Staff and Leadership

DIRECTOR – Ryan Kimmins has nearly 20 years of experience in private school leadership, serving students with disabilities.  An innovator, Mr. Kimmins approved and supported a unique teacher training program through which teachers at Honor Ridge Academy earn college credits at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has also supported programs such as the Nurtured Heart® approach, Handle with Care®, and other staff development programs that promote best practices in teaching and understanding students with severe emotional and behavioral problems.  He collaborates with leaders from Rutgers University to ensure best practices in Honor Ridge Academy’s behavioral program.

PRINCIPAL – Maria Torres, MA., LDT-C is a licensed K–8 Teacher, and Teacher of the Handicapped who began her careers as a teacher at Honor Ridge Academy 30 years ago. She holds two masters degrees in Learning Disabilities and Educational Leadership, is a licensed NJ Learning Disabilities Consultant and Dyslexia Specialist.  A dedicated educator, Ms. Torres serves as Director of the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Hasbrouck Heights, where she is a teacher trainer in structured literacy. She was a former President of the New Jersey Chapter of the International Dyslexia Association.

SUPERVISOR OF CLINICAL STAFF – Denise Marone, LCSW began her career at Honor Ridge Academy after receiving a degree in Psychology and Sociology from Kean University. She holds her Master’s Degree in Social work from Rutgers University and continued working as an LCSW providing individual, family, and group therapy. She is certified in Social Work, Supervisory, and in treating sexually abused children.

BEHAVIOR SPECIALIST – Michael Ellis, LDAC began his career at Honor Ridge Academy in 2008. He is a Counselor and the Behavioral Manager of our Educational Support Services. He holds his Masters of Counseling Studies from Capella University. Additional qualifications include the following: Professional Certification Board of New Jersey LCDAC licensure (Alcohol & Drug Counseling) and a Post Bachelor Certificate in Professional Counseling and in Diversity Studies.

LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER – Geri Gilbert, LCSW has been working as a clinician with children at Honor Ridge Academy since 1985. She obtained a BSW followed by an MSW from Rutgers University. She has been certified to supervise graduate students from Rutgers University and has received certification in treating in child sexual abuse. She is also a certified school social worker. She provides ongoing individual and family therapy.

LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER – Gregg DeFrancesco, LCSW began his career at Honor Ridge Academy in 1998 in a non-clinical role and was encouraged by his experiences with the students and their families to return to Rutgers University where he received a Master of Social Work Degree in 2002. Mr. DeFrancesco has since earned his Social Work Supervisory Certificate, is a trained Fire-watch® juvenile fire setter evaluator and continues to provide intensive individual and family therapy.

READING SPECIALIST/LEARNING DISABILITIES TEACHER CONSULTANT – Susan E. Kemp, LDT-C is trained in Level 1 and Level 2 of Wilson. She is an Endorsed Language Circle/Project Read Consultant. Ms. Kemp holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Elementary Education, and two Master’s Degrees in Reading Specialization and Learning Disabilities. She earned certificates for Elementary Teacher, Reading Teacher, Reading Specialist, and Learning Disabilities-Consultant. Ms. Kemp manages the IEP’s, conducts the Intakes, and serves as the Transition Coordinator.

SCHOOL NURSE – Shalini Ascalon holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from New York University, School Nursing Certification from New Jersey City University, and Associate Degree in Nursing from Union County College. Mrs. Ascalon manages and coordinates the school’s health services program.

FOOD SERVICE DIRECTOR, CHEF, CULINARY INSTRUCTOR – Brian Lanni has been in food services since 1995. In 2002, he earned an A.S. in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University, in Providence, R.I. In 2006, he joined our staff as Foodservice Director. He leads instruction for vocational students as they earn a ServSafe® Certificate, a nationally-recognized food handler’s license.