New School Features a Professional Conference Center

PISCATAWAY, NJ – It was a day that was years in the making – the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Future Foundations Academy (FFA), the latest gem of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ).

A roomful of dignitaries, including Sen. Bob Smith and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, joined in an event on November 1 to celebrate the new, 55,000-square-foot state-of-the-art educational facility and professional conference center, while lauding the ongoing work of ESCNJ to serve students with the most challenging disabilities.

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“This is the next step in the storied history of ESCNJ for its innovative ways of helping people and saving taxpayer money,” Coughlin said. “You are ensuring a first-rate education for those who need it and depend on it. You are the gold standard for the way in which to conduct business. On behalf of the General Assembly, I want to say we are so proud of the work you do.”

FFA, with a minimum of a 2:1 student-to-staff ratio, provides academic skill-building, Community-based Instruction and behavior management strategies for students through small group instruction and related services based on each student’s Individualized Education Plan, explained ESCNJ Schools Superintendent Mark Finkelstein.  Along with core academic and curriculum offerings, students participate in robotics, computer coding, hands-on culinary and horticultural experiences, vocational training, and physical fitness instruction.

In addition, the building features a unique conference center for educational workshops, seminars and special events. Because the facility offers the latest in technology, it is open to community organizations for professional, off-site meetings, Finkelstein added.

Smith, who represents Piscataway in the state Senate, described the FFA as “a beacon” to help children who require special education. He said this school is “35-40 years in the making” and recognized the work of his predecessor in the 17th legislative district seat, former Senate President John Lynch, Jr., who attended the event.

“You can say this building was a co-conspiratorial effort between Senator Lynch and Mark Finkelstein,” Smith joked, adding FFA will improve the quality of life for so many young constituents “who we want to see thrive and prosper.”

Smith, who recently toured the school in his capacity as chair of the Senate’s Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies, pledged to work with other lawmakers in the Middlesex County legislative delegation to transfer state ownership of the building occupying the Piscataway Regional Day School to the ESCNJ, the long-term tenant.

“We think that will be stupendous and we will work to try to get it done,” Smith said.

Finkelstein expressed appreciation to Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald Rios, who helped ensure the freeholders would guarantee the bonds to fund construction of the FFA in 2017.

“The FFA gets 12 new classrooms, a great addition to the crucial work of the ESCNJ,” Rios said, noting the professional conference center is also an amenity that many will use.

Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, who had led the township since 2001, has watched ESCNJ grow and evolve. He is proud that FFA is another feature of “the Piscataway portfolio,” noting it is the only municipality in the state where you can attend pre-K, move through primary, secondary and college levels, and then ultimately earn a doctorate – without ever leaving the town.

“FFA fits perfectly into our model,” the Mayor said.

Attendees at the ribbon-cutting also heard remarks from Middlesex County Schools Superintendent Kyle Anderson, ESCNJ Board President Dale Caldwell and FFA Principal Katie Feiles, all of whom highlighted the tremendous benefit of ESCNJ, as well as the specific impact FFA is already having. Feiles motioned to many of the FFA students who attended the event.

“It’s all about them,” she said, with a broad smile. “We are all here for them.”