Home Education and Careers John Petruzzelli is familiar face in principal’s office at St. Elizabeth High...

John Petruzzelli is familiar face in principal’s office at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington

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John Petruzzelli is principal at St. Elizabeth High School.

WILMINGTON — Whoever said you can’t go home again has never met John Petruzzelli. He first set foot in St. Elizabeth High School in 1993, left, came back, left again, and now has returned at the principal.

“The third time’s a charm, I suppose,” he said.

Petruzzelli’s first stop on Cedar Street lasted six years as a teacher and coach. He returned in 2004 as the first full-time admissions director, and he also covered campus ministry. He was promoted to assistant principal in 2007 and stayed until 2010, when he left to become the principal at Bethlehem Catholic High School in the Diocese of Allentown, Pa. After seven years in that position, he spent a year at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia before the Allentown diocese asked him to become the founding principal of a recovery high school.

He was there for four years — including one year before the school opened — and had planned on taking some time off. He said the recovery high school was a very fulfilling job, but also demanding. In fact, when St. Elizabeth officials contacted him about coming back as principal, he turned them down. But the school would not give up.

Petruzzelli is happy to be back.

“St. E’s is the one place after I left, I never had a problem coming back to,” he said. “No uneasiness. There’s not a ton of people here that were here the last time, but the new staff, they’re so passionate, and the new administrators are so geared up for the new school year, and it’s kind of exciting for me.”

Petruzzelli, 54, spent the summer meeting with the faculty. Those conversations have included what St. Elizabeth does well and what needs improvement. He expects to be out of his office and in classrooms once school starts.

“Having a visible presence, you learn so much. You get a feel for the climate and culture,” he said.

Principals have a lot of responsibilities, far beyond the academics. Petruzzelli said his varied experience in secondary education will come in handy.

“I’m ready to take on enrollment and academics and teacher mentorship. I love that aspect. We have some really good young people here I’m looking forward to mentoring,” he said.

On the admissions front, he said that is based on building relationships with families. He wants to connect with prospective students and their families so that they feel a connection with St. Elizabeth. That has always been a strength of the school, he added.

Petruzzelli likes the diversity of St. Elizabeth and the close-knit feel that has long existed there. He said the school doesn’t need to be anything other than what it is.

“We don’t have to be any other school than St. Elizabeth,” he said. “We have our own little brand. We have our own Benedictine charism. When people walk in, I want them to know who everybody is.”

A Philadelphia native, Petruzzelli attended Archbishop Ryan High School and St. Joseph’s University. He has a master’s from Wilmington University. He likes to travel and work in his garden.

He said he is all about Philadelphia sports and Big 5 basketball. He is looking forward to heading out to watch the Vikings’ various athletic teams. Petruzzelli might be wearing his 1996 St. Elizabeth state football champion t-shirt or other VK Nation apparel, although he wants to update his collection.