Archbishop Rummel High School principal Michael Scalco to step down _lowres

Michael Scalco

The principal of Archbishop Rummel High School has tendered his resignation at the Metairie Catholic school, which has faced continued declining enrollment.

Michael Scalco, who is also the school’s chief executive officer, informed the Archdiocese of New Orleans of his intention to step down after the current school year, though it’s not clear whether it was his decision or he was asked to do so.

Sarah McDonald, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Scalco informed the archdiocese of his decision before the Mardi Gras holiday, but she declined to provide more details.

She said a search committee has been formed and the archdiocese is taking applications through the Office of Catholic Schools to replace Scalco.

Some of Scalco’s relatives, however, told on Monday that he was forced out because of declining enrollment, which began before he took over the top post in 2011 but continued unabated throughout his tenure as part of a broader local and national trend among Catholic schools.

According to figures from the state Department of Education, Rummel had 1,358 students in the 1999/2000 school year, roughly the same as its Orleans Parish Catholic school peers Jesuit High School and Brother Martin High School, which had 1,396 and 1,468 students, respectively.

Jesuit’s enrollment has remained stable, at 1,414 in the 2013/14 school year, while Brother Martin’s has declined 17 percent during the same period.

Rummel, however, had 702, about half of what it had 15 years earlier.

For the current school year, Rummel reported 683 students — a figure that includes eighth-graders — to the archdiocese’s newspaper, The Clarion Herald.

Scalco’s office said he is out of town attending a convention, and The New Orleans Advocate’s efforts to reach him and members of the school’s advisory board were unsuccessful.

Catholic school enrollment has been on the decline across the country, as families grow smaller and increased competition from charter and magnet public schools has many families reconsidering the cost of sending children to Catholic schools.

From 2003 to 2013, enrollment at Catholic schools at all levels fell by about 23 percent nationally and 28 percent in New Orleans, according to information provided by the archdiocese last fall.

Locally, the demographic shifts that took place after Hurricane Katrina have been another factor as Catholic school enrollment in the New Orleans area dropped from 52,500 in 2000 to 38,000 in 2013.

Some of the issues could be specific to population and demographic shifts in Orleans and Jefferson parishes and the resurgence of Jefferson’s public school system.

The archdiocese said last fall that the area’s 60 Catholic schools have lost about 500 students per year since the storm. Some Catholic elementary schools have been closed, and in some cases schools have been combined.

In 2007, for example, two all-girl schools, Archbishop Blenk High School in Gretna and Immaculata High School in Marrero, had to merge, locating on the campus of the latter and becoming Academy of Our Lady. In its first year, the school was at capacity with 698 students. For the 2013-14 school year, it reported 462 students.

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to include entire student enrollment figures for Rummel, Jesuit and Brother Martin. The previous version looked only at high school enrollment — which the state considers grade 10, 11 and 12 — for comparison purposes.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.