Child Day Care Centers Suffolk County New York

Program Directors

Alternatives For Children

Send EmailDr. Marie E. Ficano
Executive Director

Marie Ficano completed both undergraduate and Masters programs at City College, majoring in Special Education. Upon completion of this coursework she taught in special education classrooms in the New York City public school system and a private school in Brooklyn for children with autism, before moving to Long Island where she was a special educator in the Half Hollow Hills School District. Knowing in her heart that her goal was to make a far reaching impact in the lives of as many children with special needs as possible, rather than one class at a time, Marie Ficano decided to pursue a Masters of Education in School Administration, as well as a doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Beginning her administrative career as the Director of Special Education at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, she once again found that the number of children requiring services was greater than the limited number of children who could be served within the confines of a hospital setting. Returning to her far reaching goal, Dr. Ficano began to prepare a plan for the expansion of the services and education available to children with disabilities and special needs. Within a few short years, she along with the Board of Trustees of the Hospital in 1988 founded the St. Charles Education and Therapeutic Center in Port Jefferson. The St. Charles Education and Therapeutic Center quickly became a leader in Suffolk and Nassau counties in the delivery of Early Intervention services, Preschool Special Education programs, and in the offerings of related therapeutic services. Very soon the Center’s facility in Port Jefferson was not sufficient enough to serve the growing population of children being served from a large geographic area, and so the Center was expanded to locations in Aquebogue, Southampton, and Melville.

In 2003, the St. Charles Education and Therapeutic Center, without ever deviating from its mission was renamed and established as Alternatives For Children, a not-for-profit private school with the mission of providing the highest quality special and regular education programs and services to children with disabilities and their typically developing peers. Under the leadership of Dr. Ficano, $8.6 million in financing was secured, a site was selected, construction commenced, and in just sixteen short months a beautiful new 36,000 square foot facility situated on 4.6 acres of property in East Setauket was erected as the new home for Alternatives for Children.

Dr. Ficano has always been an active advocate and visionary voice ensuring the rights of children with special needs. At the federal level, Dr. Ficano served in various capacities, including Board President for the National Association of Private Education Centers for ten years, where she was also named Executive of the Year, and Commissioner of the National Commission for the Accreditation of Special Education Services. At the State and County level Dr. Ficano has served as a member of the New York State Governor’s Preschool Advisory Committee, President of the Long Island Coalition for Children with Special Needs, and Board Member of the Early Intervention Coordinating Council. In 2008, Dr. Ficano was recognized by the New York State Senate as a “Woman of Distinction.”

Having provided educational and therapeutic services for thousands of children from throughout Suffolk and Nassau counties, both typically developing children and those with special needs and their families, Dr. Ficano, along with the Board of Trustees and the administration and staff of Alternatives For Children, have consistently provided a dynamic early childhood environment in which children are encouraged to be creative, explore and experiment in order to meet or exceed the criteria established for their age. Historically it has been shown that children who graduate from Alternatives For Children have been given the tools they need to be ready to learn and be successful as they transition to the kindergarten environment. Through Dr. Ficano’s dedication and single-minded determination Alternatives for Children has become a leader in providing quality care to all children, but especially to those who need it most, at the most critical time in their development.

Wendy Jorgensen-James, LCSW-R, SAS, SDASend Email
Program Director

In 2010, Wendy came to Alternatives For Children after nineteen years at the Kramer Learning Center, eleven of those years as direct supervising administrator of the clinical and teaching staff.

Wendy received her BA in psychology from Dowling College; Masters in Social Work from Adelphi University; and attended Dowling College for post graduate work where she completed and received her certification in School District Administration.

Until August of 2013 Wendy served as Alternatives For Children East End Coordinator, covering an expansive geographical area, and collaborating with school districts on both forks of Long Island, ensuring that children with special needs were afforded an opportunity for an appropriate setting where their individual needs could be met.  During Wendy’s tenure as East End Coordinator a broad range of program options for children with special needs and their typically developing peers became available for the culturally and economically diverse demographic population that makes up the East End of Long Island.

In September of 2013, Wendy transitioned to a new position at Alternatives For Children as Clinical Coordinator for the entire organization.  In that role Wendy was responsible for clinical oversight, supervision, and on-going training in best practices in all therapeutic disciplines, ensuring high quality instruction for each child.

In 2017 Wendy was named Program Director at Alternatives For Children responsible for all aspects of our Early Intervention and Special Education Preschool programs. We are confident that Wendy, with her vast experience, is the person to ensure delivery of the highest quality educational and therapeutic services to all of our students.

Send EmailLaura Hauck, MA.Ed
Early Intervention Coordinator/IEP Coordinator

Laura Hauck has been a part of Early Intervention since the start of her career in 1992. Laura received her Bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s college in both elementary and special education as well as a Master’s degree specializing in Infant/Toddler Therapeutic Education. Laura was an Early Intervention teacher at St. Charles Educational and Therapeutic Center for many years and is happy to have the opportunity to return to Alternatives For Children in this new role.  Her years of experiences working collaboratively with children and their families, both as an educator and ongoing service coordinator, are sure to be an asset to the Alternatives For Children organization.

Send EmailLisa Caselles, MS.Ed, SDL, SBL
East Setauket Curriculum Coordinator

Lisa began her career working in early childhood education in 1999 and has worked at Alternatives For Children since 2001. In 2017, Lisa was named as the East Setauket Curriculum Coordinator.

Lisa received her graduate degree in education, birth through 6th grade for both special needs and typically developing students from St. Joseph’s College; received Master’s Degree in Education from Stony Brook University; received Advanced Master’s Degree in School Building Leadership and School District Leadership from Stony Brook University. Lisa is fully trained on the Creative Curriculum and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. Lisa is a proud Member of NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).

Lisa brings a wealth of knowledge regarding curriculum development and implementation to our program. She will provide guidance and direction as we align Common Core Learning Standards to the curriculum across disciplines. Lisa is experienced in research based instructional best practices and data analysis as part of the instructional process and will provide direct support to staff in these areas. She has experience in both regular and special education; training experience on various OCFS regulations; including and using technology appropriately; early literacy skills; implementing developmentally appropriate practices. In past schools, Lisa has been responsible for school-wide programs such as Pick a Reading Partners (PARP), and has successfully won teacher grants that enhanced student learning and teacher practice. 

Send EmailNancy Petrucelli, MA.Ed, SAS, SDA
East Setauket Coordinator

Nancy joins Alternatives for Children after 21 years at The New York League for Early Learning in New York City, holding a number of positions with the organization: IEP Coordinator, Educational Supervisor for home/community based Early Intervention special instruction and SEIT service, Coordinator of Quality Assurance, and for the last 12 years as the Coordinator of the LifeStart Program, the agency's home/community based program for both El and CPSE. Prior to her years with The New York League for Early Learning, Nancy taught preschool special education at United Cerebral Palsy of NYC Bronx Children's Program and Early Intervention and preschool special education at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside.

Nancy received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary/Special Education from Keene State College in New Hampshire and her Master of Arts in Education, with a specialization in Physically/Multiple Handicapped, from Teachers College Columbia University. She completed her Specialist Diploma in School Administration and Supervision at Queens College.

Nancy brings her knowledge of Early Intervention and CPSE regulations, along with her many years of supervision and program management. She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge with the team at Alternatives for Children, as well as continuing to learn and grow professionally in her position within the organization.

Beth Apostoli, M.Ed., S.D.A. Send Email
Dix Hills Site Coordinator

In November 2015, Ms. Beth Apostoli, M.Ed., S.D.A., joined our management team at Dix Hills as Site Coordinator.

Beth received her B.S. Ed. in Elementary Education from Adelphi University; M.Ed., Special Education from Boston College; and attended Hofstra University for post graduate work where she completed and received her certification in School District Administration and School Administrator and Supervisor.

Ms. Apostoli comes to Alternatives For Children with a wealth of public and private school experience: acted in the capacity of Director of Educational Services/Principal of the Children's Center at United Cerebral Palsy of Suffolk for four years; Adjunct Instructor at Hofstra University; worked for over six years at the Suffolk County Department of Health Bureau of Services for Children with Disabilities for Preschool Special Education; L.I. Infant Developmental Program as Coordinator of Education and Assessment; and most recently as the CSE/CPSE Administrator of a local School District.

She is looking forward to exploring all the wonderful things that are happening at Alternatives For Children and is excited about all the new possibilities that await.

Vivienne Viera, M.A., MS.Ed, SBLSend Email
Dix Hills Curriculum Coordinator

In 2014, Vivienne came to Alternatives For Children after thirteen years at the Gillen Brewer School in New York City, a non-public school for children with varying abilities, eight of those years as a Teacher Mentor and Program Director.  As Program Director at the Gillen Brewer School, Vivienne supervised teachers, coordinated and managed extracurricular programming, developed and coordinated the School-Wide Reading Incentive Program, guided curriculum choices and facilitated teacher training of new curriculum, implemented  classroom management and school wide positive intervention and supports protocols, and coordinated a yearly partnership with a nearby fitness center.

Vivienne’s administrative, supervisory, program and staff development skills, and extensive teaching experience with children with Autism will greatly benefit the Alternatives For Children organization as we begin a new chapter at our recently opened Dix Hills location.

Vivienne holds a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University; an M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education from New York University; certification as School Building Leader from the Bank Street Graduate School of Education’s Early Childhood Leadership program.

Send EmailDonna Menna, M.Ed., M.A. CCC/SLP, SDL
Site Director/East End Coordinator

In August of 2013, Donna came to Alternatives For Children to build upon the vision established by her predecessor Wendy Jorgensen for our East End locations.  Donna has a comprehensive professional background, which actually began many years ago as a Special Education teacher with St. Charles Educational and Therapeutic Center.  Since then, Donna went on to become a Speech/Language Pathologist, and ultimately the Clinical Director of the Suffolk location for a large related service agency.  During her career Donna has also served as a SEIT and related service provider on both the North and South Forks of Long Island.

Donna brings with her administrative, supervisory, and program and staff development skills which will greatly benefit the further growth and development of our East End locations in Aquebogue and Southampton. 

Donna holds a BA in Elementary/Special Education from St. Joseph’s College; an MA in Speech/Language Pathology form LIU – C.W. Post; School District Leadership Certification from LIU – C.W. Post; and is an Adjunct Professor in Speech/Language Pathology at both LIU – C.W. Post and Dowling College.

Send EmailPatricia D'Amico, MSP, CCC/SLP
Clinical Coordinator

Patricia began her career as a Speech-language Pathologist at Saint Charles Hospital in 1999.  Initially assigned to Saint Charles Educational and Therapeutic Center (now known as Alternatives for Children) in Southampton, she transferred to the Port Jefferson location in 2000.  Patricia became Supervisor of the Speech Department for all Alternatives For Children locations in 2003.

Patricia graduated Summa Cum Laude from Saint Peter’s College with a Bachelor’s degree in History.  She received her Master’s degree in Speech Pathology from the University of South Carolina.

In 2016, Patricia became the Clinical Coordinator at Alternatives for Children.  As such, Patricia is responsible across all Alternatives For Children locations for clinical oversight of the therapeutic disciplines; supervision, and on-going training in best practices in all therapeutic disciplines; oversight of staff projections and assignments to ensure resources are utilized efficiently and effectively; assist in facilitation and integration of curriculum and IEP goals; quality assurance efforts ensuring high quality instruction for each child.  Pat will continue to provide direct supervision of the Speech Department, the largest department of clinicians across our locations.  In addition, Patricia is the Mentor Program Coordinator and is responsible for all aspects of this valuable program.