Meet Your Administrators
Dr. Christopher Nagy, Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Nagy graduated from St. John Lateran University in Rome, Italy with both a Bachelor of Philosophy and Bachelor of Theology degrees. While in Rome, he also earned his Master of Arts in Theology from St. Thomas University. He returned to the United States and began his formal career in education in Bethlehem, PA in a private school. He taught Latin and Theology as well as gained a love for working with students both in the classroom as well as while serving as a club advisor and assistant athletic director. After a short time at the school, Dr. Nagy was asked to take on additional duties including the role of vice principal and oversight of school finances. He earned his Master’s in Education in Educational Leadership and administrator certifications from Lehigh University in 1993.
Dr. Nagy transitioned to public education as a high school assistant principal in Allentown, New Jersey where he was promoted to high school principal in 1999; he worked in this position for 11 years. While there, Dr. Nagy positioned the school to be recognized among the top 100 schools in New Jersey by NJ Monthly Magazine. During this time, Dr. Nagy earned his Doctorate of Education in Educational Administration from Widener University and was the first in his class to publish his dissertation as a book: The Alternate Route Teachers' Transition to the Classroom: A 21st Century Perspective on the Journey for Those Who Seek Alternative Pathways to Teaching. In 2011, he assumed the role of Superintendent of Schools in Bergen County, NJ where he had oversight of two high schools and the Region III North Jersey Autism Center. As Superintendent, he increased academic achievement, established a one-on-one student laptop initiative, created a character education platform to include social and emotional (SOMO) wellbeing skill development, and implemented a social media platform for the district. He also created a special education program at the high schools to integrate special needs students with autism: The Valley High School Program, a first for the district and region. The work gained recognition from the NJ Dept. of Education and was awarded a grant to promote integration of special education students into regular education settings. Based on the work accomplished in the district, Dr. Nagy published two articles for AASA (American Association of School Administrators) one on Postive Psychology and Social and Emotional Learning and a second on Emotional Intelligence and Coaching to Expand Leadership.
In 2014, after three years in Bergen County, Dr. Nagy received the opportunity to leverage his administrative footprint in post-secondary education and career technical education in a duel role as the principal of the Adult Division of the Burlington County Institute of Technology and the Burlington County Apprentice Coordinator. At BCIT, he increased student enrollment and apprenticeships, expanded course offerings and programs, established a summer session, revised the website, created a job posting board for employers, and worked closely with county entities to promote job creation, training and youth partnerships while working on the promotion of partnerships with Rowan College at Burlington College. Given the success and turnaround of the program, Dr. Nagy then became the shared Assistant Superintendent for Special Education at the Burlington County Special Services School District and Burlington County Institute of Technology. At BCSSSD, he quickly engaged in the shepherding of the restructure of the BCSSSD Westampton Campus and newly formed partnership with Bancroft at Burlington County. As Superintendent, he also engaged in a process to expand programs as well as enhance the infrastructure, Child Study teams, curriculum and instruction, data, social media, web presence, district technology plans, establishment of District Curriculum Council, special education transition programs, emergent workforce development opportunities and in demand employer needs such as the newest launch of the School of Construction Technology among other innovations.
During his time as Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Nagy is proud of the work that the staff and administration have accomplished many of which are highlighted in the District Points of Pride for BCIT and BCSSSD. Dr. Nagy is focused on the future and has been dedicated to a process to create the future that does not yet exist. In addition to following futurists, Dr. Nagy has been engaged in conversations with the Stanford University D (Design) School and related futurists and thought leaders about the future of education.
On Dr. Nagy’s homepage for both BCIT and BCSSSD, one can follow his blog, YouTube Leadership Sparks Series, select professional reading list, social media, select publications and related information of interest.
Dr. Nagy is a believer in being a lifelong learner and leading by example: in March 2016, he earned his certification in Applied Positive Psychology from the Flourishing Center in NYC to benefit the students and staff of both the BCSSSD and BCIT districts. Dr. Nagy has taught doctoral courses at Delaware Valley University and currently at Rider University on topics related to Technology in the Classroom and the Future, curriculum and instruction, leadership, technology, diversity, societal change and special education. He is a former president of the Northern Valley Administrators Consortium and Upper Freehold Administrator’s Association and was the former NJ Department of Education Legal Chair for the Board of Examiners. Dr. Nagy is the former treasurer to the NJ Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools, member of the Burlington County Workforce Development Board and member of the Burlington County Education and Youth Services Collaboration Committee.
September 2017: The Burlington County Chamber of Commerce named Dr. Nagy one of 25 Burlington County Emerging Leaders.
January 2019: Dr. Nagy was selected among Burlington County business leaders with the Voice of Business Award for Personal Excellence for the category of 26 or more employees.
Reappointments 2020-2023: Dr. Nagy was re-elected for a three-year term to the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
October 2020: Dr. Nagy was elected to the New Jersey Council of Education.
May 2017 and May 2022: BCAS Named National School of Character and Lumberton Campus State School of Character and other campuses with Honorable Mentions
August 2021: BCIT District named NJDOE Lighthouse School District for Equity
May 2022: BCSSSD Innovations in Special Education Award for Pioneer Posh Launch
Selected publications by Dr. Nagy are:
Nagy, C. (July 8, 2021). School Rubric Global Take International Panel. Connecting Education After the Pandemic.
Nagy, C. (July, 2021). A glimpse at the challenges to post-pandemic educational environment. Global Insights Magazine No. 006, pp.8-9.
Nagy, C. (October 28, 2020). NJ Association of School Administrators. Frontline Leadership for Extraordinary Times – Interview with Dr. Christopher Nagy.
Nagy, C. (2020). Producer and Host of DisruptEd-TV Leadership Sparks series (50 Programs on Youtube).
Nagy, C. (November, 2019). BCIT embraces AI, AR and VR to enhance CTE programs.Trades and Unions Magazine.
Nagy, C. (August 17, 2018). Managing generational differences: opportunities or obstacles? DisruptEd TV Magazine Medium.
Nagy.C. (May 23, 2018). A case for how disruption leads to innovation. DisruptEd TV Magazine Medium.
Nagy, C. (November, 2017). The why of a career and technical education now and the future. LinkedIn
Nagy, C. (November, 2017). BCIT welders are a bead away from success. Trades and Unions Magazine.
Nagy, C. (September, 2017). BCIT Creating opportunities for future employment in the trades.Trades and Unions Magazine.
Nagy, C. (August, 2016). What do the sneaker company ASICS, positive wellbeing research and school systems have in common? LinkedIn.
Nagy, C. (April, 2013). From pilot to longitudinal study: Positive psychology’s synergistic influence on social and emotional development in school districts. American Association of School Administrators New Superintendent’s E-Journal.
Nagy,C. (September, 2012). Convergence of positive psychology, emotional intelligence and coaching to expand leadership capacity and wellbeing in district. American Association of School Administrators New Superintendent’s E-Journal.
Nagy, C.J. & Wang, N. (2010). The alternate route teachers’ transition to the classroom: A 21st Century Perspective. Saarbrucken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing AG & Co. KG.
Nagy, C. J. & Wang, N. (Spring, 2007). Alternate route teachers’ transition to the classroom: Preparation, support, and retention. National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin, 91(1), 98-113.
Nagy, C.J. & Wang, N. (April, 2006). Alternate route teachers’ transition to the classroom: Preparation, support, and retention. Paper presented at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA. and published in ERIC (ED493018).
Behre, W.J., Frank, D.L., Seaton, G., MacDonald, C. M. & Nagy, C.J. (NJ Department of Education, 2008). The new jersey alternate route program: A curriculum review from perspectives of alternate route instructors, alternate route mentors and the teachers they guide.
Dr. Ashanti Holley, Assistant Superintendent
Dr. Ashanti Holley is a current resident of Burlington County and was born, raised, & educated in Willingboro, NJ. After graduating from Willingboro High School, Ashanti left home to attend Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, where she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education. While a student at Winston Salem, Dr. Holley was a member of the distinguished WSSU Marching Rams band, led multiple voter registration drives on campus, volunteered as a Big Sister at the local YMCA, and enjoyed her role as a Resident Assistant. Upon completion, she returned home to begin a career as a special education teacher in Willingboro Township, NJ, educating at the secondary school level. From there she was employed as a Vice Principal at New Brunswick High School, New Brunswick, NJ. and quickly advanced to the role of Principal at Perth Amboy High School, Perth Amboy, NJ. As an administrator at New Brunswick High School, Dr. Holley was instrumental in the awarding and monitoring of a federal Small Learning Communities grant of approximately half a million dollars, Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment and creation of Small Learning Communities. As Principal at Perth Amboy High School, Dr. Holley was instrumental in the development of the Freshman Academy which boasts a 1 to 1 Chromebook initiative, AP courses, implementation of the AVID program, partnership with NJIT for freshman scholars, creation of Career and Technical Education Academies and a host of curriculum initiatives that improved test scores. While serving in both districts, Dr. Holley collaborated with the New Jersey School Development Authority in the planning, designing and building of New Brunswick High School (2010) and Perth Amboy High School (2023).
During Dr. Holley’s entire pedagogical career, she has been a role model to the younger student population. The well-being of children is paramount to her, and she has made it her life’s work to aspire them to reach for the stars. She has not only advocated excellence, she has offered herself as a living example to them, by earning her first Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, followed by a second Master’s in Counseling from Wilmington University. She earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Rowan University. Her dissertation is entitled: Support for Alternative Route (AR) teachers in the New Jersey Public School System. Dr. Holley has also offered instruction as an adjunct professor at Concordia University. She constantly continues to keep abreast of the ever-changing trends in education, continuing her educational excellence through professional development and training, earning additional credits and certifications in Human Resources at Rutgers’ University. Additionally she has the following state certifications: Teacher of the Handicapped, Guidance Counselor, Supervisor, Principal and School Administrator. She is currently working towards state certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
Dr. Holley has facilitated a variety of Professional Development workshops on some of the following topics: Turnaround Leadership, Differentiated Instruction, Classroom Management, Inclusion and Diversity, Culturally Responsive Classrooms, Cultural Sensitivity and Social Emotional Learning to name a few.
Ongoing community service includes mentorship and tutoring of at-risk students, adding her premier collaboration skills to several philanthropic efforts including participation in yearly Christmas Toy giveaways for 350-plus Willingboro youth elementary school children per year; providing turkeys and all the trimmings, to hundreds of local and county residents during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as well as monetary support for free pre-first-day-of school hair-cuts to community youth. She also provides numerous community service programs to local and county recipients. Examples of these endeavors include volunteering at the Burlington County Animal Shelter and Poised Elegant and Responsible Ladies (PEARLS). Dr. Holley also co-founded Students With Ambitious Goals (SWAG), a non profit organization that offers cultural, social and educational experiences and opportunities to older teens, grades nine through twelve. A premiere component of this organization is an annual college tour to HBCU institutions. Additionally, Dr. Holley is a member of the Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council.
Dr. Holley was named WSSU’s prestigious, Alumni Achiever award based on accomplishments in her career, service, and community work. Dr. Holley was also awarded WSSU’s Top Forty under 40 for making positive changes in the world.
Dr. Holley has active memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated; New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA); Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and American Association of School Personnel Administrators (AASPA).
Dr. Holley's recent publications are:
Championing Equity and Diversity, AASA School Administrator
Mr. Eder Joseph, Assistant Superintendent
Eder Joseph served as the principal at Pemberton Township High School for seven years. He joined Pemberton from Woodbury Junior-Senior High School, where he served as principal for two years. Prior to that, he spent six years as the assistant principal at Helen Fort/Newcomb Middle School in Pemberton. His additional experiences include serving as assistant principal for Orange High School in Orange, NJ; as a 5th-grade elementary and special education teacher in Pemberton's Haines Elementary School, and as a special education teacher at Hubbard Middle School in Plainfield, NJ.
Mr. Joseph holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education from Daemen College in Amherst, NY, and a Master's degree in Educational Administration from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. He has earned a certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University and Leadership and Management certification from Harvard University. He has received specialized training from The Principal's Center for Educational Leadership, School Development Program from Yale Child Study Center, and The Leadership Academy through Performance Excellence Group: Baldrige Institute.
During his tenure at Pemberton Township High School, he helped lead a school-based initiative to earn certification for Future Ready Schools. He spearheaded a social-emotional and comprehensive Character Education program receiving both State School of Character and National School of Character distinctions. Mr. Joseph helped to develop a peer mentoring program supporting 9th-grade students in their transition to high school. He led a partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative to provide professional development and instructional strategies to increase Advance Placement participants at the high school level. He helped to create partnerships with area businesses to provide students with Work Based Learning opportunities and helped to expand Career and Technical Education program offerings at the high school. Eder served as the Perkins Secondary Project Director and Perkins Data Coordinator, where in that role, he took leadership and oversight of Perkins and related grants.
Joan Barbagiovanni, Principal, Burlington County Alternative School
Joan Barbagiovanni is a native of South Philadelphia, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Ethnic Studies from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. After completing this degree, she returned to Philadelphia and spent one year serving in the AmeriCorps at Sharswood Elementary School. It was during this time with the AmeriCorps, a civil service program serving areas with significant socioeconomic issues, that she realized that her true passion is education.
In 2002, Mrs. Barbagiovanni completed her Master of Arts in Teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She spent two years working in Gloucester Township Public Schools serving as a long-term substitute for Special Education, English, and Social Studies. In 2004, Joan took a permanent position teaching 7th grade English Language Arts at Woodstown Middle School located in Salem County, New Jersey. During her time at Woodstown Middle School she was named Teacher of the Year and was awarded the honor of Exemplary Secondary Educator by the New Jersey Department of Education. She also served as a new teacher mentor and worked in various curriculum initiatives. With guidance from her building Principal, Mr. John Fargnoli, she was strongly encouraged to return to school to pursue a degree in Educational Leadership. In 2008, Joan completed her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mrs. Barbagiovanni also authored and supervised a program entitled STAND (Students Trying a New Direction) which supported students with certain academic and social barriers that interfered with their success at school
Seeking a new challenge, Mrs. Barbagiovanni accepted an English teaching position at the Burlington County Alternative School in 2013. At the end of the school year, she was offered the position of Principal at BCAS. Most recently under Joan’s leadership, BCAS was named a State School of Character and a National School of Character for the 2017-2018 school year.
Joan Barbagiovanni is a lifelong learner who is pursuing her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at Rowan University.
Mark Castellane, ESU Supervisor
Mark Castellane has been a presence in the District since 1999, currently serving as the Supervisor of Education at the Lumberton campus. Mr. Castellane has held Supervisory positions throughout the District including Elementary and VisionQuest campuses. Mr. Castellane received his Bachelor’s Degree at Averett College in Danville, Virginia and subsequently his Master’s Degree in Education at Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Michael Coolidge, Director of FacilitiesMichael Coolidge currently serves as the Director of Facilities for BCSSSD. He oversees the Buildings and Grounds and Maintenance staff for all of our campuses. Mr.Coolidge brings with him previous experience as an HVAC technician for 22 years and has served as a Director of Facilities at the following school districts: Chesterfield, Millstone, and Howell over the last 13 years. Mr. Coolidge is a 1986 graduate of BCIT and earned his Certified Educational Facilities Manager Certificate from Rutgers University.
Anthony DeBonis, Principal, Westampton Campus
Anthony DeBonis is the principal of the Westampton campus for BCSSSD. In 2007, Dr. DeBonis received his bachelor's degree in History from The College of New Jersey. Dr. DeBonis continued to pursue education administration with a master's degree in 2008, as well as 2012. He concluded his academic journey by completing his doctoral degree at Drexel University in 2016. Dr. DeBonis taught personal finance, world history, and United States history for 13 years at Hamilton Township School District. He also was the administrator for the Hamilton Township Alternative School for five years. During his tenure at the Alternative School, Dr. DeBonis transformed the program into a hybrid format that served over 300 students in the district in varying degrees of credit recovery and alternative settings for education. Dr. DeBonis accepted the role of principal at BCSSSD Westampton campus in February of 2022.
Brooke Decker, BCSSSD Westampton Supervisor of Education
Brooke Decker is the Supervisor of Public Child Study Team and Related Services for ESU and a Supervisor of Education at BCSSSD Westampton. In 2011, Ms. Decker received her bachelor’s degree from Holy Family University in Elementary and Special Education. After graduation, Ms. Decker spent seven years at Beverly City School District, where she taught a multi-grade self-contained class, multi-grade resource class and inclusion. She has taught reading, writing and math from grades K-8, which has expanded her knowledge in various grade levels. Ms. Decker has served as the Pre-Intervention and Referral Services liaison and she has served on the Curriculum Team. While teaching, Ms. Decker continued her education at Holy Family University and she earned a Master’s degree as a Reading Specialist in 2014 and Supervisor and Principal certifications in 2016. She accepted a Reading Specialist position with ESU in 2018 and then was promoted to Supervisor shortly after. Ms. Decker is an active member of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, Kappa Delta Pi National Honors Society and Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educators.
Dr. Bobbie Downs, Director of CST, Related Services, and Nursing for BCSSSD
ESU Director, BCSCRT Administator, and BCPDI Facilitator
Bobbie Downs is currently the Director of the Educational Services Unit (ESU) for Burlington County Special Services School District. Ms. Downs decided to pursue a career in education after serving as a teacher and administrator in a school for Sudanese refugees in Cairo, Egypt. Since that time, Ms. Downs served in the role of teacher and administrator at the Burlington County Alternative School before being named Director of the ESU. Ms. Downs received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Teaching from Drew University. Later, Ms. Downs earned her Master’s degree in School Leadership from Rowan University and her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Rowan University. Dr. Downs also holds a Graduate Certificate of Autism Education. She is a certified mindfulness instructor for Mindful Schools and an instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid. Dr. Downs is an active member of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and the Council for Exceptional Children. She also works for the Korean War Legacy Foundation and the World History Digital Education Foundation with the goal of helping educators teach more about the war and the past, present, and future development of Korea.
Mary Jean Kneringer, Principal of Transition Campus
Mary Jean Kneringer started her teacher preparation program by attending Rowan University where she earned both Teacher of the Handicapped and Teacher of Reading Certifications. There she was recognized with the Exceptional Children and Humanitarian Awards. Ms. Kneringer then became a Special Education Teacher in Deptford for students in 7th through 9th grade. At this same time, Ms. Kneringer began working at Bancroft's adult residential program and eventually left teaching to pursue her Master's Degree while being promoted to Director of Bancroft's residential and vocational programs for individuals with severe challenging behaviors. She continued her education at Temple University where she earned her Master's of Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Technology. She also completed coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis at Temple University which prepared her to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). During this time, she was also published in both the Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis for her research.
Ms. Kneringer continued to work at Bancroft and was again promoted into the position of Senior Director of Pediatric Services including their Neurobehavioral Unit, i.e The Lindens. Ms. Kneringer left Bancroft in 2004 and began her family. She returned back to education as a classroom teacher at The Children's Home in Mt. Holly serving students with behavioral disorders in grades 9th through 12th. During this time, she returned to Rowan University and obtained her Supervisor of Education certification. In 2007, her journey continued at Burlington County Special Services School District within the Educational Services Unit serving public schools in Burlington and surrounding counties as an Autism Consultant and then as the Supervisor of the Autism Program and then as supervisor of Related Services. Ms. Kneringer has served as the Director of Child Study and Related Services for the school district, served in the role of Principal of the Lumberton Campus for one year and was assigned as principal of the Transition Campus commencing in July 2019. During the past year, she received her Principal Certificate from NJ Excel and is now in her second year of the Leader 2 Leader program.
Ms. Kneringer and her husband have two daughters and they are all actively involved in their community. Ms. Kneringer has been an active community and school volunteer in her hometown. Her involvement has included, foster care services, CCD teacher, Special Olympics, and many awareness events. Ms. Kneringer also serves as a member of the Hainesport Board of Education since 2012 and has served in the role of their Board’s Vice President since 2013.
Dennis Leigh, Principal, Lumberton Campus
Dennis Leigh is the Principal of The Alternative School at Lumberton. Prior to becoming Principal, Mr. Leigh was the Supervisor of Nonpublic Instruction and Nursing for ESU. He graduated from Rowan University with his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Geography in 2009. After teaching at the elementary level for five years, Mr. Leigh earned highly qualified status and spent the remainder of his teaching career as a middle school mathematics teacher for grades fifth through eighth. During his time as a classroom teacher, Mr. Leigh helped write a new math curriculum for the district, spearheaded school wide instructional changes and supported his peers in their professional growth. This leadership experience gained during his time as a math teacher lead him to further his education. He went back to Rowan where he earned his Master’s degree in Administration, as well as Principal and Supervisor certifications in 2019.
Michelle Robertson, ESU Supervisor
Michelle Robertson is the Supervisor of Nonpublic Child Study Team and Speech. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, with a minor in Psychology from The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) in 1993. Knowing she wanted to combine working with students with her interest in psychology, she returned to school, earning her Master’s degree from Rowan University and becoming a NJ Certified School Psychologist in 2000. She began her professional career in the North Hanover School District (K-6th) and worked in the township school as well as the schools located on McGuire Airforce Base. In 2001, following a supervised externship, Michelle earned her Educational Specialist degree along with her National Certification for School Psychologists (NCSP). Michelle chose to transition to ESU in 2005 and began working in the nonpublic department as a case manager/school psychologist. In this role, Michelle had the opportunity to work with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. She remained an ESU case manager for 15 years and was offered a supervisor position in 2020. Beyond her professional duties, Michelle was a member of the Burlington County School Crisis Response Team for four years and has been an active member of the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists (NJASP) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) since the beginning of her career.
Adell Valasek, Westampton Campus Supervisor of Autism
Adell Valasek started her career path and passion for teaching individuals with developmental delays in college at Shippensburg University. She completed her Masters in Administration with honors in 1999 and continued to pursue her special education teaching certification at Widener University while working at Devereux CARES as in Instructional Coordinator. Ms. Valasek graduated with honors from Widener University and was inducted into the international honor society chapter of Kappa Delta Pi. Upon graduation, she began teaching in a self contained class at North Hanover School District. During this time, Adell continued to develop her passion by completing coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis at Penn State University. She received her Board Certification as a Behavior Analyst in December of 2005. Her journey continued as an Autism Consultant at the Educational Services Unit. Subsequently, she went back to school at Rutger’s University where she obtained her Supervisor of Education certification. Recently, she has completed her principal coursework from the University of Scranton in 2015.
Ms. Valasek is now working as the Supervisor of Education at Burlington County Special Services School District. She has provided trainings through the Burlington County Professional Develop Institute on teaching students with autism and behavior interventions. Adell provides consultation and training services to services to the International School of Brussels and their families. She serves as a Board Member of the Zefer Foundation, which provides transition opportunities to students and their families, as well as a board member of Enable Sports and Fitness, which provides healthy living skill development through exercise for individuals with developmental disabilities.
In her free time, Adell enjoys spending time with her two daughters and husband, going to the beach, running, and reading. Additionally, she continues to support families in the community by providing therapy in the home setting.