Ecole Classique founder Sal Federico, who taught for 70 years, dies at 93

Tuesday, 10 October 2017, 08:08:21 PM. Sal Federico, the founder of Ecole Classique and a teacher for seven decades, died early Sunday morning, his son David confirmed.

Sal Federico, the founder of Ecole Classique and a teacher for seven decades, died early Sunday morning, his son David confirmed.

Federico was 93.

Despite his age, his death came as a surprise to his family, David Federico said. The elder Federico showed no signs of slowing down. He still lived alone and showed up to school every day, where he taught two geometry classes.

"He taught his two classes on Friday and drove himself home," Federico said. Saturday morning, he went to one of David Federico's sister's houses to ride out Hurricane Nate, he said. He went to sleep that night as normal, but never woke up, Federico said.

Federico and his wife Rose Marie founded Ecole Classique in uptown New Orleans in 1956, beginning with a kindergarten and adding a grade every year. In 1979, they moved the school to its current Metairie location.

His four children followed him into the business: David Federico is the high school principal, his brother Greg is the elementary principal, sister Julie is the admissions director and another sister, Gina, is the preschool director.

The school remains one of a dwindling number of family-owned and family-run private schools, Federico said. And his dedication earned admiration from others in the business.

"His whole life was in that school," said Kyle France, President of Kehoe-France Northshore, another family-run private school. "That takes incredible focus and dedication and passion."

Federico's longevity is eye-catching, but according to those who knew him, what truly set him apart was his focus on students. He maintained an open-door policy, telling a reporter last year, "If any student has a problem or if they want to just come in to talk or even eat their lunch, they are welcomed in my office any time.”

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"He was the type of man who gave everything to those kids," David Federico said. "He always looked for the underachievers to succeed."

David recounted the point at which Ecole Classique purchased the Sam Barthe School for Boys in 1979. At first, it seemed like a culture clash: the two schools were very different. Ecole was coed, Barthe was not, for instance.

"We may have had a little different type of philsophy," David Federico recalled. "But he gained the respect of those boys. He was there to educate them and make them better."

Some of those kids became close friends of the Federicos, he said. "It was extremely difficult but he did it," David Federico said.

Tributes and remembrances were pouring in on social media as word of his passing spread throughout the Ecole community over the weekend.

"Mr. Sal was such and inspiration to all and a true leader and educator," wrote one former student, echoing the thoughts of many.

Sal Federico is survived by four children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Services will be held at Lake Lawn Cemetery in Metairie Friday, with visitation beginning at 11 a.m. and a mass at 2 p.m.

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