Catholic League rebirth closer as Shaw will play up
When Salesian Father Louis Molinelli summoned me to a meeting in his office last week to say that Archbishop Shaw will choose to compete in Class 5A athletics starting in 2013, I realized that the Catholic League may soon come out of its brief hibernation.
The league of New Orleans Catholic boys’ and girls’ schools ceased to exist as an entity of its own in the years following the hurricane of 2005, when enrollments at Holy Cross Shaw and St. Augustine fell below the Class 5A minimum required to compete in the state’s highest class of prep schools.
But thanks to the persistence of Jesuit principal Michael Giambelluca, who floated “play-up” proposals through three LHSAA conventions, the state’s principals finally agreed to give the schools an option to play one class up by a vote of 158-125 in January.
Immediately, Holy Cross principal Dr. Joseph Murry and his cohort at St. Augustine, Donald Boucree, declared their schools’ intentions. Shaw was the lone holdout until Father Molinelli, Shaw’s director/president told us that – after meeting with the faculty, coaches, alumni and friends – he and Shaw’s principal, Father Louis Konopelski, agreed it would be more beneficial to reunite with the other Catholic schools than to remain as the lone school outside the loop.
“We feel it is more important to be a Catholic family of schools, because we all share the same values of who we are as Catholic schools,” he said. “We understand one another and work well together, and as Catholic school educators, we have to look at the total education of a student.”
Father Molinelli also said that Shaw will increase the amount of financial aid to encourage enrollment for families who want their sons to receive a Catholic education.
Giambelluca was delighted to hear the news, noting, “We are certainly happy that Shaw is taking advantage of this opportunity. Now all we have to do is hope the district will be reconfigured in such a way to get us all back together.”
LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson will reconfigure districts after he (1) receives the projected enrollment figures from all 426 member schools and (2) sees which schools declare their intentions to play up.
If Henderson re-establishes the group, the new district would consist of Jesuit, Brother Martin, Archbishop Rummel, Archbishop Shaw, St. Augustine, Holy Cross and probably Chalmette. The addition of the St. Bernard public school to the mix would create a seven-team district.
“We would certainly welcome Chalmette, which we have always considered an honorary member of the Catholic League,” Giambelluca said.
I expect that Jefferson Parish public schools will want their own district, too, which would include John Ehret, Bonnabel, Grace King, Higgins, West Jefferson and East Jefferson and Helen Cox should they choose to play up.
It’s now all up to Henderson. And to echo Giambelluca, “I’ll breathe easier after the final district plan comes out.”