When Michael Scalco was appointed earlier this month as the president/principal of Archbishop Rummel High School for an interim year, he recognized that one of his first tasks would be to answer questions.
And there were a lot of them, starting with, what about enrollment?
Archbishop Rummel is not unlike many other Catholic elementary and high schools that have experienced a drop in enrollment in recent years, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Scalco, a member of Archbishop Rummel’s Class of 1967, isn’t making excuses but is simply being realistic when he says there have been multiple factors in the drop from 1,200 or 1,300 students about 10 years ago to an estimated 820 for the upcoming academic year.
“Our alums are worried because they remember the days of 1,200 and 1,300 students,” Scalco said. “When I was here, I was in the second graduating class and we were filled to gills. But there are so many other factors to consider. There’s all the competition out there in East Jefferson, and we’re dealing with demographics. We just don’t have the number of kids anymore. The new Holy Cross is a big factor. That physical plant is beautiful and hard to compete with. And the magnet schools out here have been a factor.”
“But I’ve got a lot of talented people in this building, and we’re going to do fine,” Scalco added.
Smaller teenage pool
In tracking enrollment trends, Scalco said Rummel is getting the same percentage of students from East Jefferson as it did years ago, but the total pool of teenage boys is smaller.
Scalco was Rummel’s junior high principal from 2002-05 and then served as principal from August 2005 through July 2008. His first month as principal coincided with Hurricane Katrina, and he helped president Michael Begg establish the Rummel Transition School that made a home for hundreds of displaced students, using a two-platoon instructional day.
“After evacuating for the storm, several of us returned, made repairs to the facility, and opened Archbishop Rummel on Oct. 3 with 1,300 students,” Scalco said. “Two days later, the Rummel Transition School opened with 1,300 displaced students. That was our finest hour.”
After his term as high school principal, Scalco was named vice president in 2008, and he was succeeded as principal by Thomas Moran. Both Begg and Moran resigned their respective positions earlier this month.
“Mike did a lot of good things for the school and made some changes,” Scalco said. “Sometimes change is tough, but he was very dedicated. Mr. Moran was also very dedicated. They both put in a lot of time and effort.”
As president/principal for the 2011-12 academic year, Scalco said realizes there are many tasks to accomplish over the next several months.
“I have several top goals that I have set for myself, and they are to increase enrollment, to improve morale, to strengthen academics, and to improve the school’s relationship with its alumni,” Scalco said.
Rummel now has more than 12,000 alumni, and Scalco said the school needs them to send their sons to Rummel and also offer financial support to the school.
Before coming back to Rummel in 2002, Scalco taught for 21 years in the public school system and in other Catholic schools. He was the assistant principal in charge of academics and discipline at St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace from 1992-2002.
He also served at the Glade School in LaPlace and as assistant principal at Leon Godchaux Junior High in LaPlace and East St. John High School in Reserve. He started as a civics and geography teacher at Leon Godchaux in 1972.
Scalco said he hopes to be a calming influence throughout the administrative transition. The archdiocese will begin a national search in September for candidates for the president’s position.
“The archbishop told me to go ahead and apply if I wanted to,” Scalco said. “I just want to let parents know that everything is under control. All the staff is hired for this year, and we’re going to start school on time and have a good school year. I’m looking for a good year.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.