Becahi principal goes home
Bethlehem Catholic’s principal for the past seven years, John Petruzzelli, has taken
the next step of his career, returning to his hometown of Philadelphia as principal of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, where he once worked as dean of students.
Petruzelli made an impression and was well liked by the students. From his quirky morning announcements to taking cameos in school plays to setting up opportunities for the student body to hoot out SpongeBob Squarepants references during assemblies, he helped change the culture and attitude at the school.
Despite the excitement about starting the new job, “I’m very sad about leaving,” he said in an email from Philly. “It’s tough to leave a place that you have loved and invested so much time and energy into. The kids have been amazing. I will really miss them.”
Originally a middle school history teacher, Petruzzelli said he loved working with kids and that he could best help them as an administrator. He was familiar with Bethlehem and Beca’s reputation as a sports school, and thought by working here he could broaden its appeal. During his tenure he has emphasized the academic program, AP scores, college scholarship dollars, number of service hours and academic team successes, and is proud of the student and faculty dedication to achieving them.
Petruzzelli said he has many wonderful memories from his years at Beca, from strating the Student of the Week program to summer service trips to twice marching down Main Street, USA in Disney World with the band.
But administering a Catholic high school is not without its challenges as well, and his constant foe was maintaining enrollment. Petruzzelli said bringing the student population up from around 700 to 775 was the result of hard work, hiring a full time director of admissions, community and partner outreach, and initiating a marketing plan. “As a Catholic school, enrollment drives the train. Without students, you can’t be a successful school.”
And it’s a school the students love, Petruzzelli said, like a second home.
“The school always seems to be open - from drama, to band to sports practices to service, our kids are here and loving every minute of it. For some students, they are at school more hours in a day than their home on some days. And that’s the way a school should be. It’s energizing and exciting.”
Petruzzelli has excitement of his own, though, as he returns to old staff friends at St. Joe’s Prep, and he wishes the best for both schools.
“Change is a good thing. I hope my departure from Beca will be good on both ends. I’m excited to bring my energy and passion for education back to the Prep., and I’m confident that a new principal can come into Bethlehem Catholic and provide new leadership and a different vision for the school.
“I’d like to think that during my time at Bethlehem Catholic, we have made a very good school even better; one that the new principal can build on and bring about even better success than when I was there.”
But even with happy new beginnings, there can be sadness. “There are few schools that would have gotten me to leave Beca, but the Prep is one of them.
“The students have energized me over the last seven years. They are kind, compassionate and genuine. I could never thank them or their families for the trust they placed in me.
“They have touched my heart in so many ways. I hope they know how much I love them and would do anything for them.”