Child Day Care Centers Suffolk County New York

Administrative Staff

Alternatives For Children


Dr. 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.



Patricia Coderre
Controller

Patricia, a Certified Public Accountant, joined Alternatives For Children in 2007 as Financial Controller, after having served for nine years in the same position at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Prior to making the change to the not-for-profit world, Patricia was a Supervisory Senior Accountant at Arthur Andersen, LLP in New York City, working in the Audit Division.

Patricia graduated Magna Cum Laude from the State University of New York at Albany with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She has been registered and licensed in New York State as a Certified Public Accountant since 1996.

Patricia brings to Alternatives For Children a wealth of experience spanning both the public and private sectors. Through sound financial analysis and solid accounting practices, in four short years she has been able to improve the overall financial performance of Alternatives For Children. Having implemented many strict budgetary guidelines and cost containment controls, in 2010 the final payment was made to purchase the land on which Alternatives For Children East Setauket is located. By 2013, Alternatives For Children through its Capital Campaign, looks to raise funds for a special redemption of up to a $1 million reducing our principal debt on the IDA Bond for the construction of the East Setauket facility. Under Patricia’s guidance, and together with the Board of Trustees, Alternatives For Children has been able to set a firm financial course for the future.


Sharon A. Bigin
PHR, Director Human Resources

Sharon has been with Alternatives For Children since its inception in 1988. Prior to that, her career history included working in both the legal and medical fields. During her tenure, Sharon has served in several capacities, and has been involved in many special projects, always adapting to fill the needs of a growing organization. She has served as Executive Assistant to Dr. Ficano; Office Manager to all Program Office Staff; provided direct oversight of payroll; recruited and staffed every program across all sites. She continues to ensure that the staff at Alternatives for Children is qualified to provide the best educational and therapeutic services to the children and families we serve.

In 1993, Sharon was appointed to the position of Director of Human Resources, having graduated from St. Joseph’s College with a BS in Human Resource Management. She holds her National Certification Credential of PHR from the Society of Human Resource Management, and is an active member in both the National and Local Chapters.


Grace Mary Altkin
Compliance and Quality Assurance Manager

Grace Mary came to Alternatives For Children in 2009, after a long career of progressive claims management with Vytra Health Plans in Melville. Grace Mary is an experienced health care leader with an established track record in operations efficiency and cost containment. She is extremely proficient in driving performance improvements throughout operations to maximize efficiency, improve turnaround time, reduce errors and contain costs within regulatory and contractual guidelines.

Grace Mary is a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, has a BS in Business Administration from St. Joseph’s College, and an MBA in Banking and Finance from Dowling College.

Under Grace Mary’s guidance, Alternatives For Children has adopted a new compliance plan that ensures that the highest standards are met in all programs and services. By instituting accountability procedures, introducing new systems and measures to improve and monitor the key aspects of service delivery, Alternatives For Children is well positioned to continue in its delivery of superior quality programs to the children we serve.