Isabella Scocozza is the new principal at Soehl Middle School. She is entering her 21st year at the school and was the longtime vice principal and director of the 21st Century Community Learning Center after-school program.
By Gary Miller
Isabella Scocozza has Linden – specifically Soehl Middle School – in her blood.
She is going into her 21st year at Soehl, first as a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher, then for 14 years as the vice principal and director of the 21st Century Community Learning Center after-school program.
And now she is taking the helm as principal.
“I am very grateful for this new opportunity and very fortunate to be able to stay here at Soehl,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know and work very closely with the staff and students, families and community members. I’m just very excited to be in a different capacity and a leadership role.”
She expects it to be a seamless transition as she takes over for Richard Molinaro, who is moving into a district administration position as director of math, vocational and technology.
“I’m fortunate to be in the same school,” she said. “It makes a world of difference. I’m very familiar with the staff, the students, the families here. I have a lot of experience working in the afterschool program that I would like to bring to the regular school day.”
Acting Superintendent Denise Cleary feels Scocozza is the perfect fit for Soehl.
“Ms. Scocozza brings an abundance of experience as an educator and administrator who would do well in any school we place her in,” she said. “But the fact that she has poured her heart into Soehl for so many years makes this the perfect fit. We know she’s going to do a great job.”
Scocozza is a lifelong Linden resident who attended School No. 8 and McManus Middle School and graduated Linden High School in 1994.
“I’m part of this community and that makes a difference, too,” she said. “That’s why I’m so proud to be here in this capacity. To have my career here is really a blessing.”
And those Linden roots include her longtime friendship with Vice Principal Gwendolyn Long.
“We went to high school together, so I’ve known her most of my life,” Scocozza sadi. “She is such a strong administrator. I think we’re going to be a great team together.”
Among her goals for her first school year as principal is maximizing academic achievement, effective use of team time to allow teachers to collaborate, and parental outreach.
“My message to all of the parents would be that it’s a privilege to be able to come to work each day and work with your kids,” said Scocozza, a graduate of Kean University with a master’s degree in educational administration. “I want them to be comfortable and to know that their children are in a safe and nurturing environment where they are going to receive the best education possible. We have a wonderful faculty here.”
Under her leadership, the school has undergone a number of beautification projects this summer, including new hallway and cafeteria murals, inspirational sayings on ceiling tiles, new door signs, renovation of the teachers lounge, and a new banner in the lobby that shows a Tiger paw and says “Welcome to Our Home.”
“I thought that message was meaningful because this school is a home away from home,” Scocozza said. “Our staff and our students, this is like an extended family. So as visitors, community members, parents come into the building, I’m hoping as they see that. It has a lot of impact, the way that message makes me feel.”
Perhaps the biggest project is the long-awaited major renovation of the school’s auditorium. The project was delayed in the past because of other upgrades that were necessary, but it has been under way all summer and should be completed not long after school starts. The progress has been extraordinary.
“It’s stunning,” Scocozza said. “It looks like a real community theater. It’s breathtaking.”
After she was appointed as principal in July, Scocozza sent out an email to staff members to let them know of the change, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I was so grateful that just about every staff member reached out to me in some way. And we’re talking in the middle of summer,” she said. “I was very touched by that. Email, text, phone call, even flowers. Just words of encouragement really made me feel even more welcomed and appreciated. It really meant a lot.”