Oakcrest’s Mongelluzzo retires, but his mentoring will continue

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“Coach Mongo” is presented with a baseball bat recognizing his years of coaching the Oakcrest baseball team. From left are teacher Vince Sera, Mongelluzzo and Athletic Director Dave Bennett. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) “Coach Mongo” is presented with a baseball bat recognizing his years of coaching the Oakcrest baseball team. From left are teacher Vince Sera, Mongelluzzo and Athletic Director Dave Bennett. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

GALLOWAY – “The kids and the teachers did me well,” Tony Mongelluzzo said Thursday, Jan. 31 – his last day as Oakcrest High School principal.

And you’d be hard pressed to find a student or staffer at any level who wouldn’t say the same thing about Mongelluzzo, 57, who left after spending 31 years at Oakcrest, the last 10 as principal.

He was thinking about retiring at the end of last year, and then he planned to be finished by Christmas. But school projects can be pesky, and he finally decided in December that he’d feel comfortable leaving in February.

“There are a lot of new programs,” Mongelluzzo said. “Someone should start fresh. (Interim Principal) Dan Money is a good man. He genuinely cares about kids and teachers. And there’s great experience that he brings.”

The retiring principal said he had a young administrative team and he wanted to get them going in the right direction.

“I also want to thank the community,” Mongelluzzo said. “And (information official) Julie Hazard – what a great job she does.”

The retiring principal has some plans of his own as well.

He said he wants to take some time off, play golf and watch the Red Sox.

He’s a lifelong Red Sox fan, but not because he has any roots in New England.

“I was born and raised in Buena,” Mongelluzzo said. “Early on, the Red Sox were one of the first teams I ever watched. TV games were only on Saturday in the day. It was mostly Red Sox, and Yankees – I wasn’t going to root for them.”

He said he liked watching Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Petrocelli and enjoyed the unique ballpark they played in.

And his retirement isn’t permanent or at least full-time, he said.

“I want to go back to school and get certified as a mentor to new administrators,” Mongelluzzo said. “I’ll enjoy getting involved, working with the younger people and seeing new schools.”

He said mentoring has been an ongoing role in his career.

“You work with the new teachers coming on board,” Mongelluzzo said. “It’s great to watch them. It’s a great profession to be in.”

Jeri-Lynn Gatto, who spent many years at Oakcrest before becoming principal at Absegami High School in Galloway, said it’s been a privilege to work with Mongelluzzo for some 27 years. 

“In that time, we were classroom teachers together, supervisors, and finally we spent the last six years as principals in the Greater Egg Harbor High School District,” Gatto said. “A few things stand out about my experiences with Tony. First, no one could ever out-work him. He always did the work of more than one person, because in his mind, a job well done was all that counted.”

He truly loves teenagers and found no greater joy than seeing them be successful, she said. 

“In his mind, there was always a solution to whatever issue a student might be facing, and in whatever role he had, his main purpose was in helping a student and their family figure out how to be successful in the classroom, on an athletic field, on the stage, or more importantly in life,” Gatto said. 

When she left Oakcrest, she said, Mongelluzzo told her that it is always possible to replace a position, but never a person. 

“Upon his retirement, I feel the same way about him,” Gatto said. “His legacy is far-reaching in terms of the multitude of programs he generated over his career and the students whose lives he touched. Although the position can be replaced, we will never be able to replace the person that he has been to all of us.”

Absegami supervisor of guidance Bob Quinn was just one of more than 100 friends who stopped by to say goodbye on Mongelluzzo’s last day.

“It has been an honor to work with him and to have him as a personal friend,” Quinn said. “One of the first people I met when I came to Oakcrest High School in 1985 was Tony. We worked together as assistant football coaches under Head Coach Jack Bottinger and were primarily assigned to work with the freshman football team.”

Mongelluzzo took him under his wing, Quinn said, and made sure that he was comfortable.

“He introduced me to a number of key people at Oakcrest High School,” Quinn said. “Our common interests – baseball and the Boston Red Sox – led me to become an assistant baseball coach under Tony, who was the head baseball coach for the next 11 years.”

Mongelluzzo, he said, was a tremendous influence on him as a teacher.  

“He was a great resource for not only teaching materials, but more importantly his ability to personally connect with students and athletes,” Quinn said. “He has that rare ability to make each person feel that they are an important and contributing member of the group.  He always maintained high expectations for students and athletes, but was willing to provide the support needed to allow people to succeed.”

For 28 years Quinn worked with Mongelluzzo as a coach and colleague: teacher, counselor, supervisor and a member of the district administrative team.

“The best year of my professional life was working as a counselor with (Oakcrest Supervisor of Guidance) John Cocuzza under Tony’s leadership as the guidance supervisor at Oakcrest High School,” Quinn said. “I consider him to be one of the top five most influential people I have known in my personal and professional life.”

Mongelluzzo’s favorite motto is “Class, Pride and Dedication,” Quinn said.

“For many people these are just words,” Quinn said. “However, Tony has adopted these characteristics and incorporates them into everything he has ever been involved in.  He has always been a class act, he takes a tremendous amount of pride in everything he has done, and he has obviously dedicated his life to making Oakcrest High School a better place for students, parents and staff.”

His background as a guidance counselor and guidance supervisor brought a unique perspective to the principal's position at Oakcrest, Quinn said.

“Not many people make the jump from guidance supervisor to principal without experience at the assistant principal level,” Quinn said. “His overall knowledge and experience in working with the school community, academic curriculum, student activities, and athletics made him the best candidate for the position.”

Mongelluzzo’s constant presence, attention and focus on student achievement in the classroom, extracurricular activities and on the athletic fields made Oakcrest a very special place, Quinn said.  

“I believe his legacy is clearly defined by the number of staff members currently working at Oakcrest High School that are past graduates,” Quinn said. “What better way to pay tribute to the influence he has had on so many people than to return to work under him as the principal?”

Quinn also commented on Mongelluzzo’s plan to get into mentoring. 

“I can think of no better role for Tony now that he is retiring,” Quinn said. “The fortunate thing for Tony is that no additional training will be required.  He has spent his entire professional life mentoring people, so this will be an easy transition for him. His professional experiences will be a benefit to anyone he comes in contact with as a mentor.”

Hamilton Township Mayor Amy Gatto, daughter of the Absegami principal and an Oakcrest graduate, said she kept putting off writing something to say for Thursday’s farewell.

“Last night at about 8 p.m. I got started,” Gatto said. “By about midnight, I actually put fingers to keyboard. I realized I was procrastinating because this was one set of remarks I didn’t really want to write.” 

She said she couldn’t imagine what Oakcrest would be like without Mongelluzzo, and was saddened to think of future generations missing out on knowing him.

“I, like many, have benefited from his guidance, his wisdom and his kindness, both as a student and as a returning alumna,” Gatto said. “We’ve all gotten to experience his caring smile impart a welcoming warmness as you passed him in the hall or visited him at a game – the smile that let you know you were at home at the Oak.”

Before reading an official proclamation, Gatto said she wanted to conclude Mongelluzzo’s career by slightly revising the words he wrote in her yearbook at the end of her high school career:

“Thirty-five years – how quick,” she said to him. “I am so very proud of your accomplishments and very honored to have worked with you at OHS.  Best of luck and keep smiling.  Thanks – Gatto.”

Mongelluzzo, who lives in Vineland, said he plans to return.

“The kids are good for me,” he said. “There are great things happening. I’m going to come back and watch a baseball game and not have to worry about anything.”

And when he returns to watch a game, it will be at ‘The Anthony R. Mongelluzzo Baseball Field.’ 

Oakcrest Interim Principal Dan Money, left, congratulates retired Principal Tony Mongelluzzo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Oakcrest Interim Principal Dan Money, left, congratulates retired Principal Tony Mongelluzzo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Hamilton Township Mayor Amy Gatto presents a proclamation honoring Oakcrest Principal Tony Mongelluzzo at his retirement luncheon. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Hamilton Township Mayor Amy Gatto presents a proclamation honoring Oakcrest Principal Tony Mongelluzzo at his retirement luncheon. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Principal Anthony Mongelluzzo’s “A Team” – the administrative team – lines up for a final shot on his last day at Oakcrest Thursday, Jan. 31. From left are Guidance Supervisor John Cocuzza, Supervisor of English Noelle Jacquelin, Supervisor of Social Studies and Performing Arts Susan Foreman, Vice Principal Jaclyn Fresne, Mongelluzzo, Vice Principal Zachary Wurcel, Vice Principal Chris Penna, Athletic Supervisor Dave Bennett, and Supervisor of Math Jason Brown. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Principal Anthony Mongelluzzo’s “A Team” – the administrative team – lines up for a final shot on his last day at Oakcrest Thursday, Jan. 31. From left are Guidance Supervisor John Cocuzza, Supervisor of English Noelle Jacquelin, Supervisor of Social Studies and Performing Arts Susan Foreman, Vice Principal Jaclyn Fresne, Mongelluzzo, Vice Principal Zachary Wurcel, Vice Principal Chris Penna, Athletic Supervisor Dave Bennett, and Supervisor of Math Jason Brown. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Tony Mongelluzzo with English teacher/Drama Director Kim Tunney and English teacher Joe Costal. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Tony Mongelluzzo with English teacher/Drama Director Kim Tunney and English teacher Joe Costal. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

District Office staff are, from left: Leigh Hutter, Sue Giberson, Janis Ferguson, Sandy Labo, and Marian Gillespie. In front from left: Saranna Elkner, Tony Mongelluzzo, Barb Aiken, Business Administrator Charles Muller, Julie Hazard, Donna Blair and Kim Howells. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) District Office staff are, from left: Leigh Hutter, Sue Giberson, Janis Ferguson, Sandy Labo, and Marian Gillespie. In front from left: Saranna Elkner, Tony Mongelluzzo, Barb Aiken, Business Administrator Charles Muller, Julie Hazard, Donna Blair and Kim Howells. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

From left are Kevin Wiesner, Eric Anderson and Les Petty, all of the Oakcrest Physical Education Department. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) From left are Kevin Wiesner, Eric Anderson and Les Petty, all of the Oakcrest Physical Education Department. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Faculty members are, from left: Rich Pohlig, Joe Costal, Kate Adair, Patrick Weisback, Jason Thomas, Chip Lockwood and Chris Sopuch. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Faculty members are, from left: Rich Pohlig, Joe Costal, Kate Adair, Patrick Weisback, Jason Thomas, Chip Lockwood and Chris Sopuch. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

From left are Josh Miller, Darrell Edmonds, Michael Sykes, Alycia Molinelli, Barb Dell'Aringa, Mark Perez and John Commander. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) From left are Josh Miller, Darrell Edmonds, Michael Sykes, Alycia Molinelli, Barb Dell'Aringa, Mark Perez and John Commander. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Dance teacher Rachel Gaskill, left, and reading teacher Mary Lou Bouchard. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Dance teacher Rachel Gaskill, left, and reading teacher Mary Lou Bouchard. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

From left are guidance counselors Donna Brosh and Janine Jones, and secretaries Pat Schwarzenbach and Mary Dewechter. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) From left are guidance counselors Donna Brosh and Janine Jones, and secretaries Pat Schwarzenbach and Mary Dewechter. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

From left are child study team members Pam Fulton-Mager, Carmen Carrasquillo and Donna Schanel, Richard Adkisson and guidance counselors Mary Alvarado, Kim Raymond and Amy Salcedo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) From left are child study team members Pam Fulton-Mager, Carmen Carrasquillo and Donna Schanel, Richard Adkisson and guidance counselors Mary Alvarado, Kim Raymond and Amy Salcedo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Cedar Creek special education teacher Rodney James and Oakcrest Child Study Team member Donna Schanel. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Cedar Creek special education teacher Rodney James and Oakcrest Child Study Team member Donna Schanel. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Oakcrest Main Office secretaries Kim Matthews, left, and Beth Nuytens. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Oakcrest Main Office secretaries Kim Matthews, left, and Beth Nuytens. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Custodian Kevin Winchester. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Custodian Kevin Winchester. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

District Office staff from left are secretary Joy McAlister, Business Administrator Charles Muller, and secretaries Marian Gillespie, Saranna Elkner, Sandy Labo, Janis Ferguson and Melissa Trinka. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) District Office staff from left are secretary Joy McAlister, Business Administrator Charles Muller, and secretaries Marian Gillespie, Saranna Elkner, Sandy Labo, Janis Ferguson and Melissa Trinka. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Business Administrator Charles Muller with retiring Oakcrest Principal Tony Mongelluzzo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Business Administrator Charles Muller with retiring Oakcrest Principal Tony Mongelluzzo. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Social studies teacher Vince Sera presents Tony Mongelluzzo with a plaque naming the Oakcrest High School baseball field in his honor. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Social studies teacher Vince Sera presents Tony Mongelluzzo with a plaque naming the Oakcrest High School baseball field in his honor. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

The “Coach Mongo” baseball bat honors Tony Mongelluzzo for his years dedicated to the Oakcrest baseball team. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) The “Coach Mongo” baseball bat honors Tony Mongelluzzo for his years dedicated to the Oakcrest baseball team. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)

Tony Mongelluzzo with his secretary, Teri Walters. (Submitted by Julie Hazard) Tony Mongelluzzo with his secretary, Teri Walters. (Submitted by Julie Hazard)


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