OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM
Our leadership team comprises individuals who are mission-driven every day. Many started as teachers and have worked at The New England Center for Children most of their career. They are pioneers in the field who are passionate about helping children with autism and their families achieve success.
Vincent Strully, Jr.
As Chief Executive Officer and Founder of The New England Center for Children® (NECC®), Vincent Strully, Jr. directs all aspects of clinical and financial administration, program development, fundraising, facility design, and strategic planning.
Mr. Strully has 45 years of experience working with children and adults with autism and related disorders. He grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey and is a graduate of Newark Academy (1965) and Hamilton College (1969). In 1975, Mr. Strully and colleagues established the first NECC program with $30,000 in start-up funds at the Taunton State Hospital.
NECC is an internationally recognized leader in autism intervention, research, and professional development. In addition to NECC’s national awards (2000, 2005), the Center achieved a $450,000 challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation to complete a $5M Capital Campaign (2007) to build the Michael S. Dukakis Aquatic Center at NECC. In 2007, NECC signed a long-term agreement with The Health Authority of Abu Dhabi to create a comprehensive center in the United Arab Emirates. A $10M Capital Campaign (2015) for The John and Diane Kim Autism Institute is complete. The 33,000 SF building was finished in the fall of 2016. Following completion of The John and Diane Kim Autism Institute, the new Dillon Arledge Student Center was completed in spring 2017.
NECC researchers have published over 250 studies in peer-reviewed academic journals and presented more than two thousand papers at professional conferences around the world. Since 1987, more than 1,300 NECC employees have completed a master’s degree in one of the on-site programs funded by the Center. In 2007, NECC established an on-site PhD program in Behavior Analysis with Western New England University.
In 2005, Mr. Strully received the Alumni Achievement Award from his high school alma mater, Newark Academy. This award is presented to a graduate who has distinguished himself in his field of endeavor, whether in the professions, public life, the business world, or the arts. In 2007, Mr. Strully was named Ernst & Young’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year® for New England. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Western New England University in 2009. Mr. Strully received the Nonprofit Business Leader of the Year award from Worcester Business Journal in 2017 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from NonProfit PRO. Mr. Strully is also a member of the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Massachusetts Autism Commission, the Attorney General’s Disability Rights Advisory Committee, and Council of Autism Service Providers.
Kayla Abeling, MSEd, BCBA, LABA
Kayla Abeling has served The New England Center for Children in several roles since 2011, beginning as a case and shift manager, a day coordinator, distance consulting specialist, and a program specialist. She holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University, an MSEd from Simmons University and post-graduate certificates from Western New England and Bryant universities.
Michael S. Downey, MBA, CPA
Michael Downey is responsible for financial administration and strategic planning at NECC. He oversees the Business Office, as well as Facilities and IT. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Babson College. He later completed a master’s in taxation from Suffolk University. Prior to joining NECC in 2013, Mr. Downey was a director at Feeley & Driscoll, P.C. for nearly 14 years.
Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
Jessica Sassi, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, has more than 20 years of autism education and applied behavior analysis experience. She was named executive advisor in 2020 and executive director of NECC’s Southborough campus in 2021. Prior to that, she served as clinical director and as a residential program director. Dr. Sassi is clinical adjunct faculty in behavior analysis at Western New England University. She is widely published in academic journals, and is a BS, MS, and PhD graduate of the University of Florida.
Darryl Agostinelli spearheads technology initiatives in IT infrastructure, automation, and cybersecurity, with a particular focus on the ACE® (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia®) ABA Software System. He was previously founder and principal of Saggio Technologies, a technical consultancy helping clients implement technology solutions for their business problems. Over his two decades of software engineering, Mr. Agostinelli has worked for Microsoft, Razorfish, Dell and Charles Schwab. He is a computer science graduate of Case Western Reserve University.
William H. Ahearn, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
William Ahearn, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LABA, joined NECC in 1996 and serves as the director of research. Dr. Ahearn is the chair of the board that licenses behavior analysts in Massachusetts and is editor-in-chief for Behavioral Interventions. He also serves on the editorial board for the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and previously served on the editorial board for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis for about 20 years. Dr. Ahearn has published extensively, including on the treatment of repetitive behavior, treating pediatric feeding disorders, and examining predictions of the Behavioral Momentum metaphor. He was named the 2009 American Psychological Association – Division 25 awardee for Enduring Contributions to Applied Behavioral Research (Nate Azrin Award) and as CalABA’s 2020 Outstanding Contributor. He is a past-President of APBA and BABAT. He received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Temple University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins.
Jason Bourret, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
Jared Bouzan, MEd
CDO Jared Bouzan joined NECC in 2016 as the chief development officer. He leads the advancement office in developing strategies to grow the donor base and increase financial support of the Center from individuals, corporations, and foundations. His fundraising background includes Massachusetts College of Health Sciences, Cooley Dickson Hospital, Kingswood-Oxford School, and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. He spent four years as director of development at Boston University. As a Southborough resident and the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, Mr. Bouzan brings a unique perspective to NECC’s senior executive team.
Kaaron-Marc Dick, MS-ITM
Kaaron-Marc Dick has been with NECC since 2014, beginning as a Systems Administrator. Since then, he has held several positions but most recently served as the Assistant Director of Information Services. Throughout his tenure, Mr. Dick has been an instrumental member of the IT team, delivering reliable and secure digital workspace solutions to the organization. He graduated from York College with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management and from Southern New Hampshire University with a Master of Science in Information Technology Management.
Nicole Gardenier, MS, BCBA
Nicole Gardenier began her career at NECC in 1997 after graduating from Smith College with a degree in psychology. Her clinical and educational experience at NECC has included working with preschool and elementary-age students and providing consultation and evaluation services to public schools as part of NECC’s Public School Services department. Ms. Gardenier joined the ACE® (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia®) department in 2018 and now serves as its executive director. She earned her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Northeastern University and is currently pursuing her doctoral work through Northeastern’s Organizational Leadership program.
Amy Geckeler, MS, BCBA
Amy Geckeler joined The New England Center for Children in August 1990, and has worked in the Residential Program, the Staff Intensive Unit, and in the Early Intensive Instructional Program. Ms. Geckeler currently serves as the executive director of Global Consulting. This department houses Public School Services – including Partner Program Classrooms, Consultation Services and Training. She has taught in Northeastern University’s graduate program in applied behavior analysis. Amy’s research interests include early intensive intervention, social skills, stereotypic behavior, reinforcement, and choice. Her work has been published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. She has presented at regional and international conferences for behavior analysts, parents, educators, and administrators.
Cammarie Johnson, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA
Cam Johnson joined NECC in 1988. Prior to becoming the education director, she served as an educational specialist, clinical specialist, and program director for a cluster of residential teams. In her current role, Dr. Johnson oversees the development and implementation of individualized educational plans for students in the Southborough program and supervises the specialty departments of academics; arts; adapted physical education, occupational and physical therapy; speech and language; and vocational services. She is also adjunct faculty at Simmons and Western New England universities where she teaches courses and supervises research projects for master’s and doctoral level students in behavior analysis with an emphasis on assessment and treatment of challenging behavior and effective and efficient teaching methods. Dr. Johnson has authored or presented over 100 papers in peer reviewed journals or at national and international conferences.
Susan Langer, MS, BCBA, LABA
Susan Langer, MS, BCBA, has been part of The New England Center for Children for 25 years and has served in many roles, including teacher, director of training, and director of education. She currently is the program director for the Day School. She has consulted to a wide variety of programs, conducted workshops for public school systems, and has been responsible for setting up a satellite program in the Worcester Public Schools. Ms. Langer has taught for Fitchburg State College and in the Simmons College graduate program in special education. Her predominant interests are in the areas of curriculum development and discrimination learning. She has presented at numerous conferences and has a publication in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Rebecca MacDonald, PhD, BCBA-D
Rebecca MacDonald, PhD, BCBA-D, is a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts who serves as a senior program director at The New England Center for Children. Dr. MacDonald joined NECC as clinical director in 1983, and in 1995 was named director of the Intensive Instructional Early Childhood Autism Program at NECC. In 2017, she initiated the Infant Sibling Research Project, a study to identify early signs of autism in infant siblings of children with autism and to develop interventional treatments.
Dr. MacDonald has presented her research at numerous conferences over the past 35 years and published studies that have appeared in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Education and Treatment for Children, Research in Developmental Disabilities, and Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In addition, she has authored several book chapters and developed a web-based curriculum for teaching play to children with autism using video modeling. She has been the recipient of both federal and private grants to support her research, including the Organization for Autism Research and the National Institute of Health.
Rachel McGrath, PHR, SHRM-CP
Rachel McGrath is the director of Human Resources at The New England Center for Children. She joined NECC in August 2006 and was promoted to director in September 2017. Prior to that she has held various roles both in human resources and the hotel industry for a variety of companies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Ms. McGrath holds a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Restaurant Institutional Management from Johnson and Wales University and currently has her HRCI PHR and SHRM-CP certification. She is active in her HR community with memberships to NEHRA and the MetroWest Human Resources Management Association (MWHRMA), for which she held the position of Secretary to the Board between 2016 and 2020.
Kyla McHaffie, MS, BCBA, LABA
Kyla McHaffie joined The New England Center for Children in June 2009, and has worked in the Staff Intensive Unit, Intensive Instruction Program, as the assistant to the CEO, and in the Enrollment and Family Support department. Ms. McHaffie currently serves as the director of Enrollment and Family Support, which is responsible for all student enrollment for the residential and day programs. The department works directly with families to welcome and support them throughout their journey here at NECC. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Fairfield University and a Master of Science in ABA through Western New England University.
Fatou Njie-Jallow, MHA
Fatou Njie-Jallow has worked at NECC since 2001. Over the last two decades, she has evolved from
teacher to health care coordinator and operations manager in the nursing department, to director of
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). In her current role, Ms. Njie-Jallow is developing a DEI strategy
and framework to support NECC’s strategic plan. She is leading the way to create a work
environment where the students are supported with a diverse, engaged workforce. She received her
bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lebanon Valley College. Fatou earned her master’s in health
administration from Regis College, and her certificate in DEI from Cornell University. She lives in Holden
with her husband and three children, aged 16, 13, and 7.
Heather Morrison, MS, BCBA, LABA
As director of administration, Heather Morrison, MS, BCBA, LABA, supervises the direction of Food Services, Residential Services, Day Care, and administrative policies. She leads NECC’s Emergency Management Team and oversees all licensing, executive communication, and policies and procedures. Ms. Morrison joined NECC as a teacher/case manager in 1999 and has since served in several capacities before her appointment as director of administration in 2016, including residential coordinator, day coordinator, program specialist, assistant program director, program director of the Staff Intensive Unit. Ms. Morrison’s work has been published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and she has presented at regional and national conferences for behavior analysts. She earned an MS in applied behavior analysis from Northeastern University.
Meghan Reidy, MS
Meghan Reidy (she/her/hers) joined NECC as a Level 2 Teacher in 2003 in the residential program. Over her nearly two decades of service, she has served as a teacher, human resources coordinator, administrative policy specialist, and assistant director of administration. In September 2020 she was appointed director of recruiting.
She earned an MS in public affairs from the University of Massachusetts Boston and a BS in psychology from Bates College. Prior to her time at NECC, Ms. Reidy spent a year as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps and engaged in national service projects for non-profits and government agencies. She is drawn to opportunities that foster a strong community. Though her primary role at NECC is to lead a team that brings in new talent to Team NECC, she is also passionate about employee engagement and retention and is active in DEI and sustainability efforts at NECC.
Eileen Roscoe, PhD, BCBA-D
Eileen Roscoe, PhD, BCBA-D, joined NECC in 2002 working with the Intensive Treatment Team before being named assistant director of research, and then director of behavior analytic research. Dr. Roscoe is well known throughout the world of applied behavior analysis for her studies of the functional analysis and treatment of problem behavior. She is the author of more than 30 papers, book chapters, and articles. She also served as associate editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. In August of 2009, she received the B.F. Skinner Young Researcher Award from Division 25 of the American Psychological Association for her research contributions in applied behavior analysis.
Dr. Roscoe has served as faculty for Western New England University’s master’s and doctoral programs, the master’s program at Northeastern University, and in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine/E.K. Shriver Center. She received a BS in psychology and her MS and PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Florida.
Darcie Stawinski, MSA, CPA
Darcie Stawinski joined NECC in 2016 to oversee the Business Office and the daily operations of the Center’s finance functions – from accounts receivable, accounts payable, and vendor contracts, to banking relationships and procurement card management. She earned both a bachelor’s and master’s in accounting from Bentley University and is a certified public accountant. Prior to joining NECC, she spent six years at AAFCPAs followed by seven years at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Catherine M. Welch, MSEd
Cathy Welch was recently appointed executive advisor, after serving as the executive director of NECC’s Southborough campus for several years. She previously held the positions of chief operating officer in Southborough and then in Abu Dhabi, and as director of admissions. She has a bachelor’s degree in special education administration with certification as a SPED administrator. She has been with NECC since 1981.