Child Day Care Centers Suffolk County New York

Program Directors

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.

Laura 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.

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Lisa 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.

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Tina Messina-Dillon MS.Ed, SDA
East Setauket Coordinator - Clinical Coordinator

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Beth Apostoli, M.Ed., SDA
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.

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Vivienne Viera, M.A., MS.Ed, SBL
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.

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David DeJong M.A., MS.Ed, SBL
Southampton Curriculum Coordinator

David DeJong joined our East End staff in December 2020, assuming leadership responsibilities at our Aquebogue and Southampton locations. David's educational background includes School District Leadership Certificate from St. John's University, Master in Science in Curriculum Development & Instructional Technology from SUNY Albany, Master in Arts in Liberal Studies at SUNY Stony Brook, a Bachelor of Arts in Child Study from St. Joseph's College, and Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Suffolk Community College. He is certified in Early Childhood, Birth -2nd and Student with Disabilities.

Mr. DeJong is leaving his position with the NYC Department of Education where he served in both leadership and special education teacher positions. He has worked at Birch Family Services as a special educator. David has worked for a private agency as and Early Intervention Specialist for over 4 years.

It is also important to note that David is a veteran from the Army and Air Force.

David is eager to join our organization in a leadership capacity and looks forward to working with our east end staff and the children we serve.

Southampton 631-283-3272

Aquebogue 631-722-2170