Meet the New Special Services Administrators
The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District has a new Special Services team at its helm. Ms. Lynette Abruzzo has been hired as Director of Special Services, replacing Ms. Ellen Loewy who retired in June, and Dr. Matthew Jurgens has come on board as Assistant Director of Special Services, replacing Dr. Laurie Scimeca, who served as an interim for one year.
Ms. Abruzzo is a seasoned professional who brings extensive experience in special services to the District. She most recently served 14 years in Pupil Personnel Services – six years as the Director of Pupil Personnel Services in the Garden City School District and eight years as Assistant Director of Pupil Personnel Services in the West Hempstead Union Free School District. Prior to these posts, she served five years, four as Principal and then one as Assistant Director of Children’s Services for the Suffolk Chapter of AHRC, serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her earlier experience as a speech pathologist earned her a Distinguished Service Award from the New York State Speech/Language and Hearing Association.
“My professional experiences have helped me to understand the needs of students and families from different perspectives,” Ms. Abruzzo explained. “I value collaborative relationships that create an environment for open communication with all team members, and I understand the importance of ensuring that families continue to be engaged as meaningful partners in the educational process.”
Dr. Jurgens has been working in special education for 15 years and has served students with special needs at all levels, K-12. He previously served five years as the Coordinator of Special Education for Grades 6-12 in the Commack Union Free School District where he managed Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for students in grades 6-12. Prior to this position, he served as the Administrative Coordinator-Transition Specialist at Eastern Suffolk BOCES where he planned and facilitated regional trainings on how to successfully transition students with special needs. While in this position, Dr. Jurgens was named Eastern Suffolk BOCES Administrator of the Year.
“That position has given me a strong perspective on the skills, knowledge, and abilities that our students with disabilities need in order to transition into the post-high school world as successfully as possible,” he said.
Dr. Jurgens is also an adjunct professor at Alfred University and The College of St. Rose downstate programs where he teaches students working towards their Master of Arts degrees in Guidance Counseling, Literacy and Special Education.
Ms. Abruzzo and Dr. Jurgens said their varied experiences complement each other and helped them build a camaraderie “quickly and easily” as they work to ensure a smooth transition in leadership. “Dr. Jurgens’ support has been vital in the process,” Ms. Abruzzo said. “He is knowledgeable and truly understands the needs of students. We work well together, and we are looking forward to supporting the growth and development of the department.”
Assessing her new role, Ms. Abruzzo acknowledged that “this is a challenging year as we develop an understanding of learning in this new environment. My goal is to identify both the strengths and opportunities for growth for students with disabilities. Going forward, I will be engaging in discussions about priorities, identifying needs, and opportunities for growth. I will also be working to gain a deeper understanding of the current programs and further support those which cultivate students’ academic, and social-emotional growth.”
Dr. Jurgens added that he looks forward to building relationships with the students, staff, parents, and fellow administrators. “I hope to become a support for all those that work within the District in terms of knowledge of special education and also hope to support parents and families in their journeys through special education for their children,” he said. “It can sometimes be difficult to navigate special services, so being a partner in that process for parents and families has always been very important to me and I hope to bring my passion for that into the fold district-wide.”
According to Dr. Jurgens, Ms. Abruzzo has been “nothing short of incredible to work with. Her wealth of experience has provided me with new learning opportunities each day from day one,” he said.
Ms. Abruzzo earned a Bachelor of Science in Special/Elementary Education from St. John’s University, a Master of Arts in Speech/Language Pathology from Queens College, and a Professional Diploma in School Leadership from Queens College. She has New York State Certifications for School District Administrator, School Administration and Supervision, Teacher of Speech and Hearing Handicapped, Special Education Teacher K-12 and General Teacher Grades N-6. She also earned certification from the American Speech/Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) in Clinical Competence. She is a member of the Long Island Association of Special Education Administrators (LIASEA) and ASHA.
Dr. Jurgens earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Boston University, a Master of Arts in Special Education from Dowling College, and a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from St. John’s University. He earned New York State Certifications for School Building Leader and School District Leader, and has certifications in Students with Disabilities Grades 1-6 and Childhood Education Grades 1-6.
Ms. Abruzzo and Dr. Jurgens agreed that all students have had some sort of strife during these unprecedented times. “Students with disabilities further require our special services ‘touch’ in order to help get them to their next level of learning,” Dr. Jurgens explained. “It's important to remember, now more than ever, that we are all teachers of students with disabilities and that we are very much in it together in supporting our students who may have more challenges with the learning process than their non-disabled peers.”