Tony Mongelluzzo was one of the first people Oakcrest High School Supervisor of Guidance John Cocuzza befriended when he joined the school's staff as an Industrial Arts teacher in 1986. Mongelluzzo had only been at the Mays Landing school four years at the time, but was already ingrained in Falcon culture as a history and English teacher and a three sport coach.
Cocuzza joined the school's baseball staff as an assistant to Mongelluzzo, who is now principal, and recalls being struck by his leadership and his dedication to Oakcrest's student-athletes, all of that summed up in his oft-repeated mantra, "Class, plus pride, plus dedication, equals Oakcrest Baseball."
"That carried over to our players, that carried over to everything we would ask them to do, and we tried to instill that, and we tried to walk that line," said Cocuzza, who coached with Mongelluzzo for more than a decade.
Mongelluzzo became a guidance counselor in the early '90s. Four years later, he was named Supervisor of Guidance and was named the school's principal before the 2003-04 school year. Each step along the way, Mongelluzzo challenged his colleagues and students to aspire to that combination of class, pride, and dedication.
Effective Feb. 1, Mongelluzzo, 57, will retire. There are many things the 31-year Oakcrest veteran will miss after he leaves, chief among them the students and staff with whom he has developed close relationships over the years.
"I'm going to miss the people," Mongelluzzo said. "That's the biggest thing. I'm going to miss the kids as well as the teachers, because they are good people."
Mongelluzzo graduated from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, with a bachelor's in Junior High School Education. He spent three years teaching at Buena Regional High School in Buena Vista before joining Oakcrest in 1982.
In his many roles at the school, Mongelluzzo has always made a point of developing close relationships with his students. Student Council President Garrett Thomas said he has gotten to know Mongelluzzo well during his four years in student council and admires the administrator.
"He's a good role model to look up to, especially since I'm a leader here, it's nice to look at him and see what he does," the 17-year-old senior said.
Mongelluzzo is never one to hide his school spirit - he "bleeds blue and gray," says Cocuzza - and is a fixture at extracurricular events and athletic competitions.
When standout student-athlete Connie Capone won the Cape-Atlantic League singles tennis title in October, Mongelluzzo was in the stands. The next day, he presented her with an award in class.
"He's very involved in everything," Capone said. "You see him everywhere, and that's a good way for a principal to be, to have that kind of close relationship with his students."
While he will be leaving Oakcrest, Mongelluzzo plans to remain in education in an advisory role. He hopes to join the New Jersey Principal & Supervisors Association as a part-time mentor to newly minted administrators.
Mongelluzzo doesn't plan to go on any far-flung trips around the world, instead looking forward to a few quick jaunts to Florida with friends. His 6-year-old granddaughter, Gianna, and his grandson, who is due in February, should fill his adventure quota.
As he approaches the next phase of his life, Mongelluzzo can't help but look back on the one that preceded it - and he does so fondly.
"I just want to tell everybody a huge thank you," Mongelluzzo said. "If it wasn't for them, the 30 years would have been a long 30 years, but, obviously, the 30 years went really quick."
Contact Braden Campbell: