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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.
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 her new position at Alternatives For Children as Clinical Coordinator for the entire organization. Wendy is responsible for clinical oversight, supervision, and on-going training in best practices in all therapeutic disciplines, ensuring high quality instruction for each child.
Dr. Junior comes to Alternatives For Children with a wealth of experience and a comprehensive professional background. Kathy received Masters in both Special Education and Social Work from Adelphi University; and a doctorate in Clinical Social Work from New York University.
Kathy has worked with children with Autism Spectrum disorders as a Special Education Teacher and as a Social Worker with young children with a range of special needs and disabilites in schools, clinics, and hospital settings. Since 1993, Kathy has been providing Early Intervention services both as a direct provider and more recently as an administrator and coordinator of Early Intervention programming.
With her range of experience Kathy will be a valued asset for Alternatives For Children.
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.
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.
Dorothy came to Alternatives For Children in 2005, bringing with her over thirty years of experience as a teacher, supervisor, and administrator. Her diversified experience spans the spectrum of public education, as well as corporate, private, and non-profit child development programs, including federally funded Head Start and Early Head Start.
Since coming to Alternatives For Children East Setauket as Early Childhood Coordinator, Dorothy has been instrumental in the implementation of innovative programming and developmentally appropriate best practices. In 2007, in collaboration with Ingrid Trouvé, instituted and trained all staff in the Creative Curriculum for Preschool, as the overarching philosophy and curriculum framework at Alternatives For Children. Under her direction Alternatives For Children East Setauket has been designated by the New York State Department of Health as a Child/Adult Food Care Program, and a breast-feeding friendly child care center. Dorothy has initiated, and maintains, a partnership with the Stony Brook University Medical Center’s Long Island Center for Pediatric Obesity Prevention, providing healthy nutrition information for staff and parents alike. Under Dorothy’s leadership, in 2009, Alternatives For Children East Setauket was chosen as a field test-site for the QUALITY Stars NY program.
Dorothy received her M.S. in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Brooklyn College, C.U.N.Y, and attended C.W. Post for post graduate work in School Administration and Supervision, and maintains New York State permanent certification in Teaching N-6, and School Administration / Supervision. As East Setauket Early Childhood Coordinator, Dorothy is diligent in assuring that the early childhood educational experiences provided for the students, and their families, are of the highest caliber and quality.