Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees, as the policy-making body, promotes the welfare of the school, especially in the areas of finance, fund raising, and public relations. The Board is composed of parents, former parents, and selected members of the community. The Board meets monthly, except for July and August, during the third week of the month, at the school. For the 2012-2013 school year, the members of the Board of Trustees are as follows: Chairman; Judah Samter, Vice-Chair; David Dickman, John Loester, Richard Russo, Corey Stein, Gene Curry and Patrick Kane.
Judah Samter, Chairman
Mr. Judah Samter is the parent of current student Moshe, who has attended Vincent Smith School since 2011. He and his wife Bayla have five children. Mr. Samter is an active member of the South Shore community and has been involved with many major development initiatives for the local special education programs, and local synagogues. He was instrumental in raising the required funds to help build a state-of-the-art playground for the Hebrew Academy for Special Children-Woodmere campus, which was designed to accommodate the special needs of their students. He was also involved with the fundraising and development of a local South Shore Synagogue (BKNW) and has served as a member of the Board of Trustees and chaired the Synagogue’s Youth Department.
Mr. Samter is currently a Senior Vice President at Capital One Bank. He joined the bank in October 2009 and currently serves as the primary point of contact for the bank in selling distressed commercial assets throughout the United States. He is responsible for fostering and strengthening key real estate banking relationships for the bank, including real estate funds, investors, developers and brokers.
Mr. Samter holds a Bachelors degree from Yeshiva University and a Masters degree from New York University with a concentration in Real Estate Finance and Investment (2006).
“Bayla and I have been touched by the commitment the teachers and the administration of the Vincent Smith School (VSS) have shown to our son Moshe. He continues to make progress academically and socially, and we attribute his growth and development to the wonderful staff at VSS.”
David Dickman, Vice-Chairman
David Dickman has been a member of the Vincent Smith School Board of Trustees for more than a decade. He is currently serving as the Vice Chairman. “I was recruited by former Board Chairperson Ellen Forrest, with whom I had a shared vision for the school,” said Mr. Dickman. “That vision has enabled us to increase programming and improve the curriculum.”
Mr. Dickman brings a wealth of financial experience to his role on the Board. Prior to retiring in 2007 to devote more time to his son, he worked for Goldman Sachs & Company on Wall Street for 40 years as a Senior Vice-President on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Some of the deals Mr. Dickman worked on were the British Petroleum IPO, the AT&T American Wireless IPO, DreamWorks IPO, Las Vegas Sands IPO, just to name a few of the several hundred.
Mr. Dickman was drawn to the Board by former Chairperson Ellen Forrest, but has stayed for a chance to make a difference, and out of appreciation for what the school has meant to the development of his son. Mr. Dickman’s son is a 2007 VSS graduate who went on to the Thames Program at Mitchell College.
“I believe it was the help of faculty and staff at the Vincent Smith School that helped prepare my son for his college education,” said Mr. Dickman. “The teachers at Vincent Smith went above and beyond what was required of them to teach my son, as well as his fellow students. It’s their dedication to teaching and the school that will make a successful experience for every child that attends here.”
Mr. Dickman envisions a VSS future that includes the expansion of our current programs and new facilities that will enable each and every child that attends the Vincent Smith School to have a successful education.
John Loester has been actively involved at Vincent Smith School since his daughter began attending as a fifth grader several years ago. Mr. Loester’s commitment to the school led its trustees to ask him to join the Board last year.
Despite the professional demands that come along with being a busy ABC Television executive, Mr. Loester always finds the time to volunteer at the school’s events. He and his wife Pat, who served as PTA President, are never far away when the school is in need of a helping hand. Whether it’s an Open House, the Thanksgiving Feast, or the annual Scholarship Brunch, they lend their time, talent and monetary support to each event.
Mr. Loester shares the Board’s vision to increase enrollment in an effort to allow more Long Island and Queens’ students with special needs to experience a supportive atmosphere that applauds a child’s ability to learn differently.
“Learning is the key component,” said Mr. Loester. “It is an educator’s job to ensure that learning happens for every child. Teachers at Vincent Smith are focused on supplying each child with what they need individually to be successful. That is what contributes to VSS being such a special place.”
Rich Russo and his wife Laura made several visits to the Vincent Smith School before realizing that the traditional education system was no longer viable for their daughter, and enrolled her into the school. Since then, their daughter Victoria has been showing, realizing, and feeling her true potential.
A major goal of Mr. Russo is to help others see the benefits of making alternative and specialized teaching and learning methods work for their child, as it has helped his. His plan is to increase financial security and enrollment, by increasing the awareness and prominence of the school, and its benefits to others.
Rich has been working at Northrop Grumman Corporation for over 25 years, currently as a manager in Product Support Systems Engineering. His community service includes participating in the Board of Directors of his local Little League, as well as being a member of the VSS PTA. He extends his hand to the school by organizing an annual VSS family outing, helping with events, and participating and discussing the benefits of school on Admissions Open House days.
“The Vincent Smith School is a place where the administration, staff, and faculty extract the student’s capacity by patiently providing the careful individualized attention they need. VSS goes far beyond academics; the children become enhanced with confidence, self-advocacy, and awareness as a result of being and discovering in this environment.”
Growing up the son of a Business Owner and a Special Ed Teacher on Long Island, Mr. Stein was instilled with a solid work ethic and understanding of the importance of education and perseverance.
"My breadth of experience in the business community servicing high net-worth clientele, provides me with knowledge to help the Vincent Smith School to succeed." After selling his business interests in 1993, he became a Financial Consultant at Dean Witter, moved to Merrill Lynch and is currently a First Vice President, and Senior Investment Management Consultant at Morgan Stanley in Jericho. Mr. Stein's team, The Annunziato, Maniscalco & Stein Group, empowers their clients with advice and opportunities such as Special Needs Planning, Wealth Transfer Planning, Financial Planning and Asset Management.
Corey and Tamara married in 1992; have a daughter Rebecca, and son Harrison, who started in the 5th grade at Vincent Smith School in 2010. "
As a parent who is aware that his child may not excel to his fullest in a public school environment, I believe it is imperative that we have our son Harrison enrolled in Vincent Smith School where he receives specialized and focused instruction. The smaller classes provide a social enriching and nurturing environment. I became a Board member to help facilitate the continued growth and prosperity of Vincent Smith School with guidance and expertise in philanthropic and financial planning."
In his spare time Corey enjoys golf, watching the NY Giants, Rangers and Yankee games with Harrison, personal training, and playing with his 2 Labrador Retrievers.
Mr. Curry is married; his wife Judi is an attorney at Harris Beach, PLLC in Manhattan; they have two teenage boys. In 1985 he graduated from St. John’s University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology. His first working experience led him to Young Adult Institute, where he worked as a supervisor of a group home for Dual Diagnosed clients. He later received his Master’s degree at Long Island University in Secondary Education. He taught Social Studies for over ten years at Sacred Heart Academy. Mr. Curry eventually made the difficult decision to suspend his teaching career to become a full time parent to assist his special needs son.
The challenges and triumphs for parents of children with special needs is something Mr. Curry has experienced firsthand, both as a teacher and as a parent. “It is a process of development for the parents as well as for the child,” said Mr. Curry. The most rewarding aspects of that process can only be achieved through the cooperative effort of students, parents, teachers, and administration. That commitment towards creating an environment of collegiality is a priority at Vincent Smith which has had an immediate and lasting impact on Mr. Curry.
Equally as important to members of the Vincent Smith School community is to foster a safe and supportive environment for the students. “It is apparent to me” Mr. Curry observed, “that there is sense of relief for both parent and child when they first come to this school. In that moment, the real opportunities can begin to be met.” As a member of the board of directors Mr. Curry is eager to be a part of this environment. He is particularly excited to extend his expertise as a teacher and father to help meet the challenges of the new millennium. Developments in curriculum, pedagogy, and technology require students, parents, and teachers to be prepared to adapt in the usage of these tools. As the community of Vincent Smith rises to meet these new challenges, Mr. Curry is eager to participate in meeting this communities needs providing a stepping stone for our children to enter society as the vital participants.
Patrick Kane and his wife Connie have two sons attending the Vincent Smith School. Derek is in the ninth grade and Brett in the sixth, both starting in 2012. The public school system that both boys were enrolled in was not meeting their special needs and each has shown fantastic progress at the Vincent Smith School.
Mr. Kane has spent his career in Information Technology sales for companies such as Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. Mr. Kane is currently employed at Gigamon, selling technology solutions to companies in the New York Metro area. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University.
“We are proud that our sons attend the Vincent Smith School. The progress they have made and the self-confidence they exude increases each day. My goal is to be an ambassador for VSS and inform others of how the Vincent Smith School has had such a positive effect on not only Derek and Brett, but our family overall. When others told us the future was hopeless, the Vincent Smith School embraced our family and we once again have hope.”
The administrators for the 2012-2013 school year are as follows: Arlene Wishnew, Head of School; Christine Cralidis, Principal; Lisa Oosterom, Controller; Grace Avigliano, Director of Special Education and Debra Galinsky, Director of Development.
Head of School
After more than 30 years, Arlene Wishnew approaches each day at Vincent Smith School with the same enthusiasm she did when she drove on campus for the first time. Mrs. Wishnew joined the VSS staff as a lower school classroom teacher before accepting multiple responsibilities as a remedial reading teacher and high school English/math teacher. She later moved up the ranks to principal before assuming the responsibility of Head of School.
I am extremely proud of our ability to provide a place for children that allows them to feel safe, nurtured and motivated to succeed. Many of our children were not exposed to such an environment prior to coming to Vincent Smith School. While more than 83% of our students go on to college and others on to post high school vocational programs, I believe that number would be much lower for our children had they remained in a traditional setting. The level of support we provide to our students is incomparable. It is borne out of the fact that each of us is genuinely concerned about the welfare of our students. I have always believed that only if my students succeed, can I myself be successful.
Mrs. Wishnew is an active member of the educational community and several professional organizations, which include, but are not limited to, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Nassau Counselors Association, the Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, CHADD, the International Dyslexic Association, and the Clamdiggers (Heads of School on Long Island). Mrs. Wishnew received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CW Post College.
One might wonder what there is left for Mrs. Wishnew to accomplish. But after 30 years, she has no plans of riding off into the sunset. “This school has done great things, but there is still work to be completed. In the coming year, I want to refine the curriculum and further incorporate technology into the learning environment.”
Mrs. Christine Cralidis comes to Vincent Smith School with 26 years of diversified administrative and teaching experience and enthusiasm in parochial, nonprofit, and public schools. As the former Principal, Reading Specialist, and English Chairperson of the Education and Assistance Corporations, Nassau Learning Center, located in Port Washington, New York, her career objectives were to provide individualized academic instruction for at-risk alternative students with social, emotional, and learning disabilities while ensuring a safe and structured learning environment for students, staff, and family. Mrs. Cralidis comes to the School equipped with a thorough background in curriculum development, Child Study Teams, staff training, and peer mediation programs congruent with New York State Standards for alternative education and special education settings. Her love of education and student involvement has inspired the development of Student Council and Environmental Awareness Groups, a Literary Magazine and numerous Fund Raisers. Mrs. Cralidis has experience working with families and staff in conducting CSE and annual reviews. Mrs. Cralidis holds a BA in English from Pace University, an MS in Education from Fordham University and an advanced certification in School Administration from Brooklyn College.
Director of Special Education
Mrs. Grace Avigliano began her career at Vincent Smith School as a dedicated lower school teacher. Six years later, she now has become our Director of Special Education. Throughout her tenure at Vincent Smith School, Mrs. Avigliano has authored numerous differentiated multisensory curriculums, has co-created Vincent Smith School’s Self-Advocacy and Mentoring Program, was a founding member of our School Wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support Committee, and developed the Social Opportunities and Academic Remediation Summer Program. Mrs. Avigliano is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and the Long Island Social Emotional Literacy Forum. She has provided her colleagues with various staff development lectures and written articles regarding social emotional development in children. Mrs. Avigliano holds a MS.Ed in special education from Long Island University and is a permanently certified special education teacher. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Southeast Nassau Guidance Center and is a Friend of the Seaford Public Library.
Prior to coming to Vincent Smith School in 2011 Mrs. Oosterom has held positions of Controller with the Nassau County Museum of Art and the West Hills Montessori School. At her last position as Director of Finance & Operations with the non-profit organization, Parents for Megan's Law & The Crime Victims Center, she was responsible for overseeing the finance and accounting systems, purchasing, payroll, budgeting, annual audits and receivables and payables. Mrs. Oosterom holds a BS in Business Arts Management from SUNY Old Westbury and a certification from NYU in Arts/Non Profit Administration. Some of her responsibilities at VSS include financial reporting, budgeting, purchasing, payroll and receivables and payables.
Director of Development
Debra Galinsky has been in the Development and Fundraising arena since 1998. She has held the position of Development Director with other non-for-profit organizations on Long Island and has specialized in coordinating and implementing multi-million dollar Capital Campaigns. Mrs. Galinsky holds a degree in Accounting and has an Advanced Certification from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an international organization of professionals specializing in development and fundraising. At Vincent Smith School her responsibilities include database management, fundraising, special events, publications, website maintenance and alumni relations.
Vincent Smith School is staffed by close to 20 New York State certified teachers who are highly trained, qualified, and dedicated to the philosophy of the school.