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 Masters 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) (see http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=27856 and http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=24766).
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 dual 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.
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 also teaches Rider and Delaware Valley University doctoral courses related to 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 now 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.
Appointments April 2018: Dr. Nagy was elected to the Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors until 2020.
Dr. Nagy's recent publications are:
Dr. Lisa English, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction
Dr. English is a lifelong resident of Monmouth County and a proud graduate of Neptune High School. She has a Bachelor’s in Health Science and Physical Education from East Stroudsburg University, a Teacher of the Handicapped Certification from Jersey City University, a Masters in School Leadership and Management from Georgian Court University, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University. Dr. English knew that education would be her profession from the very early age of five years old. Throughout her adulthood and as an adult, Dr. English credits her father William and her mother Anna for teaching her about respect and responsibility, integrity and compassion, and to always model a strong work ethic, core values, and most of all to remember the importance of family.
Dr. English describes herself as compassionate, an innovative teacher and administrative leader who attributes her success to working with and learning from great people over the years, her love of family and her untiring work ethic.
Dr. English began her career as a Health and Physical Education Teacher and as a field hockey, basketball, and softball coach, as well as the founder and advisor of the Student Leadership Committee. For many years, Dr. English could be found on the fields and in the gyms throughout Monmouth County where her passion for sports allowed her to teach her players in the classroom, in her role as a coach, and throughout the local neighborhoods. Throughout Dr. English’s time as a young educator, she placed a high priority on working with young adults teaching them the importance of service and being model citizens both in and outside of the school.
Following her time in the classroom as a teacher and coach, Dr. English entered the next stage of her career in Career and Technical Education (CTE) at the Monmouth County Vocational School District where she followed her calling to pursue training and certification in Special Education. While teaching in a career and technical education program, Dr. English began her work with special needs students where her passion for the profession and working with diverse learners further guided her dedication and commitment as an educator and classroom teacher for ten years.
In addition to Dr. English’s years as a classroom teacher, she was nominated and chosen to represent the Monmouth County Vocational School District on the Career Readiness Consortium for the New Jersey Department of Education. Her work with the consortium has enabled her to actively participate in the development of model curricula for the NJ Educator Resource Exchange. Committed to being a lifelong learner, Dr. English leads and participates in various professional development and school law training opportunities affiliated with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Learning Forward, New Jersey Principal Supervisory Association, and the New Jersey County Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools. Dr. English has had a keen interest in professional growth, curriculum development, and as a district liaison to promote the implementation of current and innovative best practices aligned to New Jersey Department of Education regulations for Achieve NJ, licensing and certification, curriculum, and professional development standards.
Over the course of her career, Dr. English has been a leader in implementing and facilitating various online learning platforms for web-based systems such as: Edivate PD 360, My Learning Plan-OASYS, Frontline Education, and Canvas based course offerings to support an online-hybrid learning model. As the former Director for the Career & Technical Education, Certificate of Eligibility, Educator Preparation Program at Brookdale Community College, Dr. English has continued to share best practices and train others to embrace her love for education through her ability to design and implement teacher training programs, and by working with industry professionals transitioning into the field of education.
Dr. English is a current member of the NJDOE Career and Technical Education Teacher Preparation Advisory Board, New Jersey County Council of County Vocational-Technical Schools and she was the recipient of the 2018 Community Affairs Resource Center Partner in Education Award in honor of her lifelong commitment and dedication to the field of education.
Dr. Ashanti Holley, Assistant Superintendent for Equity & Diversity
Dr. Ashanti Holley was born, raised, and 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 boosts 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).
Ryan Varga, Principal BCSSSD Westampton
Ryan Varga is a graduate of Lock Haven University(LHU) with an undergraduate degree in Teacher of the Handicapped K-12 and Elementary Education. While at LHU, Ryan was a member of the CEC, Special Olympics, and played baseball, receiving Regional All American honors.
Upon completion of coursework, Mr. Varga was hired by Edgewater Park School District where he worked for ten years in the roles of inclusion teacher, 7th grade Math Teacher and Algebra 1 teacher. When an inclusion teacher, Mr. Varga worked in the Extended School Year (ESY) program at Jacques School leading to collaborative efforts with BCSSSD host classes. To complement his classroom teaching, he completed PBSIS training at Boggs Medical Center, Princeton University. Later, Mr. Varga had the chance to implement the PBSIS initiative within the Edgewater Park school district experiencing a significant decline in referrals. Continuing his educational journey while at Edgewater Park, Mr. Varga transitioned to content-specific learning with math as a 7th and 8th Grade Math teacher joining the South Jersey Math Partnership, receiving a Graduate Certificate of Study for Differentiated Instruction Mathematics from Rowan University.
While teaching, Mr. Varga earned from Delaware Valley University, a Masters in Educational Leadership, leading to a new position as Assistant Principal/Director of Student Activities at Riverside High School. In his new role, Mr. Varga had many opportunities of work within the school and community to develop improvement strategies for students with behavior/education challenges through RTI methodology. Efforts implemented saw an increase in student involvement with clubs/activities, increased professional development training for staff while starting the PBSIS initiative.
After serving as an assistant principal at Riverside High School for five years, Mr. Varga was hired as Principal of the BCSSSD Westampton Campus which services students pre-k through age 21.
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, Lumberton Campus 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.
Michelle Ciasca, Westampton Elementary Campus Supervisor
Michelle Ciasca has been with the BCSSSD since 2014. She first started with the Educational Services Unit (ESU) as an Instructional Supervisor and most recently, as one of the Supervisors of Education on the BCSSSD Westampton Campus. Prior to joining the team at BCSSSD, Ms. Ciasca was a special education teacher at Burlington Township who taught self-contained MD and Autism classes. Ms. Ciasca has a passion for involvement with Special Olympics, which when in Burlington Township, she started their Special Olympics team and has continued working with Special Olympics at BCSSSD as the Special Olympics Supervisor. Ms. Ciasca received her undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood and Special Education from West Chester University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and was a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society. She completed her Master’s degree in Educational Administration at The College of New Jersey where she graduated with honors. Ms. Ciasca was recognized as an Educator of the Year by the Burlington Masonic Lodge and as an Outstanding Contributor to Special Education by the Burlington Township parent organization.
Jeremy Cohen, Principal of The Alternative School at Lumberton
Jeremy Cohen is the Director of CST/Related Services for the BCSSSD District, a role of which he was assigned this July after serving as a Supervisor of Education the prior year. Before coming to BCSSSD, Mr. Cohen taught special education in the Trenton Public School District where he was a teacher of self-contained LLD and behavioral classes. While in Trenton, Mr. Cohen served as the coordinator for the District’s Extended School Year (ESY) program for the special education department. In addition to ESY, he also participated on the data team, positive behavior support team and conducted collaborative sessions for special education teachers in the district. Wearing multiple hats, Mr. Cohen is currently the district testing coordinator for BCSSSD and is an active participant the District Curriculum Council and Affirmative Action team.
Mr. Cohen holds a master’s degree in special education from Wilmington University, with a certification in special education and regular education and maintains a second master’s degree in school leadership. He is currently working on his doctoral degree from Wilmington University in Educational Leadership and Innovation.
Michelle Delaney, BCAS Assistant Principal
Michelle Delaney is a resident of South Jersey and has enjoyed being an educator for more than 17 years. During that time, Mrs. Delaney completed her undergraduate studies at York College of Pennsylvania, her Master’s Degree at Rowan University, and recently, she completed her certification for her Educational Leadership (NJ-EXCEL) program.
Mrs. Delaney began her career as a 7th and 8th grade mathematics teacher at Woodstown Middle School for 14 years. Here she served as a middle school math coach, mentor, and workshop presenter. In this role, she first encountered an opportunity to work closely with the administration and teachers to identify and implement best practices, curriculum updates, hands-on learning activities, and data compilation. Mrs. Delaney's dedication to her students and service as advisor to mathematics competitions such as MathCounts and Math Showcase, earned her the recognition of Teacher of the Year.
After years as a mathematics teacher in a middle school, Mrs. Delaney accepted a position at Audubon School District as a high school PARCC support teacher, where she collaborated with the mathematics department and administration on strategies to engage low achieving students in supplemental classes. At the conclusion of the school year, Mrs. Delaney joined the Burlington County Alternative School team as a mathematics instructor. It was this shift from the traditional setting to the alternative school setting that changed her focus to the whole child and the school family.
Mrs. Delaney’s roles at BCAS have included Math Teacher and Supervisor of Education. Having recently earned her principal’s certification, Mrs. Delaney now assumes the position of Assistant Principal.
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.
Jacquelene O'Brien, Director of CST/Related Services
Ms. O’Brien graduated Summa Cum Laude with a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Special and Elementary Education from Gwynedd-Mercy University (GMU) in 2006. Upon graduation from GMU, Ms. O’Brien began her teaching career in the Evesham Township School District where she taught self-contained preschool disabilities and autism classes for over a decade. While teaching, Ms. O’Brien earned a Master of Science in Educational Leadership with supervisor and principal certifications from Delaware Valley University. Based on her education and work experiences, Ms. O’Brien brings an expertise working with children and adults with significant intellectual disabilities requiring intensive therapeutic and medical treatment.
Eager to embrace a new challenge, Ms. O’Brien joined the Pioneer Autism and Sensory Center (PASC) program at BCSSSD as an Autism Consultant in 2017 serving students ages 3-21. She is currently enrolled in a post-master’s course sequence through the University of North Dakota to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). In 2018, Ms. O’Brien was appointed as the Supervisor of Education of the Transition Program and has a vision to empower students to transition into young citizens with employable skills sets inclusive of vocational training. In her undergraduate years, she served as an education representative in the Student Government Association and was an active member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and Sigma Phi Sigma, The National Mercy Honor Society.
Ms. O'Brien was appointed in 2019 as the Director of Child Study Team and Related Services.
Tara Mellace(Pyfrin), Westampton High School Campus Supervisor
Tara Mellace (Pyfrin) has been at BCSSSD since 2017 currently serving as the High School Supervisor, District Affirmative Action Officer and District Testing Coordinator. Mrs. Mellace’s accomplishments at BCSSSD include creating and implementing a new Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Plan K-12, creating the districts three year Comprehensive Equity Plan and created and implemented a Tiered Transitional Educational Plan for all students grades 9-12. Prior to joining BCSSSD Mrs. Mellace was an Administrator and Reading Specialist at Pineland Learning Center and an English Language Arts Teacher at Pennsgrove Carneys Point School District.
Mrs. Mellace holds a Master Degree in Reading Education and a Master Degree in Educational Leadership from Rowan University. She is working on her PH.D in Curriculum and Instruction at Liberty University specializing in Tiered Learning in a Special Education High School Environment.
Mrs. Mellace is an active member in her community. She serves as an original Board Member for the South Jersey Life Skills Lab providing workshops and trainings to parents and children with Special Needs in areas of Reading, Writing and Workforce Readiness Skills. She received The Jaycees and Atlantic City Weekly Top 40 Under 40 Professionals Award in Southern New Jersey in 2015 for her accomplishments in Education. She is also a member of the NJSPA, ASCD and ILA.
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.
Educational Services Unit (ESU)
Bobbie Downs, ESU Director, BCSCRT Administator, BCPDI & Public Home Instruction
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. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Rowan University. Ms. Downs also holds a Graduate Certificate of Autism Education and is a certified mindfulness instructor for Mindful Schools. Ms. Downs is an active member of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the National Alternative Education Association and the educator National Honor Society Kappa Delta Pi.
Nicole Margiotta, Technology/
Augmentative Alternative Communication and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Department
Nicole Margiotta received a Culinary Degree from the Academy of Culinary Arts and was the first female research chef in the history of Campbell Soup Company. With research and development background, and a passion for children, Nicole left Campbell Soup after 15 years and received her bachelor’s degree from Rowan University in special-education. She taught fifth grade resource room and inclusion in Lumberton Township for three years. She went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Assistive Technology (AT) from Fort Hays State University and an AT certificate from CSUN (California State University Northridge). Nicole joined the Educational Services Unit of Burlington County in 2003 where she created the AT Department. She received her supervisory certificate from Rutgers University in 2004 and became the Supervisor of the IPP (Integrated Preschool Program) at community based preschools in Burlington County. Two years later, she create the Augmentative Alternate Communication (AAC) branch of the AT Department. Over the past five years, Nicole and her team have created the Burlington County Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education Initiative. She spearheaded ASL (American Sign Language) as a foreign language for both Burlington County Institute of Technology and Burlington County Special Services School District. In addition, she and her team developed Sign Me A Story and AAC Social Groups events for the community; both held at the Burlington county library. Nicole was the recipient of the 2016 Burlington County Principals and Supervisors Association visionary Leadership Award.
Alan Kotzen, Public Child Study Team & Juvenille Detention Center Education Program
Alan Kotzen graduated from Temple University with a Doctoral degree in School Psychology. His first opportunity to utilize that degree was with the New Jersey Department of Corrections at the Juvenile Medium Security Facility (JMSF) in Bordentown, New Jersey. At JMSF, he served as the Child Study Team Coordinator in a lock-down facility for students/residents aged 14 – 21. After twelve years, Dr. Kotzen was promoted to Detention Center Manager for the Juvenile Justice Commission. In this capacity, he ensured that all residents of the then eighteen juvenile detention centers across the state received a New Jersey Department of Education-compliant education. In 2016, Dr. Kotzen retired from State service and accepted the position of Supervisor of Education at the Burlington County Juvenile Detention Center, a responsibility with which he was intimately familiar. In his spare time, Dr. Kotzen provides Child Study Team services and consultation to public and non-public schools across Burlington County.
Brooke Vermes, Supervisor Public Child Study Team and Related Services
Brooke Vermes is the Supervisor of Public Child Study Team and Related Services. In 2011, Ms. Vermes received her bachelor’s degree from Holy Family University in Elementary and Special Education. After graduation, Ms. Vermes 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. Vermes has served as the Pre-Intervention and Referral Services liaison and she has served on the Curriculum Team. While teaching, Ms. Vermes 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. Vermes 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.
Leigh-Ann Esaia, Supervisor Nonpublic Child Study Team and Speech, Charter Child Study Team
Ms. Esaia lives in Beverly, NJ, and graduated from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 1999, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology. Immediately after graduation, Ms. Esaia began her speech career in the Pleasantville School System. In 2004, while working in Pleasantville, Ms. Esaia received her Master of Science degree in communicative disorders from West Chester University. After a successful span with Pleasantville Public Schools, Ms. Esaia began working in the Hammonton School District, where her speech students ranged from preschool through high school. In 2012, Ms. Esaia had an opportunity to return to her former grammar school when she accepted the position as the Speech Language Pathologist in Beverly City. She was delighted to assist the children in her hometown community. In 2014, Ms. Esaia attended Rowan University to receive her supervisor’s certification. In 2017, Ms. Esaia accepted a position in the Educational Services Unit of the Burlington County Special Services District (ESU-BCSSD). In 2018, Ms. Esaia was asked to be the Supervisor for Nonpublic CST/Speech and Charter CST. She looks forward to working with the many professionals at the ESU-BCSSD.