An excellent, short explanation of the President-Principal model of school governance

With Bishop Kelley High School’s new principal Jim Franz now on the job, the question has come up, “What’s the difference between a president and a principal?” I addressed it in a previous blog post, but just found something better.

Here’s the best, succinct explanation of the difference between a president and a principal. It comes from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Mr. G. Joseph Peters.

God bless!

Fr. O’Brien

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Is School Starting Earlier This Year? No.

It’s a question that comes up every year: “Is school starting earlier this year?” The short answer, at least for Bishop Kelley High School, is “no.” Our first day of school in 2017 is August 15th. Here’s how that compares to first days of school over the last 15 years:


2016 8/16

2015 8/12

2014 8/13

2013 8/14

2012 8/13

2011 8/12

2010 8/12

2009 8/12

2008 8/11

2007 8/13

2006 8/15

2005 8/12

2004 8/13

2003 8/18

2002 8/16

2001 8/20

We’ve started earlier. We’ve started later.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien


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Manners at Bishop Kelley High School

A wise person once said, “The people who really know your character are waiters and clerks.” 

One of my favorite things to do every year is to make a presentation to our incoming freshman class on the subject of manners. It’s often spoken of by older generations that manners have been lost. At Bishop Kelley, we are not giving up the fight! We emphasize these points and expect students to follow them.

Here’s what I’ll be sharing with the students next week. I hope you find it helpful.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” –Matthew 7:12

A Bishop Kelley student…

  • represents Bishop Kelley wherever they go in person and online.
  • uses “please” and “thank you” a lot.
  • makes eye contact with adults as they pass by and greets them warmly. He or she says, “Good morning Father” if greeting a priest or “Good morning Mr./Mrs.  _____” or if the student does not know the name of the teacher, he or she simply says, “Good morning/afternoon.”
  • finds ways to serve others and jumps at the opportunity to do so. Example: Doors!
  • is on time and prepared (every class, every day!).
  • makes everyone feel included especially in social situations (lunch and dances).
  • cleans up after themselves and picks up trash even if it does not belong to them.
  • stands at attention and is quiet during prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.
  • dresses modestly so as not to draw attention to themselves.
  • shows up for meetings and commitments to which they said they would attend.
  • does not makes jokes about race, religion, gender, or ethnicity.
  • helps a fellow student or visitor find their way. He/She asks, “May I help you find something?” when he/she notices someone who is not sure where to go.
  • stays at their desk until the bell rings.
  • says “excuse me” when walking in front of someone.
  • does not crowd the hallways and locker areas.
  • helps a student or teacher who drops something in the hall or classroom.
  • offers to carry the books of a fellow student with a lot of books or who is on crutches.
  • (female) carries a purse that is of normal size so as not to knock over her fellow students (if she carries a purse at all).
  • (male) offers to get a chair for a female student who does not have one. He may even offer her his own chair and find another somewhere else.
  • uses their cell phone appropriately.
  • acts appropriately in the chapel. It’s a place of prayer!

“Life is short, but there is always enough time for courtesy.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

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Homeschooling v. Catholic Schools- It’s Not a Competition

“It’s not a competition.” That was my first reaction to an article send to me by a friend with the news that the number of American children who are homeschooled now exceeds the number of children in parochial schools.  The numbers are:

  • In 1980, about 10,000 families chose to homeschool.
  • As of 2012, 1.8M K-12 students were homeschooled. That’s 3.4% of the K-12 school population. That number is now more than 2M.

Conventional wisdom would say that I should be against homeschooling. I run a Catholic high school and anyone choosing homeschool education for their high school age child is one less student coming to Bishop Kelley High School. I don’t see it that way. I am a big believer in the Catholic teaching that “parents are the primary educators of their children.” For many families that is a Catholic education. In the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, that’s about 4,000 students in 13 schools. For these families, they’ve decided that a Catholic school is the best place for their children. An increasing number of parents in Oklahoma and around the country believe that a homeschool education is best for their children. This is a good thing.

So as a school leader, I’m not threatened by an increasing number of homeschool families. It’s not a competition. Those parents believe that homeschooling is the best way to educate their child just as parents who send their children to Bishop Kelley believe that we’re the best option. Several options for parents, including public, charter, and online, are good for kids, good for Oklahoma, and good for this country. It’s my hope that the state and federal government encourage more options for families, not fewer.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien

P.S.- A new private high school for boys is opening in north Tulsa. Another option for Tulsa families!


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Catholic Schools, School Choice, and the NY Times

This morning’s New York Times website includes an opinion piece by author Katherine Stewart entitled “What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean.” Stewart makes the case that those who are putting forward arguments in favor of school choice are doing so from a position of religious fundamentalism. Read the article for yourself but I think it’s unfair. Yes, some who support school choice legislation at the local, state, and federal levels are motivated by their religious beliefs. What’s wrong with that? All kinds of people support specific legislative agendas based on their religious beliefs. It’s been that way since before the United States was the United States. People living their faith in the public square should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

Specifically, on the issue of school choice, I personally believe in it and support it because of my Catholic faith that holds that parents are the primary educators of their children. Out of that belief, parents know their children best and should have an active role, supported by local, state, and federal government, to choose the best school for their child. In some cases, that school may be religious. If I were not religious, as many in the school choice movement are not, I’d still be in favor of it, because every child is different and not every school is good for every child. In our current system, most children attend a school chosen for them based on their zip code. Just because a school is close to their residence, why would that school be the best place for them?

To imply that advocates for school choice are racist and theocratic is not only unfair, it’s untrue.

God bless you!

Fr. O’Brien



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Personal Financial Literacy at Bishop Kelley

For all the news about the dysfunctional Oklahoma education system, a decision made a few years ago, I believe, will pay off in the long run. For the last several years, the State of Oklahoma has required a course in personal financial literacy in order to graduate. Here at Bishop Kelley, we’ve embraced it hoping to ensure not only our students spiritual and educational futures be solid, but also their financial futures.

Reports abound of the state of American family finances and the news is not good. The main responsibility for teaching children about finances falls to parents. It’s our hope that the personal financial literacy curriculum we offer will supplement and enhance what parents are already teaching their children.

We offer the course during the school year and as an online summer offering.  I think it will pay off in the long run and give our students a solid foundation on which to build a secure financial future.

God bless you.

Fr. O’Brien

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Bishop Kelley Academics Are #1

When I started as President of Bishop Kelley High School back in 2009, we engaged with the Littlefield Agency on a brand study that led to a new mission statement, new logos, and a renewed understanding of who we are and where we need to be. The brand study consisted of surveys and interviews with current students, parents, and teachers. It involved alumni input as well as the thoughts of future BK parents and students. It took months and led to mountains of data. What became clear about how people viewed us was a couple things:

  • People saw BK as a Catholic school with good Christian values
  • People saw BK as a well-rounded school with a niche for all students
  • People saw BK as a school with a strong athletic culture and a growing fine arts programs

And much to the chagrin of our administration, faculty, and staff, people saw Bishop Kelley as a school that was academically behind other Tulsa area schools like Holland Hall, Cascia Hall and Booker T. Washington.

I remember when I first saw the results. I didn’t like it but thought that these impressions might be permanent and thus not worth the effort to change. But when David Littlefield and his team came to BK and presented to our faculty, I knew we had to do something about it. When the results were unveiled, many on the faculty were mad. They knew that our academics were the “real deal” and on par or better than these other schools. We had not done a great job of selling it.

So over the last few years, we’ve taken on that task. We want to let people know that, yes, Bishop Kelley is a Catholic school rooted in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church. We make the Sacraments available to our students, encourage Vocations, teach Theology, and give our students ample opportunity to put their faith in action. And yes, we do seek to be well rounded offering a place for every student. We have 40 clubs, numerous sports, and that growing fine arts program is now blossoming to include hundreds of students each year. And, yes, our academic program is a very good one.

I typically hesitate to use the word “great” lest we become complacent but through a variety of factors including an outstanding faculty, increased summer offerings, increased before and after school tutoring, an expanded iConnect program, The Brother Bernardine Scholars Program, better access to technology, a more robust library program, ACT prep classes, and much more, our academic reputation has improved. What’s important to note is that our reputation has improved because our academics have improved. AP and ACT tests scores are at all time high. This year we had 10 National Merit -Semi-Finalists and 10 Commended Scholars, more than any private school in the State of Oklahoma and 3rd only to two large public high schools, one in the Tulsa area and one near Oklahoma City.  This follows other years of similar success for National Merit recognition.

All this is to say, that Bishop Kelley Academics are the REAL DEAL. That perception, in comparison to our friends at other schools, hasn’t always been the case but our recent success is changing minds. With the recent appointment of our new Principal Jim Franz, I have no doubt that our upward trajectory will continue. With our largest freshman class ever about to start, we think the word is spreading!

God bless you!



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