Behavior management skills are at the heart of the ESCNJ / Rutgers collaboration



From left to right: Rutgers Behavioral Health Program Director Sonia Rodrigues-Marto, ESCNJ Asst.  Supt.  Gary Molenaar, NuView Academy Annex Advisor Amanda Olexian and Better Together Host and ESCNJ Communications Coordinator David Sandler discuss the collaboration with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care.

PISCATAWAY – A collaboration with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care provides increased behavioral and emotional support to students attending two New Jersey Board of Education Services (ESCNJ) schools.

Appearing on the ESCNJ Better Together podcast, Deputy Superintendent Gary Molenaar said that Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care “is a recognized leader” in solving behavioral problems in schools.

As of November, Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care Master Clinicians in Mental Health have been on-site at NuView Academy and NuView Academy Annex, schools providing support to students aged 5 to 21 with significant behavioral and emotional issues. . The ESCNJ faculty continues to manage the academic program, with Rutgers University’s Behavioral Health program focusing on psychiatric and therapeutic services.

Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation, established in memory of his son, Dylan, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Primary School tragedy, led an ESCNJ training of around 100 of educators focused on foundations.

The Better Together, hosted by ESCNJ Communications Coordinator David Sandler, can be heard on

Also appearing on Better Together is Rutgers University Behavioral Health Program Director Sonia Rodrigues-Marto, who manages and designs clinical services for students.

“Our focus is on the link between emotional well-being and academic success, which we customize to meet the needs of each student, because one size doesn’t fit all,” Rodrigues-Marto said.

The behavioral and emotional challenges for students include family violence, trauma, deportation issues, living in homeless shelters and many other issues, she said.

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“We help students learn coping skills to handle life’s challenges so that they can stay in school and continue to learn,” Rodrigues-Marto said, adding that the services include an important component of training of teachers and staff.

Rodrigues-Marto said being on-site is an advantage because clinicians can respond to students’ needs immediately, unlike outpatient programs, where students have to make an appointment to meet with therapists.

Molenaar said the goal of the collaboration is to help students reach the point where they are psychologically and emotionally available to return to the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

“Ultimately we want to send students back to their local school’s special or general education program,” he said.

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NuView Academy Annex Advisor Amanda Olexian said helping students build coping skills so they can stay in school, even when upset, is an area of major concentration.

“I will meet with the students whenever they need to speak,” Olexian said. “Sometimes I ask a student to meet me when I feel like they’re having a bad day. The student may still be unable to concentrate on his or her work, but acquiring the ability to stay in school and return to class is an important achievement.

In addition to personal issues, students need help dealing with horrors like school shootings and acts of terrorism.

“Students raise these kinds of issues,” Olexian said.

READ:ESCNJ offers a new optional robotics course for struggling students

“We provide an environment where they can work through their feelings. I often take a step back and let students process their emotions among peers, which helps them learn to be there for each other, ”she added.

ESCNJ Superintendent Mark J. Finkelstein, although not a guest on the podcast, said collaboration with the Rutgers Behavioral Health Program may expand depending on registrations.

“Everyone is fighting to prevent the kind of tragedies that devastate us all,” said Finkelstein, referring to the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“Access to guns may be part of the solution, but ultimately educators need to find ways to help students deal with any destructive behaviors they envision to make real progress,” he said. -he declares.

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Finkelstein cited Board Member Beth Maroney’s outreach to the Dylan’s Wings of Change Foundation, which led the ESCNJ to organize a professional development program on enhanced social and emotional support for struggling students, which attracted around 100 educators statewide.

Ian Hockley, who founded Dylan’s Wings of Change Foundation in memory of his son, Dylan, one of 20 first graders killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, facilitated the workshop.

READ: Father of school shooting victim leads workshop for educators

Hockley shared information and led exercises from the foundation’s Wingman Youth Leadership program, intended to inspire “all children to go beyond and create inclusive communities in their schools, sports clubs, dance studios and more. “.

According to Molenaar, parents and educators interested in learning more about the ESCNJ’s collaboration with Rutgers University’s Behavioral Health Care program can start by contacting their local school district.

“As a public district, we are partners with all public schools, so the process should start in the student’s home district,” he said.

The state’s largest education services commission, the ESCNJ provides special education services to school districts across the state, coordinates transportation services for more than 10,000 students across the state, and operates a system Co-op Pricing with over 1,100 members, the largest co-op buying program in New Jersey.



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