues, both of which teachers and school leaders have been trying to address in an increasingly stressful environment. Education leaders should seriously consider focusing their EANS funds on addressing these challenges:

  • Learning loss:  By using EANS II funds on targeted academic interventions as well as accelerated learning programs such as High-Dosage Tutoring, Catholic schools can not only address any learning loss that occurred throughout the pandemic, but they’re also able to expedite learning to close the achievement gaps and ensure students are where they need to be academically.
  • Behavior challenges: Individual and family counseling, as well as programs that focus on social-emotional learning (SEL) and health, are effective ways to provide support to students with behavioral challenges. These include conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, empathy, and healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Teacher support and retention through professional development: In addition to providing instructional support and coaching on how to implement accelerated learning and differentiated instruction, professional development programs can assist teachers with social-emotional learning, trauma-informed practices, and cultural competence in the classroom—all especially relevant topics in today’s education landscape. Research indicates that teachers who participate in high quality professional development are more likely to persevere in their teaching careers.

How You Can Responsibly Spend Your Catholic Schools’ EANS Funds

While Catholic schools’ needs and priorities differ at an individual level, most schools are experiencing challenges like those mentioned above. EANS II funds can be used for a range of programs and services designed to resolve the issues of learning loss, behavioral disruptions, and teacher burnout. Every state and school will receive varying amounts of funding, but if you’re looking for ways to address COVID-induced academic and behavioral issues in the classroom, there are several programs from which most Catholic schools can greatly benefit through EANS funding. Among these are:

  • Coaching and Professional Development

Desired outcome: To support educators and promote behaviors intended to increase and maintain student achievement.

Now is the time to restart and reimagine school. Whether you’re looking to build teacher capacity within the classroom, help instructors grow through coaching, create a more positive classroom environment, increase the leadership capacity and empowerment of principals and administrators, or improve overall school outcomes, investing a portion of your EANS funding in professional development services and programs can pay dividends down the road.

How Catapult Learning can help: Through our research-based Professional Development and Coaching services, we can support your school communities in the most critical areas of need, all with a focus on creating equitable, rigorous, safe, and supportive learning environments that meet the needs of all learners. Consistent attention to these mission-critical components of Catholic school culture helps school communities thrive, grow, adapt, and succeed.

  • Social-Emotional Learning and Support

Desired outcome: To expand students’ 21st-century skills in critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and empathy—all necessary for success in college, careers, and beyond.

Social-emotional learning has taken on more importance and relevance than ever before and ensuring the emotional and mental well-being of your students and their families—especially during this pandemic age—is a top priority for Catholic schools across the country. Research shows that an education that promotes SEL positively impacts academic performance, healthy relationships, mental wellness, and more. Using a portion of your EANS funding on SEL programming can, therefore, make a significant difference in your classrooms and do so in a manner consistent with the goals and values of Catholic school education.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges because of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. Our programs and services, such as Counseling, Family Engagement, and Professional Development, teach students the critical skills they need for future success.

  •  High-Dosage Tutoring and Intervention

Desired outcome: To accelerate learning in literacy and math for all K-12 students through frequent, intensive, small-group or 1:1 instruction. Take advantage of the limited window to close the gap on student learning and bring them to appropriate grade level proficiency.

Perhaps the most urgent challenge is that COVID-19 has left millions of students behind in school academically, and the longer that learning gap remains unaddressed the more difficult it will be to close and get students back on track academically, socially, and emotionally.

Research has shown that intensive supplemental learning closes the learning gaps much more quickly than through simple remediation. Literacy and math intervention programs are an effective way to narrow those gaps. When coupled with a tutoring program, learning becomes even more efficient and effective.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our reading/literacy and math interventions and High-Dosage Tutoring programs use highly structured, intensive instruction in small groups to reinforce grade-level content and support struggling learners so they can quickly close learning gaps before they become unmanageable.

  • Summer Learning

Desired outcome: To address the academic, social, and emotional needs of your students and their families during the summer, through robust educational opportunities and engaging activities, while preparing them for the fall.

Summer learning programs are among the most effective ways to mitigate learning loss, so students are prepared to start the new school year on track. These programs offer parents the opportunity to keep their children engaged in school and to receive the academic, social, and emotional support that may otherwise not be available at a time when schools are closed.

How Catapult Learning can help: Our turnkey Summer Journey learning programs are designed not only to mitigate summer and COVID learning loss, but also to support students and their families throughout the summer months. Summer Journey incorporates elements such as SEL learning, STEM learning, literacy and math intervention, enrichment, and family support to create a holistic program that sets children up for success.

Perhaps most beneficial to schools is that all accelerated learning programs and the components—academic intervention, High-Dosage Tutoring, SEL learning, Professional Development and Coaching, and Summer Learning—can be tailored to your Catholic schools’ specific needs. This ensures that your EANS funding is addressing your schools’ particular areas of opportunity. Catapult Learning’s EANS funding experts are ready to assist you in getting the most out of your EANS dollars by addressing your school’s most critical needs and personalizing our services to fit those needs.

Sadlier Celebrates Catholic Schools

Celebrate Catholic Schools Week
An annual tradition since 1974, Catholic schools across the nation commemorate Celebrate Catholic Schools Week with celebrations, Masses, open houses, and activities for students, families, parishioners, and community members. These events showcase and celebrate the rich traditions and the incredible value of Catholic education on both a local and national level. Each year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week is celebrated during the last week of January. This year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week will be celebrated from January 30 through February 5, 2022.

Cause for Celebration
According to NCEA, there are nearly 6,000 Catholic schools nationwide. These schools—serving elementary, middle, and secondary school students—are located across all regions, giving many families the opportunity for accessible Catholic education, which has many benefits, including:

  • The integration of faith with academic subjects, culture, and everyday life
  • The emphasis of living out the faith as missionary disciples
  • Catholic virtues and values and Catholic Social Teaching, which contribute to productive citizenship and responsible leadership
  • An environment that encourages and nurtures prayer and is safe, welcoming, and supportive for children
  • A favorable student-to-teacher ratio
  • High graduation and college attendance rates
  • Teacher commitment.

Each year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week has a theme. The theme for this year is Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service. Within the overarching theme for Celebrate Catholic Schools Week, there are also daily themes, focusing on a particular celebration.

Celebrating Your Parish on Sunday
On the opening day of Catholic Schools Week, many parishes devote a Mass to Catholic education. These celebrations show the connection between Catholic schools and parishes and reflect the support and guidance parishes provide. Families and catechists can prepare children and students for this Mass by reflecting with them on the support they witness through the assembly of school, Church, and community. Students can be reminded that Catholic school students, families, and supporters are gatherings all over the country as they are beginning Celebrate Catholic Schools Week at Mass in their own parishes!

Celebrating Your Community on Monday
On Monday, the daily theme focuses on service to the community. When students participate in school, parish, or community events, they have the opportunity to live out their faith and embody the values they are acquiring through their Catholic education, all the while helping to make the world a better place.

Celebrating Your Students on Tuesday
Help students understand their roles in Catholic education by recognizing their accomplishments. Consider a fun school-wide gathering that celebrates student or class achievements in relation to the theme of Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service. Bring to light the differences students can make as they learn in faith, strive for excellence, and serve in their schools, communities, and the world.

Celebrating the Nation on Wednesday
On Wednesday, the focus of Catholic Schools Week shifts from the local to the national level and provides an opportunity to express to government leaders the value and importance of Catholic education.

Celebrating Vocations on Thursday
On Thursday, a focus on vocations helps students recognize and use their God-given talents and be open to God’s call in their lives. Opportunities to reflect, with a focus on service and vocations, lets students consider and explore paths where they may use their gifts and talents to serve God and others.

Celebrating Faculty, Staff, and Volunteers on Friday
During Catholic Schools Week, Friday is an opportunity to show appreciation to the teachers, principals, administrators, and faculty who dedicate their time and talent to Catholic schools. A prayer of thanksgiving and a heartfelt “thank you” allows students to express their gratitude to those who have chosen to follow God’s call in the field of Catholic education.

Celebrating Families on Saturday
Catholic Schools Week concludes on Saturday with a focus on family. Families play active and vital roles in Catholic education. Families also provide a child’s first introduction to the faith and continued faith formation as the domestic Church. On Saturday, families are celebrated and appreciated for their love, faith, partnership, and example.

A Resource to Support Your Celebration
Let the Catholic Schools Week Daily Activity Guide help you incorporate daily themes suggestions into your observation of Celebrate Catholic Schools Week! With this resource, you can kick off Catholic Schools Week with a thematic opening prayer service and then find suggestions for focusing your celebrations on the daily themes throughout the week. Sadlier honors and celebrates Catholic Schools for their valuable work and contribution to the Church and the world.

By the Grace of the Holy Spirit: Working in Partnership with Parents

The following blog was contributed by Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling author and consultant.

It’s been a meaningful and extraordinary year. While we’ve been tested in ways that none of us, even at our most imaginative, could have ever anticipated, I’ve also seen the Holy Spirit at work in our Catholic schools more this year than any other.

Over the last two decades, I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you, either at convention, or because I visited your schools to do anti-bullying work. I’m always moved and inspired by how much you give of yourselves every day and the sacrifices you make for your students.

I know there were moments this year that that sacrifice seemed larger, yet you still kept going, guided by a light within that nothing could extinguish. I saw The Holy Spirit in action at every school that I visited. I saw it in the courage of superintendents who made tough decisions despite feeling like no matter what they did someone wouldn’t be happy; in the patience of principals who found joy in every day even when they were being pummeled by divisiveness in their communities. I saw it in the sense of humor of teachers who rather than giving into frustration, hunkered down and found new ways to connect with students. I saw it in the smiles of beleaguered, over-worked office secretaries who never lost their warmth or compassion, in the resolve of school nurses and counselors who refused to let anything, not even a pandemic, get in the way of their ability to serve. I saw The Holy Spirit smiling through all of you even when your hearts were heavy and I want to thank you for reminding me and everyone whose lives you touch, that with faith, we got this.

One of my greatest privileges when I’m on the road is being able to listen to your stories and learn about you, your schools and your needs. Almost all of you have had challenges with parents, and I thought this might be a good time, as we begin reflecting during the holiest of holidays, to offer some insights.

  • When A Person Is Scared, They Act Out.

If you can tell yourself that the parent who keeps testing your patience is driven by fear, a feeling of a lack of control and that it isn’t personal, it will help you to have compassion for them, the first and most important step in breaking down barriers.

  • Expectation Management Is Important for Building Trust.

To work effectively in partnership with a parent, everyone needs to be on the same page about communication and follow-up. For example, if you’ve come up with a plan of action together, discuss and agree upon a timeline for the implementation and be specific about what you expect of each other including how often you’ll update one another on progress and how. Then, document it in a concise memo that you can both work from moving forward. It’s best to bullet the action items and clearly indicate who’s doing what. The updates can be done a number of ways, but I think the most efficient is to simply add them to the original memo and highlight and date each new entry. The documentation process will make the parent feel more in control and provide a guidepost for you and them.

  • What To Do If a Parent or Group of Parents Are Using Social Media Platforms in Ways That Are Hurtful or Unproductive.

Do not engage the parent publicly online as this is only likely to accelerate the issue.  Instead, message them privately, acknowledge that you hear how upset they are, and suggest talking things through over the phone or in person/via Zoom. When you do have that conversation, don’t interrupt or become defensive. Listen and then share your honest thoughts. Often, just letting someone talk and feel heard will dissipate enough of the tension to redirect the dialogue in a more positive direction. 

  • The Ongoing Importance of Self-Care. 

Be good to yourself.  Reward yourself. Make time for the things that bring you joy and refresh and rejuvenate your spirit. The more you treat yourself with patience, compassion and love, the more you’ll have to give at school. Self-care isn’t an indulgence; it’s an act of wisdom.

About the Author

Jodee Blanco is the author of the seminal New York Times bestseller Please Stop Laughing at Me and anti-bullying’s first voice. Dioceses turn to her regularly for professional development and to implement her anti-bullying program in their schools. Jodee is the author of a series of books for the NCEA and a content provider for The Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University in the areas of anti-bullying and governance. She also consults for schools and dioceses on enlightened parent communication practices and Catholic values-based crisis management. For more information, please visit:

Jodee’s Publications with NCEA:

How Catholic Schools are Strategizing to Address Learning Loss

The following blog was contributed by FACTS Education Solutions in Lincoln, NE.

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With the recent pandemic shining a bright light on increased, evolving student needs in the areas of literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional learning/educating the whole child, educators know how critical it is to have access to tools and resources that support the health, wellness, and academic achievement of everyone within their school community.

While administrators and leaders find themselves stretched-thin managing the continued and ever-changing challenges brought on by COVID, they have also been blessed with the largest financial opportunity in history to invest in their teachers through relief funding sources like ESSER and EANS. So, just what are Catholic schools across the country doing with these funds – and Title II-A funds – to maximize use and effectiveness to address needs across all levels of PK-12 education?

In the summer of 2021, teachers at three schools in Miami, Florida – Immaculata – La Salle High School, St. John Neumann High School, and St. Bonaventure Catholic School – outlined strategic professional development plans, starting with an intensive review of their current curriculums. Grade level teams and departments dedicated one to two weeks to the process, with an initial review and realignment of standards, to focus instruction on learning loss. With guidance and support from FACTS Ed onsite and virtual content experts, the schools will continue their work through 2023 to monitor progress, review data, and brainstorm additional solutions. Ongoing collaboration – through PD sessions, webinars, pop-up coaching, PLCs, and department meetings – is designed to ensure teachers and leaders are supported and successful throughout all stages of planning, redevelopment, and implementation. (As a bonus, teachers were eligible to receive stipends for their summer work!)

Alishea Jurado, Ed.D., dean of innovation from Immaculata – La Salle High School shared about their school’s strategy:

“FACTS Ed was instrumental in helping us develop a PD program targeting the specific needs of our teachers in preparing to return to school for the 2021-2022 school year. Working together, we developed Curriculum Realignment Week, a week in the summer where teachers met within both their department and grade-level groups to reevaluate curriculum to support students returning from virtual and hybrid learning. In addition, we were able to focus even more on intentionally embedding SEL activities into curriculum to help support our students. Teachers who participated in this PD opportunity shared they felt more prepared to start the next school year in comparison to other years, left with practical ideas, strategies, and tools to implement, deepened their relationships with their colleagues, and they felt better prepared to meet the social-emotional needs of their students.”

We know that outlining a strategic/PD plan can be time consuming, so other schools like Immaculata – La Salle High School are using FACTS Ed’s customizable PD packages as the launch point for the process. Because research shows that professional development training should be at least fourteen (14) hours to influence instruction, the packages (see examples listed below) offer flexible solutions that allow leaders to select the delivery model(s) (onsite, virtual, on-demand, coaching, etc.) and schedule(s) that best meet their needs (we facilitated remote and on-demand PD sessions to over 24,000 educators throughout the pandemic). Our network of expert facilitators and valuable partners like Kognito (SEL), LMU iDEAL (Blended Learning/STEM), help us to maintain exceptional Net Promotor Scores and remain hyper-focused on our mission: to change the trajectory of a child’s life.

Sample Packages:

  • Addressing Learning Loss
  • Curriculum Implementation
  • Redevelopment of Instructional Plans
  • Social Emotional Learning and Trauma-Informed Instruction (Kognito)
  • System-or School-wide Programs (LMU iDeal: Blended Learning-STEM)
  • Teacher and Leader Formation
  • Understanding Data and Using it to Improve Teaching and Learning

Visit FACTS Ed’s Professional Development page to learn more.

Growing Leadership in Catholic Schools

The following blog was contributed by Kathy Mears of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and from all types of backgrounds. In Catholic education, we are seeking diversity. We are seeking leaders who look more like the students we are serving.

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As the immigrants who came from Western Europe discovered in the 1800’s, this vast country of ours holds much promise and hope. Now as we welcome those from Central and South America, Asia and Europe, Catholics in the United States understand that our Church will be enriched and grow because of our fellow disciples from around the world. 

Identifying and supporting new leaders is something NCEA takes very seriously.  Working with the University of Notre Dame, NCEA is a part of LEAD: Latino Educator and Administrator Development program. The goal of LEAD is to strengthen the Latino voice in both individual classrooms and schools. This initiative is designed to invite, advance and retain Latino educators in Catholic schools, as well as develop a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that exist in this landscape.

This past week, I was invited to participate in the project and to meet in person members of our first cohort. I was so inspired by their dedication to their students, to our faith and the Church. Their desire to lead in our classrooms and schools was strong and gave me much hope for the future of Catholic education because the passion and love that they showed for the work ahead.

Students in our schools deserve to learn from people who look like them. They need to know that all people have opportunities to serve and lead and that people who look like them are leaders, are teachers, are principals, are disciples of Jesus. 

NCEA is committed to support and to help develop the skills, knowledge and talents of all people who want to serve God by serving others in our Catholic schools. We know that there is much work and the laborers are few, but we know that as people who are passionate about children and our faith step forward, we will be successful in developing our students into saints and scholars.

Upcoming NCEA Webinars

NCEA webinars cover trending and need-to-know topics relevant to your career in Catholic education.  All participants will receive the recorded webinar and presentation files for reference and inclusion among other professional learning resources.  For inquiries regarding webinars, contact Andrea Chavez-Kopp, Assistant Director for Educational and Formation Programs at

Click here to view a complete list of upcoming webinars along with descriptions. #NCEAWebinars

Upcoming Webinars

Missionary Discipleship Webinar Series: The Value and Quality of All Life

Register for the series!

January 25, 2017

Introduction to Singing and Conducting Gregorian Chant
Presented in Partnership with American Federation Pueri Cantores

January 29, 2018
Register 4 PM EST

The Power of Simple Video
Presented by: Rushton Hurley

January 30, 2018
Register 4 Pm EST
Register 7 PM EST

Welcome to the Modern Learning Revolution
Presented in Partnership with Office Depot

January 31, 2018
Register 4 PM EST

Digital Bullying: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know
Presented by: Jodee Blanco

February 1, 2018
Register 4 PM EST
Register 7 PM EST

Unlocking Student Talent
Presented in Partnership with Renaissance

Register for the series!

February 6, 2018
Register 4 PM EST

STEM: Bringing it All Together
Presented in Partnership with LabLearner

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February 7, 2018

Who Runs the World? Reaching Millennial Moms of Preschoolers
Presented in Partnership with renweb, A Facts Company

February 8, 2018
Register 4 PM EST
Register 7 PM EST

Service Learning as an Opportunity to Create Global Citizens
Presented in Partnership with Cross Catholic Outreach

February 13, 2018
Register 4 PM EST
Register 7 PM EST

Dos and Don’ts of Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest Advertising
Presented in Partnership with renweb, A Facts Company

February 15, 2018
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Didn’t have the chance to check in with NCEA Talk each day? We’ve got you covered. Each Friday NCEA Talk will post a roundup of Catholic education news and resources from the week.

In case you missed it…

November Catholic Social Teaching

Episode 080: Catholic Schools Market Research – Jennifer Robbins

Improving Instruction and Increasing Learning

Marketing Catholic Schools Through Leadership: 2017 CLS Keynote Address

Guest Blog: Dr. Kevin Baxter on California Dreamin’

Catholic School Matters Top Five

Additional Resources:

Student to Student: A Catholic School Response for Hurricane Relief 2017 – #StudentToStudent

Catholic School Educators: Call to Discipleship

NCEA is pleased to share its new weekly reflection series “Catholic School Educators: Call to Discipleship” for the new liturgical year. This series shares reflections for educators contributed by Justin McClain, teacher at Bishop McNamara High School and author of Called to Teach: Daily Inspiration for Catholic Educators. The weekly reflections are a regular feature in our Friday Weekly Round Up blog posts on – check back each Friday for a new weekly reflection.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 29, 2017

Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:34-40

“[Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’”

Catholic school communities would do well to remind our students that when we place our love for God first, everything else falls into place. It is far easier to love our neighbor when we love God foremost.

In what ways do you lead your students to an awareness of God’s love for them?

The National Catholic Educational Association Stands Ready to Help Battered Catholic Schools in Texas and Louisiana

Long-term help is expected to repair and rebuild Catholic school communities.

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) is reaching out to those Catholic school communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. At this time, connecting with dioceses and schools is difficult. Most communication services are unavailable or unreliable and thousands of residents have been displaced. The devastating rains and flooding effects are expected to continue through most of the week, but the aftermath will be long-lasting and varied.

With a forecast of more heavy rain along the upper Texas coast and into northern and western Louisiana, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) continues to petition for prayers on behalf of those communities already affected and for those who are in the path of Hurricane Harvey.  We pray that God will grant them the strength to endure what has occurred and what lies ahead.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy suggests the best way to help is by donating to a “trusted organization that has the ability to provide aid where it is needed most.” NCEA is in contact with Catholic Charities USA, as a trusted supporter of relief efforts, and encourages members to visit the Catholic Charities USA website for information on ways to help or to make a donation.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Texas Private Schools Association released information on how private schools, including Catholic schools, and the families in these communities can get help as they begin the recovery phase following Hurricane Harvey.

Anyone seeking informational resources should contact the DOE toll free at 1-844-348-4082 or by email at Any schools that need to contact the Harvey Relief resources are also welcome to copy the Office of Non-Public Education (ONPE) at on the message.

If you are a Texas private school that has been affected and need help, please send an email to, or call (512) 499-8377.

NCEA will do its best to keep members informed as information becomes available on ways to help Catholic schools affected by the storm. Disaster relief efforts are underway in Texas, but rebuilding efforts will not be known until the storm has passed and damage assessments can accurately be made.

NCEA asks that everyone continues to pray for those who have been impacted by the storm.

Additional Resources:

FEMA Public Assistance and Educational Facilities

NCEA Stands Ready to Help Battered Catholic Schools in Texas

Engage Your Students With BreakoutEDU

The following post was contributed by Ryan Lombardozzi, Social Media Coordinator at NCEA.

What is BreakoutEDU and why should it be implemented in your classroom? According to Breakout EDU, BreakoutEDU is an immersive learning game platform that facilitates teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box.

During Barb Gilman and Debbie Fucoloro’s session, they had the attendees break out into four groups to solve four different puzzle boxes. Immediately the teachers formed groups and began collaborating and creatively assessing how to solve each lock.

It was a fun and engaging way to break your way out of the breakout box! said teachers Kari Higgins and Diana Whitman.

10 Reasons to play BreakOutEDU:

  1. It’s fun for everyone
  2. It’s adaptive to any subject area
  3. It’s promotes collaboration and team-building
  4. It develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills
  5. It enhances communication skills
  6. It challenges players to persevere
  7. It builds inference skills
  8. Students learn to work under pressure
  9. It’s student centered
  10. It’s inquiry-based learning at it’s best

To purchase your own BreakoutEDU box, please visit or learn how to make your own!

Fundraiser vs. Institution Builder: A Preferred Leadership Profile for Catholic Schools- Part 3

In this three-part series, Bob Regan discusses the most effective traits in a transformational school leader.


In Part I of this blog series discussing the “fundraiser fallacy,” Bob suggested that fundraising, while an important element in the preferred leadership profile for Catholic schools, is insufficient in achieving transformational change and he laid the groundwork for a more holistic and visionary leader which he calls an Institution Builder or “I-B” leader. In Part II, Bob shared two real-life narratives from his search experience with Catholic schools and proposed several important conclusions that may be drawn from those scenarios. In this third and final post, Bob will provide a comprehensive introduction to the Institution Builder as the preferred leadership profile for Catholic schools seeking lasting, transformational change.

A Preferred Profile for Catholic Schools

As stated earlier in this series, I believe the right solution for Catholic schools seeking transformational change is what I have come to call the “I-B” leader or Institution Builder. Fundraising narrowly defined is necessary but not sufficient as a credible profile capable of driving change and sustaining high performance.

Although certainly rare and valued as such for their scarcity, I-B leaders are no more elusive or difficult to find than great fundraisers and can be sourced in multiple venues. But you need to remove any flies from your eyes and search broadly and asymmetrically. Wherever mission is core to an institution’s purposes, there you may find an I-B leader. This includes schools and colleges as well as mission-critical non-profits such as foundations, associations, and charities − and even certain corporate platforms. Every high-performing Catholic school I have ever known is led by an I-B leader. They are alike in many ways, but are also variations of a wholesome theme. It is not skill set or career experience that unites them but qualities of character and leadership. Your vetting needs to focus on validating those qualities.

As you search, remember Peter Drucker’s admonition that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Fit is everything.

Remember also the progenitor effects of “place”: precisely where one has acquired his or her management habits or learned acceptable norms of corporate behavior is just as important as the details of those experiences themselves. Place matters − as the child is truly father to the man. Beware the leader who is coming from a bad place and is already socialized (unknowingly) to the worst practices. Those practices are coming with him (or her).

In some ways, I-B leadership is a distinctly Catholic concept because these gifted visionaries are not just passionate about mission but subservient to mission. It is mission that gives meaning to their leadership. They see leadership of a Catholic school as an honor and a privilege and they use their anointed platforms for bold and worthy purposes. They also view institutions organically and value every facet, feature, function and person, from custodial to instructional, to governance and sponsorship. Joyful and fundamentally relational, I-B leaders walk the corridors of their institutions in vigilant exuberance, empowering others by acknowledging their good work and encouraging high achievement. The sheer act of noticing is enriching and emboldening to staffs, fusing an institutional alliance that is strong and loyal from the inside out and bottom up. Under I-B leadership, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, and through a kind of fusion effect create an immensely powerful sense of community in which every individual is valued as a member of a belief-centered family, Catholic and non-Catholic members alike.

One of the greatest relational assets available to Catholic schools has always been grateful families eager to be engaged. I-B leaders know this instinctively. Without burdening busy adults with unreasonable requests, I-B leaders adopt effective family engagement practices that make it easy for this vast reservoir of goodwill to be leveraged for dynamic purposes. Properly engaged and motivated, families become fluent advocates in their communities, viral and ardent. I-B leaders know that familial goodwill is multi-generational and dependable, and like the solar energy that surrounds us daily, suffusing our lives with untoward warmth and blessings, it is abundant, free, and infinitely renewable. There may be no greater source of institutional vitality than engaged families, and I-B leaders know this and capitalize on it.

I-B leaders also take their responsibilities seriously and internalize what it means to be the chief executive officer of a Catholic school. They focus relentlessly on three things: enrollments, Catholic identity, and the quality of the student experience. Without making excuses or assigning blame, they know that intractable market and demographic forces have unfairly placed many fine Catholic schools at risk, and they use their talents and leadership platform to raise the profile and value proposition of their school and to “create demand” for the unique gifts of a Catholic education. As accountable, generative leaders, they also make it their personal responsibility to secure whatever resources are necessary to support and sustain the mission of their institutions.

As for fundraising itself, I-B leaders are the first to acknowledge its critical importance. But they define fundraising holistically and consistent with the way they approach their work. They know that effective fundraising must include all sources of revenue — most of all, growing and sustaining enrollments. They also know that vision inspires purpose, and for that reason work tirelessly to elevate aspirations and achieve communal support for big ideas and transformative agendas. To the I-B leader, effective fundraising can be defined as follows:

Effective fundraising is the earned outcome of a vision well formed, and bold,
inclusive of community, and constructed on a bedrock of enduring mission.

All elements are essential to the definition. This is the transformative work of the Institution Builder. This is not to suggest that the work is easy or that simply saying it makes it so. The I-B leader still needs to formulate a complex plan for change and execute that plan with discipline and rigor. In this regard, institution building is best regarded as the strategic lens through which the change agenda is conceived. This is how Catholic schools will persist and thrive going forward.

In his disarmingly moving prose poem, “A Servant to Servants,” Robert Frost counsels, “The best way out is always through.” This seemingly simple observation is a succinct reminder of the lessons of failed leadership and governance. There are no easy solutions, no short cuts or quick fixes. The human journey is a pull-through, existential scrum, rewarding rigorous process and honest reflection. As suggested above, boards would be well advised to begin the Head of School search process with a difficult conversation around the current condition of the school, how it compares with its peer institutions, and what kind of leadership will be required to address systemic challenges and take the school to the next level. It is hard work, for sure, but the results will be cathartic and self-renewing. Once hired, the new Head of School will also be well advised to do the equally hard work of vision setting and institution building before presuming to go big with one’s asks.

If done well and thoughtfully, and with graceful regard for the foundational importance of mission, the results will be transformational, lasting, and, perhaps best of all, “earned.”

I hope you found this three-part series helpful and will share your thoughts. Let’s continue to learn from each other how best to serve our Catholic schools.

Bob Regan is the leader of the CS&A Search Group’s Catholic Schools Practice. He can be reached at