ToquiNotes: The Limousine Driving, Construction Thriving, Educational Surprising Dave Mazza Journey

By Jeff Toquinto on September 16, 2017 from ToquiNotes via

Not everyone’s path to their current profession was spelled out clearly at an early age. Some follow a defined path, some fall into a career and others learn later during their schooling what they want to do.
Then there’s new Bridgeport Middle School Principal David Mazza.
Those that know Mazza and have seen him in action on the educational front probably believe he knew a long time ago his future lie in education. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Mazza’s journey up the educational ladder begins thanks to likely tossing a ladder aside. It’s a journey that is unique and involves many twists and turns and few celebrities thrown in as well. To know where he’s ended up, however, you have to rewind to where it all began.
“I know it sounds odd, but when I graduated from high school I wanted absolutely nothing to do with school,” said Mazza, a 1979 Notre Dame graduate. “All my friends were off to college and all I could think about was being thankful I wouldn’t have to take another class.”
That’s what happened. Well, he wouldn’t be back in the classroom for roughly seven years as he began his path into the real world that included a weekend job that saw him mingle with the stars.
“My weekend job was with Mountain Productions, which was operated by JoJo Tomaro,” said Mazza. “My job was basically to handle security when the bands they booked were backstage or in front of the bands during their performance in I guess what people might describe as the mosh pit area.”
He also drove a limousine with performers around. The artists and groups that he either drove or worked with included Joan Jett, Dwight Yoakum, Richard Marx, Marx’s celebrity wife Cynthia Rhodes, Vixxen, Eddie Money, Damn Yankees, Donnie Iris and a few more including Jesco White in a performance at the Nathan Goff Armory.
Mazza laughs and vividly recalls those encounters. While it could be an entire blog to itself, instead here’s a snippet of what he had to say about some of those he encountered.
On Joan Jett: “Let’s just say she was less than cordial.”
On Dwight Yoakum: “He refused to do autographs and shake hands; he wanted nothing to do with it. He was not fan friendly at all.”
On Cynthia Rhodes, now divorced from Marx, who starred in Dirty Dancing, Flash Dance and Staying Alive: “She was a treat and all I was tasked to do was sit backstage and watch her and make sure no one bothered her … She was just a sweet lady to everyone that was there.”
On Vixxen: “They were great to be around and it was at the holidays. I believe they actually had Thanksgiving dinner with Joe Trupo.”
Ted Nugent of Damn Yankees: “He was awesome and shook everyone’s hand and talked to you like anyone else. He spent a lot of time with us and we had a lot of conversation about how good the hunting was in West Virginia. He didn’t seem to be put off by having a conversation with us.”
While that was his weekend gig, his fulltime job was in construction. He worked for his father and things were going pretty well.
“If I wanted to take some time off my father was okay with that, but then he started working at Eastpointe for Jim LaRosa and all of the sudden I wasn’t working for my dad any longer,” said Mazza.
He eventually started – at 24 – a new job in construction. The family fringe benefits were gone.
“I was working 12 hour days. I was starting to be miserable,” he said. “I was looking at my friends and they were either ready to graduate or had graduated from college. I was feeling like I hit rock bottom.
“I was in a job I really didn’t want to do even though I was learning some good skills,” Mazza continued. “I just wasn’t in a good place.”
An argument with his boss, of all things, changed everything. The days of doing drywall, climbing ladders and all the other labor that came with the construction industry came to a grinding halt.
“It all came together in the summer of 1985 when I got in a pretty big argument on the job and walked off,” said Mazza. “I literally walked away and headed into Clarksburg.”
The walk would change his life. His journey took him down Main Street and to Monticello Avenue where he walked past the old Clarksburg campus of what was then Fairmont State College. For whatever reason, Mazza stopped and went in.
“The director there was Blair Montgomery and I went in and talked. At the age of 25 I was going to become a student. I remember going home and telling my mom and she told me I shouldn’t waste my money,” Mazza recalled with a laugh. “ … I look back and I truly believe it was meant to be that day.”
Four years later, after a full load of classes that aimed at an educational degree focusing on social studies, Mazza was a graduate. And the journey to where he sits now began on an official level.
In 1989, he became a permanent sub at Westover Junior High (now Westwood Middle) and coached football. Things were looking good. Then, the 1990 teacher strike happened.
“I was asked to cross the picket line because I was a substitute, but I couldn’t do it. A school official told me they wouldn’t forget my refusal and that turned out to be the case,” said Mazza.
With his future prospects not looking optimistic, Mazza headed to Wood County where he taught at the Abraxis Center, a school for troubled youth. He did that from 1990 to 1995 – and there was more during that stint.
“I was driving Clarksburg to Wood County and home five days a week and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I would drive home from Wood County and then drive to Morgantown to work on my Master’s Degree,” said Mazza. “I did that for most of my time in Parkersburg.”
After completing that daunting task, Mazza moved a little closer to home where he worked for the state prison system for nine years. He served as a teacher and a diagnostician at the Salem Industrial Home before getting into the Harrison County education system in 1998.
“My first break was in 1998 when I got a special education job at Lumberport Middle School,” said Mazza. “I spent 11 years there.”
Mazza was teaching students with behavioral disorders and also West Virginia History during that time before spending one semester at Washington Irving Middle School. Then, during the second semester of 2009, Mazza made the jump to assistant principal at Bridgeport Middle School.
For the last eight years, Mazza served in that capacity until Carole Crawford stepped down as principal to take a job with the School Board’s front office. He applied for the principal’s job and got the nod.
“It took a while to get here, but I’m here,” said Mazza. “I know there are people that took some really unique paths to where they’re at in their professions, but I think mine is pretty unique.”
Started his post-high school education at 25. Drove a limo and provided security for rock stars. Walked off his job and into a college career on the same day. Drove from Clarksburg to Wood County to Morgantown for years to secure a Master’s Degree.
Yep, unique is on the money.
“I think I got to where I am because of where I grew up. I’m from Glen Elk (in Clarksburg) and I learned loyalty, leadership and how to be street smart,” said Mazza. “The great thing is that I still hang out with the guys I grew up with and we’re all kind of wired that way.
“We didn’t have a lot of money, but everyone had a lot of love and a lot of family support and you learned resilience,” he continued. “I never thought about not making those trips to Wood County and into Morgantown because I learned from an early age just to do what you have to do. That’s what I did and I’m pretty happy about it.”
Well he should be. The man who once said he would be glad to never take a class again is now the one in charge of making sure those he’s responsible for take all their classes and are prepared for plenty more at the next level and hopefully college.
“It’s all kind of ironic, but in a good way,” Mazza ended.
The good news is that the journey isn’t over. He’s just starting his new leg of it.

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