Popular principal cultivates life change

Monte Vista administrator’s legacy will continue to grow after he retires



GREEN THUMB—An expert in horticulture, Principal Stephen Pietrolungo oversaw the creation of a thriving learning garden at Monte Vista School. MICHELE WILLER-ALLRED Acorn Newspapers

GREEN THUMB—An expert in horticulture, Principal Stephen Pietrolungo oversaw the creation of a thriving learning garden at Monte Vista School. MICHELE WILLER-ALLRED Acorn Newspapers

Dr. P is ready for some R&R.

After dedicating more than 45 years to the field of edu­cation, Stephen Pietrolungo, the popular principal of Monte Vista School in Simi Valley, is set to retire.

Pietrolungo, 69, said he’s ready to start a new chapter after being at the helm of the independent study/homeschool academy for nearly nine years.

“I enjoy being principal and it’s truly been a blessing, especially here at Monte Vista, but it’s time to do other things with my life,” he said.

Pietrolungo, known as Dr. P to students, colleagues and the community, began his teaching career in 1978 in the Los Angeles Unified School District where he worked as a magnet coordinator, and later agriculture instructor.

He transitioned to the Simi Valley Unified School District in 1997, serving as assistant principal at Simi High from 1997 to 2003 and principal at Hillside Middle School for two years. He then returned to SVHS to take the reins as principal for 10 years.

ONE OF A KIND—Principal Stephen Pietrolungo rides a skateboard onstage during the graduation ceremony at Simi Valley High School in 2015. “The very reason he is so well- liked is because you can see . . . he sincerely cares about each and every one of us,” a SVHS teacher said when Pietrolungo was preparing to step down as principal of the high school after 10 years to take the helm at Monte Vista. Acorn file photo

ONE OF A KIND—Principal Stephen Pietrolungo rides a skateboard onstage during the graduation ceremony at Simi Valley High School in 2015. “The very reason he is so well- liked is because you can see . . . he sincerely cares about each and every one of us,” a SVHS teacher said when Pietrolungo was preparing to step down as principal of the high school after 10 years to take the helm at Monte Vista. Acorn file photo

When SVUSD leaders moved the district’s independent learning program from two small classrooms at Apollo High School to a former elementary school on Fourth Street in 2015, they recruited Pietrolungo to run the program.

Officials handed him a blank black­board, so to speak, to rebuild the program on a new campus.

As principal of the independent learn­ing program, Pietrolungo helped to boost Monte Vista’s enrollment by providing hands-on educational experiences—like caring for the school’s farm and garden— that students couldn’t get at home.

In recognition of his contributions, Pietrolungo was honored April 29 with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 32nd annual Simi Valley Education Founda­tion’s Lew Roth Awards. Additionally, he is set to receive the Educator of the Year Award from the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center as part of the Spotlight Awards. In March, the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District acknowledged Pietrolungo with an Earth Day Award for his envi­ronmental stewardship (see related story on Page 15).

Reflecting on his retirement plans, Pietrolungo admitted he hasn’t finalized his next steps but acknowledged his deep attachment to the school commu­nity.

“This place has been truly a blessing. I will miss the kids the most,” he said.

Parents and colleagues alike will miss Pietrolungo just as much.

Angie Bivins, a parent whose chil­dren attend Monte Vista, lauded the principal’s warmth and dedication to creating a family atmosphere at school events.

“He’s always so friendly and enthu­siastic,” Bivins said.

She shared her thoughts about the principal during an Earth Day event and open house/student showcase at Monte Vista that she was attending with her husband, Stephen Bivins, and their daughters, Charlotte, 11, and Nora, 8.

“He’s always made events with a nice family atmosphere,” she said as Pietrolungo grilled hot dogs and corn for the families.

“I think it’s sad he’s leaving as prin­cipal. I really like the activities with the plants,” said Charlotte, a sixth-grader at the school.

Monte Vista teacher Margaret Eggleston praised Pietrolungo’s unwav­ering support for staff members and their initiatives and emphasized the positive impact he has had on their careers.

Eggleston is also retiring from Monte Vista School, where she’s been a teacher for the past eight years.

“It’s so nice for the end of my career to have a great principal,” she said.

Although he’s stepping down as prin­cipal, Pietrolungo isn’t stepping away entirely.

“Even though I’m retiring, I’m not going to go completely out in the sun­shine,” he said.

Leveraging his expertise in horticul­ture, which he has degrees in, he plans to continue tending to the chickens, roosters and greenhouses at the school’s grant-funded garden and farm.

He also intends to teach a flower and plant class once a month at the school.

As Monte Vista School begins the search for a new leader, Pietrolungo remains committed to ensuring a smooth leadership transition.

“The goal is to hire a new principal by late May,” he said, assuring conti­nuity for the school as it begins its own new chapter.