Private school cost savings

Is it more expensive to serve students with disabilities in a private school than in a specialized public school? The answer is no, based on a new report issued by ASAH, a not-for-profit organization of private schools and agencies in New Jersey.

The new state school report cards detail performance and cost data for every school district in New Jersey, including dozens operated by county special services districts. Data show that costs at these programs can approach $90,000 per student because the costs now include, for the first time, such items as debt service for school construction projects, federal funds and state payments on behalf of districts for pension, Social Security and health care costs for retired teachers.

The ASAH report shows that, when it comes to educating students with complex disabilities, it costs taxpayers 44% less when those services are provided by a private school than when they are provided by a specialized public program.

Still not convinced? When viewed together with data showing that graduates of private schools do better than their public school peers on key outcome measures, you can begin to see the benefits of private special education.

State-approved private schools must be supported as part of any education reform agenda aimed at reducing costs and improving outcomes.  For more information and/or a copy of the ASAH report, visit or call (609) 890-1400, ext. 12.

A message to Matheny’s supporters

Kevin Ralph.

Kevin Ralph, Matheny’s Chief Development Officer, has a few things to say:

“Many thanks to everyone who has supported Matheny this year with your donations, in-kind gifts and countless hours of volunteer time. We are so fortunate to have a loyal group of friends and family members who make such a meaningful impact on the lives of the children and adults who are served through our hospital, school, group homes, community outreach and Arts Access programs.

“A special thank you goes out to all of those who supported this year’s Miles for Matheny, which was held on April 22 at Liberty Park in downtown Peapack. Despites the rain and wet conditions, hundreds of supporters from Matheny and the community turned out to walk, run, cycle, volunteer and cheer.

“We were very grateful to return to downtown Peapack, where Miles originally started 15 years ago, and are looking forward to another successful event next year. As soon as a date is confirmed for next April we will post that information on our website and other social media outlets so that you can mark your calendar!

“A list of this year’s sponsors and in-kind donors can be found in the spring/summer 2012 issue of Matheny Matters newsletter. If you don’t receive Matheny Matters and would like a copy, please call (908) 234-0011, ext. 273, or email The newsletter is also available on the homepage of our website.

“Thank you once again for your ongoing support of Matheny and best wishes for a safe an enjoyable summer.”

Setting a new record

Joan Stiles, taking home her purchases.

The Friends of Matheny’s Second Chance shop set a new record for the 2012-2013 season, reaching $126,036.08 in sales, its largest total ever and a 48% increase over the previous year’s $85,000. Previous high was reached in the 2006-07 season when the shop earned $105.275.58.

This was the shop’s first year in a building adjacent to the Gladstone United Methodist Church, after operating for several years out of the church’s basement. Funds raised by the Second Chance Shop help support a variety of activities and programs at Matheny.

Janet Stiles of Far Hills, was one of the last shoppers to make a purchase on Friday, June 22, the last day before closing for the summer. A “regular” there, she bought some clothes and a very unusual wooden holder for pots and pans. “I stop in quite frequently to check things out.”

The Second Chance shop will reopen for one day on August 22 for “First Chance at Second Chance.” Then, it will reopen permanently on September 4.

Matheny medalists

Shaleena Tomassini, winner of the 100m and 50m dashes.

Matheny students and patients took home seven medals at the 2012 New Jersey Special Olympics Summer Games held at The College of New Jersey. Adult patient Shaleena Tomassini won two gold medals, one each in the 100m dash and the 50m dash; and students Yasin Reddick and Natalie Tomastyk each won golds in the 30m motorized slalom.  Yasin also won a silver in the 50m motorized slalom. Community resident Bari Kim took home two gold medals in power lifting.

There was also a unified bocce team competition consisting of a four-person team, two patients and two recreation therapists. Adult patients Taty Manousakis and Jason Weiner teamed up with rec therapists Amy Beatty and Meghan Walsh to win a silver medal.

More than 2,400 athletes from across the state participated in the 2012 Summer Games. Matheny’s recreation therapy program provides our students and patients with a variety of recreational opportunities and resources to improve their physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being.

30m motorized slalom winner Natalie Tomastyk.


Congratulations, graduates!

Keynote speaker Jim Entwistle.

Nine students proudly graduated from the Matheny School on Friday, June 15. On hand to wish them well  was Jim Entwistle, the keynote speaker. His company, Village Office Supply, became one of Matheny’s vendors in 1989. Before long, said Entwistle, “We realized this was a special group of people we wanted to become more involved with.” Entwistle began his speech by asking for applause for the Matheny staff, whom he said one parent described as being “like angels.”

He was helped in his speaking duties by his 17-year-old daughter Samantha, who, as a fifth grader six years ago, had undertaken a school project to deliver personalized Valentines to all the Matheny students. That experience, she said, “triggered for me how important it was to volunteer at Matheny whenever they need me and whenever I can. Our family is proud to be part of the Matheny family.” Her father, referring to the phrase that appears on every page of the Matheny website, “Improving the Lives of People with Disabilities,” added that, “Matheny has improved the life of me and my family.” William Horton, mayor of Peapack-Gladstone, also spoke at the graduation and described Matheny as “a remarkable facility with a great history and a dedicated staff.”

The nine graduates were:  Dina Conturso, daughter of Lisa Conturso of Belle Mead, NJ; Samuel DeMarzo , son of Diane DeMarzo of Livingston, NJ; Carly Finley, daughter of Tom and Antoinette Finley of Flemington, NJ; James Formisano, nephew of Nicholas and Alice Crupi of Randolph, NJ; Bozena Geraghty, daughter of Michael and Liz Geraghty of Cranford, NJ; Zachary Ludlow, son of Tom Ludlow and Melissa de la Puente of Mattituck, NY; Allyson Merer, daughter of Barry and Donna Merer of Scotch Plains, NJ; Katie Miller, daughter of Carolyn Miller of Brookside, NJ; and Nicholas Perfeito, son of Rui and Sandra Perfeito of North Brunswick, NJ.

Donna Merer and her daughter Allyson.


Community spirit

Standing, from left, Bob Zaborowski, Somerset County freeholder; Steve Proctor; Jean Wadsworth; Casey Crabill, President of Raritan Valley Community College; Mark Caligure, Somerset County freeholder; Anita & Jim Ventantonio of Bridgewater, NJ; front, Patrick Scaglione, Somerset County freeholder.

“Matheny needs to grow in order to take care of those families who need them.” With those words, the Rev. John Graf, co-chair of the Spirit of Somerset Awards, introduced Matheny president Steve Proctor and The Friends of Matheny recording secretary Jean Wadsworth to accept their Spirit of Somerset Awards, given June 13 at a special ceremony at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

Proctor talked about the origins of Matheny and how the original school was founded by Walter and Marguerite Matheny, whose son Chuck had cerebral palsy. He described how Matheny has evolved into a special hospital for children and adults with medically complex developmental disabilities and how difficult it is for parents to decide that their child would be better off living at the hospital, rather than at home.

Wadsworth, a past president of The Friends of Matheny, recalled how, “nearly 30 years ago, a small group of relative newcomers to the Somerset Hills organized a fundraising group to support what was then the Matheny School. In the intervening years, The Friends has raised over $3 million to support the work of what has become the Matheny Medical and Educational Center.”

She then described the many contributions the group has made over the years. As an example, she invited members of the audience to, “be there on the weekend, and you will see residents enjoying entertainment that has been funded by The Friends. Know that these residents can also go skiing or ice skating using adaptive equipment, again funded by The Friends.”

Funds raised at the Spirit of Somerset event will benefit Somerset Treatment Services, an agency based in Somerville, NJ, that provides treatment and preventive services to persons suffering from substance abuse or HIV-related illnesses.

Who is Sheryl?

From left, Jim Hintenach, Sean Murphy, Sheryl Gavaras and Alex Fraumann.

“Books Sheryl Has Never Read” and “Sheryl’s Favorite Foods” were among the categories in a special Sheryl Jeopardy game, a centerpiece of the festivities honoring Sheryl Gavaras, who is retiring as principal of the Matheny School. Gavaras joined the Matheny School in 2002 as project administrator, moving up to director and acting administrator in 2005 and principal in 2007.

At her retirement party at the Bridgewater Manor in Bridgewater, NJ, Steve Proctor, president of Matheny, thanked her for her years of “great leadership” while others, notably vice president of operations Chris King and teacher Ken Brucato, skewered her as part of a roast. Although there was deejay for dancing, the musical highlight of the evening was a parody from The Sound of Music sung by vice principal Sean Murphy, phys ed teacher Jim Hintenach and technology coordinator Alex Fraumann.

Jersey Awards

Doug Harter with his son, Jack, a Matheny student, being interviewed by WCBS-TV's Cindy Hsu on the day before Miles for Matheny 2011.

Matheny won two awards at the 44th Annual Jersey Awards, held June 7 by the New Jersey Advertising Club at the Chart House in Weehawken, NJ. The awards, both in the “Public Relations Feature Media Placement” category were: 2nd place for WCBS-TV coverage of Miles for Matheny 2011; and 3rd place for “Walking Miles for Matheny” coverage of Miles for Matheny 2011 in the Bernardsville News.

The awards were presented by co-hosts Herb Barry, former radio personality and current senior sales executive at transit advertising firm Titan 360; and Terrie Carr, music director and midday host at WDHA 105.5FM, “The Rock of New Jersey.”

Freedom of expression

Natalia Manning with Johnson & Johnson vice president Arun Kumar.

“My art makes me feel free.”

Using an automated communications device, Arts Access artist Natalia Manning told a roomful of Johnson & Johnson employees what creating art means to her. The occasion was the opening reception for a special exhibition of Arts Access artwork at the J&J Information Technology Building in Raritan, NJ. More than 50 works of art created by 20 Arts Access artists are on display through the end of October on all four floors of the building. The exhibit includes paintings, digital art and sculptures.

Three other Arts Access artists – Jessica Evans, Chris Saglimbene and Alex Stojko – accompanied Manning to the reception, along with several members of the Arts Access staff.  Matheny’s Arts Access Program enables people with disabilities to create fine art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators.

Letter from the Governor

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie congratulated Matheny on the success of Miles for Matheny. In a letter sent June 1, the Governor wrote:

“On behalf of the State of New Jersey, I am pleased to recognize your efforts in organizing the 15th annual Miles for Matheny fundraiser. The commitment you have demonstrated to raising support and awareness for those with developmental disabilities has touched the lives of many throughout our state.  I am delighted to learn that the event was a success, and I applaud all of you on a job well done.”

Thank you, Gov. Christie.

Computers give birth to a garden

From left, Francis Mancho’s father Joseph Mancho; sister Amundan; mother Maureen; Francis; and friend Dick Endis of Whitehouse Station, NJ, in front of the community garden.

Last June, Francis Mancho, a resident of Budd Lake, NJ, received a $3,000 grant from the Jenny Jones Foundation to buy two new HP Touchsmart 610 xt series computers for Matheny students to use at our Tea Time Café. The café is part of Matheny’s transitional program for young adults, which teaches students retail skills as they sell food and beverages to Matheny staff members. The computers were important because the students’ disabilities make it difficult for them to ring up sales on a cash register.

Food products have included organic produce grown by Mancho at a garden at his church in Flanders, NJ. Now Mancho and his family have gone a step further. They have donated a community garden to Matheny, creating, planning and caring for it on the Matheny grounds. The first crop should be ready soon. Francis, as a student at Mount Olive High School, had volunteered at Matheny for four years. He is now studying business at LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

Congratulations, Yasin!

From left, Arts Access dance facilitator and Innovations dance instructor Heather Johdos, holding one of Yasin’s paintings; Yasin Reddick; and Deb Starker, president of the Madison Arts and Cultural Alliance.

Matheny student Yasin Reddick received a Kids For Kids Fine Arts Scholarship from the Dance Innovations Performance Foundation. The scholarship is presented to individuals with special needs to help pursue their interest in the arts.

Yasin is active in Matheny’s Arts Access Program, which enables people with disabilities to create fine art, assisted by professional artist-facilitators. Dance Innovations, located in Chatham, NJ, is a studio for dance and the performing arts. Its dance students often perform at Matheny.

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