Patricia Wright - Executive Director of NJPSA
A lifelong educator, Patricia Wright is currently the Executive Director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. She has held the positions of teacher, reading specialist, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. Mrs. Wright serves as a member of the New Jersey Professional Development Advisory Committee. She also served as the chair of the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Task Force and co-authored the New Jersey Bar Foundation's Anti-Bullying Curriculum. She is the developer of the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR), a comprehensive and coherent model of school improvement, which has been endorsed by the Partnership on Collaborative Professional Learning. Most recently, she spearheaded the development of the New Jersey Leadership Academy with the NJASA, in which cohorts of superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, supervisors, and directors collaborate for a yearlong experience of quality, sustained professional learning.
Jay Doolan, Ed.D. - Chief Executive Officer of FEA
Jay Doolan is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA). Before joining FEA, Dr. Doolan was the assistant commissioner for the Division of Educational Standards and Programs at the NJ Department of Education. In this position, he was responsible for the development and implementation of the Core Curriculum Content Standards, the statewide assessment system, and the secondary transformation initiative. He also oversaw the operations of the following offices: Academic Standards, State Assessments, Math and Science Education, Language Arts Literacy Education, Career and Technical Education, Charter Schools, Professional Standards, Licensing, and Higher Education Collaboration. Prior to this, Dr. Doolan served as director of several offices, including: Academic and Professional Standards, Direct Services, Urban Education, Bilingual Education, and Education for Homeless Children and Youth. He also worked in the Camden City Public Schools and served in the Peace Corps as a teacher in Turkey and Ghana.
Denise Hecht - Assistant Executive Director (NJPSA) and Chief Financial Officer (FEA)
Denise Hecht is presently the Assistant Executive Director for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) and Chief Financial Officer for the Foundation for Educational Administration, Inc. (FEA). Prior to this, she was the Founder and President of DenTel Practice Management. Her firm offered professional and staff development in the fields of education, health care, and business. She received her MBA from Wagner College in New York where she has served as an adjunct member of the graduate school business administration faculty. She has also served as an adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickinson University. Ms. Hecht is a published writer, the author of the CLICK Profile for Educators, and is a certified NLP practitioner. Ms. Hecht has served as the President of the New Jersey Association of Partners in Education and has been a board member of the David Sarnoff Library and Museum. In partnership with the NJDOE and the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, she has assisted in writing and successfully implemented a $5.1 million grant for training Superintendents and Principals in leadership and technology in the state of New Jersey. She has also presented at several national conferences on leadership in the health, education, and business-related fields. Ms. Hecht was past Director of the Institute for Education and Cognitive Psychology, an organization devoted to the personal and professional improvement of teachers and administrators.
Dee Discavage - Accountant
Dee started working for NJPSA in 1992. Along with the business aspects of NJPSA, she has been very involved in the administration of state and federal grants awarded to the Foundation for Educational Administration, Inc. Prior to working with NJPSA she worked as an Accountant for Johnson & Johnson Baby Products in Skillman NJ. She graduated from Rider University.
Daniel Higgins - Director of Strategic Communications
Daniel Higgins joined NJPSA as its communications director in August 2012. He had spent the previous 13 years in higher education marketing and communications, as the executive director of University Communications at Rider University and as executive director of University Relations at Kean University. He also spent several years working in the field of government and political campaigns for Governor Jim Florio, Congressman Rob Andrews, and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald. Higgins earned a bachelor of arts at Temple University and a master of public administration from Rutgers University.
Rob Burek - Director of Technology
Gina DeVito-Birnie - Coordinator of Marketing and Design
Gina DeVito-Birnie joined NJPSA in 2007 as the Communications Specialist/Graphic Designer and is now the Coordinator of Marketing and Design. Responsible for the visual communications and branding of NJPSA and FEA, Gina designs all printed and electronic marketing materials. She also creates email marketing campaigns with written content from her Government Relations, Professional Development, and Communications colleagues to advertise workshops and provide members with pertinent information. Ms. DeVito-Birnie previously worked as graphic designer for Ansell Healthcare Products and through the Creative Group for such clients as Merrill Lynch/Blackrock, Films Media Group, and Johnson & Johnson. She has a B.A. in Italian from Rutgers University and a Certificate of Digital Arts from Brookdale Community College. With Rutgers, Gina spent her Junior year at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy. She has taken numerous non-credit drawing and painting classes at various institutions.
Grace Moylan - Technology Coordinator
Grace is Technology Coordinator for New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. She has over 20 years of experience with NJPSA specializing in many areas of communications and technology including technical support, graphic design, content management and online learning. Grace has taught online and face-to-face courses in communication and technical writing for several colleges and universities since 2007. She earned her Master of Science in Professional and Technical Communication from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and Associate in Arts from Mercer County Community College.
Debra Bradley, Esq. - Director of Government Relations
Debra Bradley has been the Director of Government Relations for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association since 1990. In this capacity, she serves as the Association’s chief lobbyist before the United States Congress, the State Legislature, the State Board of Education and all federal and state agencies involved in the regulation of public education. She is directly responsible for the development and advocacy of NJPSA’s legislative agenda which covers a broad spectrum of educational issues including the preparation, support and development of school leaders, school finance, collective bargaining/employment issues and school reform issues. Prior to joining NJPSA, Debra spent eleven years working for the National Labor Relations Board at its field offices in Newark and Philadelphia. Ms. Bradley received her J.D. from Seton University School of Law in 1986. She received her undergraduate degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania with a major in Government and Law.
Robert Schwartz, Esq. - Chief Counsel
Since 1981 Mr. Schwartz has served as counsel to the NJPSA. Prior to 1981 he served as counsel to both the NJ Elementary and Middle School Administrators Association and to the NJ Secondary Principals and Supervisors Association, the two associations which together joined to form the NJPSA in 1981. Mr. Schwartz has also been in private practice for more than 30 years. Currently he is the principal shareholder in the Schwartz Law Group LLC. Mr. Schwartz been the lead counsel in many precedent setting education matters involving the NJPSA and its members. He has also been a contributor of legal articles to NJPSA publications. Currently Mr. Schwartz serves as chief counsel in charge of the NJPSA legal program serving the more than 6200 members of the NJPSA.
Wayne Oppito, Esq. - Legal Counsel
Wayne Oppito is a graduate of Northeastern University where he received his B.A. in History and Seton Hall University School of Law where he received his Juris Doctor degree. Mr. Oppito has been counsel to the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association since 1981. He has represented clients before the Commissioner of Education, Public Employment Relations Commission and the courts in a variety of matters including tenure, seniority, pensions, special education, grievances, employee benefits and the myriad of other issues which confront school districts and administrators. Mr. Oppito was appointed by the Commissioner of Education to the committee which revised the seniority regulations. He has served on the New Jersey Advisory Council on Law Related Education and the Attorney General’s panel on Drug and Alcohol and Abuse in the schools. Prior to becoming an attorney, he was a high school teacher of social studies.
Andrew L. Schwartz, Esq. - Associate Counsel
Andrew L. Schwartz, Esq., is associate counsel to the NJPSA. A former Board of Education and management attorney, Mr. Schwartz now represents members in all aspects of their employment disputes from navigating internal Board-led investigations to grievances to arbitrations to petitions before the Commissioner of Education, and in the courts. Upon graduation from the Vermont Law School in 2010 where he was an Articles Editor to the Vermont Journal of Environmental of Law and a member of Moot Court, Mr. Schwartz clerked for the Honorable Alvaro Iglesias, J.S.C., in the Hudson Vicinage for the 2010-11 term. He received his B.S. from Indiana University in 2005. Prior to practicing law, Mr. Schwartz taught high school mathematics.
Carol R. Smeltzer, Esq. - Legal Counsel
Ms. Smeltzer is a graduate of Temple University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1994. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1997. Ms. Smeltzer has been a practicing education and labor law attorney in New Jersey for the past 18 years. After graduating law school, Ms. Smeltzer worked in private practice representing local school districts and other public entities. From 2006 through 2015, Ms. Smeltzer worked for the State-Operated School District of the City of Paterson as its Labor Relations Officer, Director of Non-Traditional Programs and, most recently, Assistant General Counsel. In her capacity as Assistant General Counsel, Ms. Smeltzer was instrumental in the district’s successful implementation of TEACHNJ. Her extensive experience as a management attorney enables her to provide a valuable perspective to our members.
Chuck Stein - Assistant Executive Director
Chuck has served as an assistant executive director of NJPSA since 1996. In that capacity he works with field and legal services offering assistance to members with problems and working with our field representatives and attorneys. He also has developed an aspiring principals program, which has assisted hundreds of teachers in taking their first steps towards becoming a school administrator. In addition Chuck has conducted numerous principal searches for school districts across the state. These include both searches for interim and permanent positions. Prior to joining NJPSA’s staff, Chuck served as a teacher in NYC, vice –principal in Perth Amboy for four years and a HS principal in Monroe Twp for 22 years. Chuck also serves on a number of state committees, e.g. The NJ Human Relations Council, The NJ Association for Supervisors of Health and Physical Education, The Vocational and Technical Education Committee.
Robert Murphy - Director of Retirement Services
Bob Murphy is the Director of Retirement Services for NJPSA. Before joining the staff of NJPSA, Bob served the association as President (2011-12), as a member of the Board of Directors (2006-2012), Council member and State Coordinator for NASSP (2008-2012). He also served on a number of NJPSA committees over the years. Bob retired in October 2012 after 36 years as a public school educator. He began his career as a vocal music teacher in Piscataway and then served as the Fine Arts Supervisor, Adult School Co-Director and finally Assistant Principal at North Brunswick HS. Bob served as a middle school Principal in Middletown before finishing his career as the principal of East Brunswick HS. He was recognized in 2006 as the NASSP – NJPSA/Metlife HS Principal of the Year.
Emil Carafa - Coordinator of Professional Learning
Emil Carafa recently retired as the principal of Washington School in Lodi and has been actively involved in a variety of educational committees on the local, county, state, and national level. He has held the office of President on the county and state levels, representing principals, directors and supervisors on all levels. He has previously served as President of the Board of Directors of NJPSA and has served on the nominating committee for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. He also served as a member Educator Leaders’ Cadre for the State of New Jersey, representing administrators at PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) on the national level. Emil, working along with the Educator Leaders’ Cadre from New Jersey, is committed to working with all educators to better understand Standards and PARCC. Emil was also on the Advisory Committee on Teaching & Learning for Center Point Education Solutions and serves as a member of the steering committee, cohort developer and presenter for the New Jersey Leadership Academy and was named NJPSA Visionary Leader of the Year, Elementary Level Principal, in 2015.
Victoria Duff - Coordinator of Professional Learning
Victoria Duff is Coordinator of Professional Learning at New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. She also serves as Chair of the Learning Forward Foundation that provides grants and scholarships to educators internationally to enhance systems of professional learning. Throughout her 40-year career in education, she has been a classroom practitioner, at the elementary level, Coordinator of Mentoring and Induction, chaired the New Jersey Professional Teaching Standards Board, and worked at the Department of Education to support teachers and leaders in the implementation phase of new teacher induction, professional learning and educator effectiveness. Victoria has presented at state and national levels on effective professional learning, the development of high functioning environments of supports for teacher and school leaders, and strategic planning. She is a holds an undergraduate degree from Muskingum College in religious studies and from Georgian Court University in Elementary Education, as well as a Masters in Educational Administration from Walden University.
Donna McInerney, Ed.D. - Director of Program Development and Design
Dr. Donna McInerney is the Director of Program Development and Design at NJPSA/FEA. A former high school Social Studies teacher and supervisor, she earned her doctorate from the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, specializing in curriculum theory and development. Over the last 15 years she has been an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership and Counseling at Rider University and currently teaches at The College of New Jersey.Throughout the course of her career, Dr. McInerney has provided professional learning experiences on a wide variety of topics including the Connected Action Roadmap (CAR), research-based instructional strategies, classroom management techniques, problem-based learning, differentiated instruction, curriculum integration, cooperative learning, teacher evaluation and the development of student growth objectives. Her most recent work has focused on the instructional leadership skills and coherent frameworks needed to improve teacher practice, drive student achievement and ensure systemic, sustained, school improvement.
Mary Reece, Ed.D. - Director of Special Projects
Dr. Mary Reece is the Director of Special Projects at the Foundation for Educational Administration. Prior to joining FEA, Mary served as a principal, assistant principal and supervisor in Edison Township. She began her teaching career in Irvington, and later worked at the NJ Department of Education. Mary has taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Rutgers University from which she received her graduate degrees, and she has served as a mentor for many administrative interns. She has presented at state, national and international conferences on such diverse topics as teacher/administrative tenure, special education issues, mentoring/induction, arts education, and afterschool/extended learning. She has been an active member of local, state, and national education associations, completing a term on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Currently, Mary is the chairperson of the Montgomery Township Environmental Commission, and a member of Sustainable Montgomery. She serves on the Board of Directors of Young Audiences - NJ, and of C.A.R.E. (Community Action Reaches Everyone), an Edison-based organization. In addition, Mary is a founder of Creative NJ, and she is the Board Chairperson of the NJ Arts Education Partnership.
Barbara Gantwerk - Coordinator of Special Projects
Barbara Gantwerk received her BA and MA in Speech Pathology from Brooklyn College. She began her career as a speech pathologist in Tel Aviv Israel where she worked at a treatment center for children with disabilities and taught at the University of Tel Aviv. Upon returning to the United States, she worked as a speech pathologist with children with disabilities. She began her career with the New Jersey State Department of Education in 1979 as the state consultant for speech and language services, and in 1994 she was appointed state director of the Office of Special Education, a position she held for 11 years. Ms. Gantwerk was then appointed to the position of Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Student Services, the division responsible for state and federal programs serving the needs of the student populations most at risk for educational problems including; students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students (Title I) homeless, migrant and limited English proficient students. Her work also addressed student health services, school climate issues such as harassment, intimidation and bullying, after school programs and the Katzenbach State School for the Deaf.
Mary Beth Currie, M.S.E. - Associate Director of Special Projects
Mary Beth Currie is the Associate Director of Special Projects at the Foundation for Educational Administration. She began her teaching career in Philadelphia. Upon completion of her certification as a Reading Specialist, she served as a Reading Specialist in the Upper Darby School District. She obtained her first administrative position as a Principal in Upper Darby. In 2001 she was appointed the Principal of Bret Harte Elementary School in Cherry Hill. During her tenure, the school was identified as a Governor’s School of Excellence and was authorized and an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Most recently, Ms. Currie served as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the Holmdel Township Public Schools. While there, she established a program for Gifted and Talented students, expanded the AP offerings and supported the “Rotating Block Schedule” at the High School. She retired in 2014 from public education. She completed her undergraduate degree at St. Joseph’s University and her graduate degree at The University of Pennsylvania. She did additional graduate work at Pennsylvania State University where she earned her Principal Certificate and qualified for the certificate as a School Administrator. In 1999, she was recognized as a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholar and travelled to Japan to study the educational system. She has presented at local and national conferences on a range of topics from Literacy Instruction to Inclusive Programs for youngsters on the Autism spectrum.
FEA Leadership Programs
Frank W. Palatucci. Jr. - Director of School Leadership Programs
Frank W. Palatucci, Jr. retired from a 41-year career in public education. He began his teaching career in the Philadelphia Public School District, where he taught for nearly ten years. He received a B.S. in Secondary Education (English) from Temple University. He then obtained his Master’s Degree in School Administration and Supervision from Rider University. He did additional graduate work at Rowan University where he earned his School Administrators Certificate. He obtained his first administrative position at Paulsboro H.S. in 1979. He served Paulsboro for 6.5 years – the last two as Principal. He was then appointed as Principal of Bensalem H.S. in Bensalem, PA in 1985 where he served for seven years. He was then appointed as Principal of Highland Regional H.S. in 1992. He was named as the NJ Principal of the Year (Southern Counties) in 2003. He was then named as the NASSP/Met-Life NJ Principal of the Year in 2007. He has traveled and spoken extensively on the important role of school climate and culture has on student performance. Mr. Palatucci has been active with NJ-EXCEL for the past seven years. He has served as an E-Mentor to three cohorts.
Adele T. Macula, Ed.D. - Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Dr. Adele T. Macula is the director of curriculum and instruction for NJ EXCEL. Through her association with the New Jersey Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NJASCD) and NJPSA/FEA, Dr. Macula has presented workshops on implementing the Common Core State Standards to more than 2,000 educators since February 2012. She is also a trainer for the Stronge Teacher Effectiveness Performance Evaluation System and provides sessions for districts who have adopted the model. Dr. Macula spent much of her professional career in the Jersey City Public Schools beginning in 1978. She served as an elementary teacher, the District Supervisor for Programs that Maximize Potential (G/T) and Special Assistant for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Macula held the position of Associate Superintendent – Curriculum and Instruction (K-12) from September 2000 through May 2011 when she retired from the district. She has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the Masters in Teaching Program and at Seton Hall University in the Executive Ed.D. Program. She has served on many district and statewide committees and has presented at local, state, national and international conferences.
Jeff Graber, Ed.D. - Associate Director of School Leadership Programs
Dr. Graber is the Associate Director of School Leadership Programs at the Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA). Prior to his work at FEA in 2007, he was Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Woodbridge and then Princeton. Jeff also served as the State Executive Assistant to the State District Superintendent in Jersey City and as an Acting Associate Superintendent there. During his career, Jeff was a program administrator for the NJ Department of Education and a district administrator for the Long Branch schools. Jeff began his career path as a junior high school teacher in Elizabeth. In addition to his teaching and administrative work over the years, Jeff has participated in a number of doctoral candidate dissertation committees at Seton Hall University, Rowan University and Rutgers University. Jeff holds a BA in Biology from Jersey City State College and his Master’s and Doctoral Degrees from Seton Hall University.
Joseph Poedubicky, Ed.D. - NJ EXCEL Field-Based Programs Coordinator
Dr. Joseph M. Poedubicky is the Field-Based Programs Coordinator and instructor for the NJ EXCEL Program. Joe earned his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University; his MA in Educational Administration from Rider University; and a BS in Biology from Wagner College. He has public teaching experience from elementary through high school and has held administrative positions at all three levels as well. Joe has served as an adjunct professor for the MA in Education Program at Central Michigan University at McGuire Air Force Base and at Georgian Court University. He also served as a mentor for the New Jersey State Leaders to Leaders Program (L2L), a mentoring and induction program for new school leaders.
James Sarto, Ed.S. - NJ Leaders to Leaders Program Coordinator
Mr. Sarto has worked in the New Jersey Public School System for 35 successful years where he served as a teacher, supervisor, and administrator at various levels, prior to retiring as Principal of Saddle Brook Middle & High School. Mr. Sarto has served as a mentor to aspiring administrators for the past nine years through the Leaders to Leaders program prior to accepting the position of program coordinator. He is also currently a professional development consultant in the tristate area for Technologies in the 21st Century Classroom. He is a licensed pilot, an interpreter for the deaf, and has been a professional musician for over 45 years. Mr. Sarto is a member of the Executive Board of The New Jersey Alliance for Social Emotional, and Character Development, NJPSA Legislative Committee, Co-Chair of the NJPSA Elementary-Middle-Secondary Committee, New Jersey Council of Education, ASCD, Phi Delta Kappa, NASSP, Pequannock & Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, and Past President and current officer of the Pequannock Chapter of UNICO and UNICO National.
David Nash, Esq. - Director of Legal Education
David Nash currently serves as Director of Legal Education for the Foundation for Educational Administration and as the Director for the LEGAL ONE program, an innovative program that provides school law professional development for school leaders and other educators. From 2003 to 2011, Mr. Nash served as legal counsel for the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. In that role, Mr. Nash provided legal assistance to NJPSA members for legal issues arising out of the performance of their duties. Mr. Nash also served as Assistant Director of Government Relations for NJPSA from 1994 to 2003. He has also taught graduate level courses in the areas of school finance and school law at Rutgers University, New Jersey City University and Ramapo College. Mr. Nash received his B.A. from Rutgers University and graduated with High Honors from Rutgers Law School in 2003. While at Rutgers Law School he served as an editor for the Rutgers Law Review. Mr. Nash currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Healing the Children New Jersey, Inc., which is dedicated to providing medical services to children in New Jersey and around the world. His prior civic involvement includes six years service as a member of the Old Bridge Board of Education, including two years as board president, and six years of service as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Association for Children of New Jersey, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interests of children.
Sandra L. Jacques, Esq. - Supervisor of Legal Research and Content Development
Sandra L. Jacques is the Supervisor of Legal Research and Content Development for the LEGAL ONE program. Ms. Jacques simultaneously earned a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management and a Bachelor of Art in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While a student at the University of Massachusetts, she completed an internship with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. She holds a Juris Doctor from Widener University School of Law, and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Law School. She serves as an Adjunct Professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey, teaching the School Law Course in the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL) Program. Ms. Jacques is also an Instructor for the NJ EXCEL Program, and has presented at numerous conferences regarding School Law. Ms. Jacques is a member of the New Jersey Department of Education Human Trafficking Collaborative, and served as a Moderator for the three "Human Trafficking in Your Schools" Symposiums held in 2016-17. Prior to joining LEGAL ONE, Ms. Jacques practiced as an Insurance Defense Attorney in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She has represented public school districts in civil litigation matters including civil rights, discrimination, negligence and workers' compensation claims.
NJPSA and FEA Support Staff
Ilze Abbott, Administrative Assistant
Paul Flint, Technology Support
Stacy Barksdale Jones, Office Manager/Executive Assistant
Carmen Depresco, Administrative Assistant
Liz Dilks, Financial Assistant
John Emerson, Custodian
Wanda Grant, Administrative Assistant
Karen LaFata, Membership Coordinator/Administrative Assistant
Cindy Levanduski, Administrative Assistant
Karin Marchione, Events Coordinator/Administrative Assistant
Lori Morgan, Administrative Assistant
Ellen Sbarro, Administrative Assistant
Chrissy Selover, Paralegal/Legal Assistant
Ameena Terrell, Administrative Coordinator
Linda Walko, Administrative Assistant