Featured Story

Shelter Island School staff: Todd Gulluscio is tops

Todd Gulluscio’s least favorite subject to talk about is himself. But Shelter Island School’s Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel had to do just that recently, since he is the recipient of two distinguished awards.

The first came from his fellow athletic directors in the New York State Athletic Administrators Association for his “outstanding service and dedication.” The second was a New York State of Merit Award from the same organization for his “outstanding leadership and meritorious achievement in interscholastic athletic administration.”

Of the first award, he said it was “very meaningful,” because it came from his colleagues in the administrators association. The second award is the highest award given to athletic directors in the state, he said. As befits a man who hates talking about himself, he is quick to turn the subject to others.

“I work with amazing people,” Mr. Gulluscio said. “I’m good, but I’m supported by greatness,” he said of the coaches who serve the school in an array of sports.

You might say his goal in life has always been to work on the Island he calls home. He served in Greenport and Sag Harbor and considered both school districts and his colleagues at each very special. But he yearned to have the job on Shelter Island, and the opportunity came 10 years ago in July 2014. He had worked on the Island as a substitute teacher, a leave replacement and a custodian. But he always had his eyes on the prize of being appointed athletic director.

“There’s so much special here, it warms your heart,” he said. On the Island he has had the opportunity to work with and mentor coaches, he said. The job is not without challenges, he added, but teamwork always wins the day.

One example was when a coach had to step aside for a maternity leave, another staff member stepped up saying she could handle the team. That’s typical among Island educators who are always supportive of one another, Mr. Gulluscio said. But it’s not just his colleagues who make working at the school so special, he said. It’s also the students.

Everyone wants to win, he said. But Shelter Island athletes have consistently been recognized for their academic performance and sportsmanship. “The greatest gift you can give a child is accountability and responsibility,” Mr. Gulluscio said. Because of small classes, teachers and students have close relationships, and advanced programs afford students opportunities they might not have in larger schools.

Not only does Mr. Gulluscio function as athletic director, but he’s an integral member of the district administration handling issues beyond sports and physical education, handling health and wellness and personnel responsibilities. “Todd is a valued part of the administrative team,” said Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D.

Added to his responsibilities, it falls to Mr. Gulluscio to handle issues of health and wellness, the superintendent said. For example, he will be working with the Health and Wellness Committee to upgrade cafeteria offerings that are healthy.

He also handles transportation responsibilities, where Mr. Gulluscio admitted there was a learning curve. He has to deal with the local busing of students to get to school each day, but also arrange for transportation of teams to off-Island competitions and field trips.

“Just do it,” Mr. Gulluscio said about the challenges he faces. “You always want to get better at something.”

Speaking to some of his coaches, they unanimously refer to his support by anticipating their needs and troubleshooting efforts where necessary, often before the coach has realized what’s needed. In other districts, coaches are often left to solve problems by themselves, Coach Peter Miedema said. “Todd is already aware” of problems and “puts you at ease” because he foresees potential issues and problems  and ways to overcome them, Mr. Miedema said.

Varsity volleyball Coach Cindy Belt also noted Mr. Gulluscio’s involvement with Section XI sports in Suffolk County. “He works closely with athletic directors and represents Shelter Island very well,” Ms. Belt said. “Todd helped spearhead the ‘Dual Athlete’ program, which allows students from small schools to participate in two sports within one season. This is essential for our little school to remain competitive, while fielding as many teams as possible.”

Mr. Gulluscio supported the student-led campaign to launch a soccer program at Shelter Island and enabled students to cross train, so they could golf and engage in cross country running. The result brought several students who weren’t previously engaging in sports into the athletic community, Ms. Belt said. His work included coordinating coverage when a referee bails at the last minute or when a coach is ill.

“He has a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude to give our kids the best chance to play sports,” even driving a van to transport athletes to a game when their bus was canceled at the last minute, Ms. Belt said. She described him as “organized and professional,” adding that he supports coaching by proving convenient required training and professional development opportunities, as well as supplying awards for athletes.

“He strives to make everyone feel appreciated and heard,” Ms. Belt said. “Todd is up early, stays late and is always present at our home games, often running between fields and the gym. Some people claim that a small school with limited teams is easy to manage, but actually it’s the opposite. I greatly admire the effort Todd puts into his often unseen, under-appreciated and behind-the-scenes work. Shelter Island is very lucky to have him.”

Erin Mulrain has a double connection with Mr. Gulluscio, since she’s a physical education teacher and a coach of the varsity girls basketball team. “I feel very lucky to work with Todd and to have had him as a mentor,” Ms. Mulrain said. She, too, noted his involvement with Suffolk County, New York State and national  sports programs.

“He has pioneered programs and gotten the ball rolling for many new ideas and systems that are now in place,” Ms. Mulrain said. “Coming from a small school, he stands up for us and fights for our student athletes to have the same opportunities as every other school. One of his best qualities is his ability to lead and guide those around him. He uses his experience and knowledge to help you become the best version of yourself. Not only does he push himself outside of his comfort zone, but he encourages others to take that leap of faith as well. Working with him has helped me gain confidence in my own abilities. He encourages us to ‘be our best,’ which we have now adopted into the motto of our phys-ed program. His efforts at our school and beyond make him the perfect candidate for these prestigious awards. Here at Shelter Island we are so blessed to have someone who truly cares about our small town and all of the students we teach.”