Integrating State of the Art Psychiatric Treatment With Outstanding Academics in a Dynamic School Environment

To learn more, or to refer a student, contact Jennifer Hayes, our Director of Enrollment, at 908-543-0220 Ext 200 or

Who We Are

Who We Are
Parents, Students and Educators
What They Say

“Though I didn’t know it at the time, CDS meant everything to me. Ultimately, I was the one who made the choice to turn my life around and go down a new path.”
Student, Fort Lee, NJ

“I want to personally thank you for all of your help with this very difficult family. Their son is in great need of treatment and I know both parents are comforted by the high level of care that he will receive at Cornerstone. For them I know that they see the 24/7 hot line as a godsend: Mom said that it’s the first time that she can really sleep at night.”

Case Manager, Essex County, NJ

“Cornerstone meant a lot to me. It taught me how to cope. It has truly made me the person I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Student, Union, NJ

A committed and integrated team of compassionate mental health and educational experts

Founding of Cornerstone

The founding of Cornerstone Day School in 2006 by Allan J. Blau, Ed.D., LCSW, and David Nyman, Ph.D., was the result of a collaboration of experts from the fields of both special education and structured psychiatric programming. Drs. Blau and Nyman joined forces in 2004 to start the planning of Cornerstone and the creation of The Cornerstone Experience. With their combined expertise and reputations for excellence, they began with a study of therapeutic school models across the United States. They took aspects from several of them to create the one that makes Cornerstone such a unique and innovative school.

Allan Blau

Dr. Blau has been a leader in the field of special education for over 40 years. Educator, clinician, and administrator, Dr. Blau has designed and founded numerous schools and programs for special needs children throughout the tri-state region. For many years, Dr. Blau was also the president of the National Independent Private School Association, for whom he currently functions as the vice president in charge of clinical certifications of therapeutic schools and programs. Today, Dr. Blau continues as the Founding Director at Cornerstone.

David Nyman

Dr. Nyman, trained as a clinical psychologist and an expert in the development and management of structured therapeutic programs, has devoted his career to creating innovative models of clinical treatment programming for both children and adults. He founded High Focus Centers (HFC), and for eighteen years, ending in 2012, he was the  Executive Director. Under his leadership, HFC became the most prominent treatment delivery system in New Jersey, with extensive services for adolescents with major psychiatric and substance abuse problems. Dr. Nyman also led the development of Effective School Solutions, a pioneering organization he founded with Dr. Blau, that provides mental health and related services for students at risk in many public school districts nationwide.

School Leadership

Leonore Johnston, Executive Director

Leonore Johnston

Ms. Leonore Johnston has devoted her life-long career to special education in various roles as an educational leader, trainer, and innovator. Before joining Cornerstone Day School, Ms. Johnston spent many years as the Director of Special Services in the Hillsborough School district in Somerset County and brings first-hand knowledge of the needs of professionals, students, and families.

Her many certifications include Speech/Language Specialist, Teacher of the Handicapped, Learning Disability-Teacher Consultant, Supervisor, Principal and Chief School Administrator.

In addition, Ms. Johnston was an adjunct instructor at the undergraduate and graduate levels for fourteen years at The College of New Jersey for Language-Literacy and the Special Education Department. She has also instructed for NJ EXCEL, a program for individuals seeking certification in educational leadership as a supervisor or principal. Ms. Johnston has taught internationally, teaching graduate-level coursework in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Frank Carlucci American International School for The College of New Jersey.

Gregg Weisman, Principal

Gregg Weisman

Gregg Weisman has been the Principal at Cornerstone Day School since 2007. Mr. Weisman has worked with adolescents in need of both emotional and behavioral support as a teacher and an administrator in both the public and private sectors. Just prior to joining Cornerstone, Mr. Weisman was the principal of an alternative high school program for at-risk youth in a large N.J. public school district. Mr. Weisman holds two master’s degrees from NJCU in Special Education and Educational Leadership.

Dr. Bryan Fennelly, Medical Director

Dr. Bryan Fennelly

Dr. Bryan Fennelly is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has been with Cornerstone Day School for ten years and is now the Medical Director. He graduated from Dartmouth College and Rutgers New Jersey University Medical School, where he received his medical degree. While at Rutgers, Dr. Fennelly received an award for compassion in patient care. He completed his adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry training at New York University, where he served as a faculty member and attending physician in the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. He was instrumental in starting the Children’s Crisis and Intervention Service at Newark Beth Israel.

In addition to Cornerstone, Dr. Fennelly is a staff member at Morristown Medical Center in the Department of Psychiatry, is in private practice treating all ages, and serves as a consultant to public schools in child mental health and special education. Over his 30-year career, Dr. Fennelly has also functioned as a forensic expert in cases involving children, families, and school employees.

Jennifer Hayes, Director of Enrollment

Jennifer Hayes

Jennifer Hayes is the Director of Enrollment at Cornerstone Day School. She has experience working in multiple settings on the mental health treatment continuum, including outpatient, partial, psychiatric emergency, and residential. Before joining CDS, she was the Director of Outpatient Mental Health Services at a large hospital in an urban setting. Jennifer received her Master’s degree from NYU and post-graduate training in family systems and TF-CBT. During her tenure at Cornerstone, she has authored the specialized school avoidance protocols, expanded its programming, and has led the development of Pathways, Cornerstone’s unique program for these students. Jennifer is also a licensed therapist and operates a private practice.

Jeff Steigman, Chief of Clinical Services

Jeff Steigman

Jeff Steigman is the new Chief of Clinical Services at Cornerstone Day School. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 20 years of clinical experience. He received his Bachelor’s and Masters’s Degrees from Rutgers University and holds post-graduate certification in REBT from the Albert Ellis Institute in NYC. Jeff began his career working in community outpatient mental health programs in Newark and East Orange with at-risk youth and their families. Since then, he has worked in home-based and school-based settings, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs. Over the past decade, his career has shifted from direct practice with clients/families to staff/program leadership and development. 

Jeff’s treatment philosophy is eclectic as he borrows from several modalities, including but not exclusive to DBT, REBT, Motivational Interviewing, Person-Centered, Solution-Focused, Family Systems, and CBT. Utilizing these theories, he aims to personalize the approach with each client/family based on their needs and treatment goals. As a clinical leader, Jeff enjoys sharing his experiences with newer clinicians watching them grow and develop their skills.

Sarah Coiro, Director of Clinical Services

Sarah Coiro

Sarah Coiro is the Director of Clinical Services and has been at Cornerstone Day School since 2007, when she began as a Clinician. Sarah has experience working in multiple settings on the mental health treatment continuum, including outpatient, inpatient, and residential, specializing in the treatment of children/adolescents and their families. Prior to joining CDS, she was a Clinician on an inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents. Sarah received her Master of Arts in Applied Clinical Psychology from William Paterson University and has received post-graduate intensive training in DBT. Her nurturing but firm approach is relationship-centered, which provides the foundation for trust with students and families. Sarah believes in working with families and the staff to provide a team approach to providing the best possible treatment for our students and helping them to achieve their goals.

Alexa Thomas, Director of District Outreach

Alexa Thomas

Alexa Thomas is an educational leader in special services, mental health, and professional development. She is a former director and assistant superintendent in New Jersey and New York City. She began her education career as a special education teacher in the Bronx as a NYC Teaching Fellow in District 75. Alexa has a B.S. from Temple University and earned an M.S. in Urban Education and Special Education from Mercy College and an M.S. in Leadership for Educational Change, focusing on special education from Bank Street College. As a professional educator, she trained CST members, directors, and teachers in more than 300 districts. Ms. Thomas is currently the Director of District Outreach at Cornerstone Day School, providing training and development opportunities to NJ school professionals and connecting school districts to the support and services offered by Cornerstone Day School.

Denise McManus, Director of Pathways Program

Denise McManus

Denise McManus, MS, LPC, is the new Director of the Pathways Program at Cornerstone Day School. She has experience working in multiple settings on the mental health treatment continuum, including a previous therapeutic day school, residential, crisis counseling with Mobile Response, and Intensive In Community, where she provided counseling in the homes of children and their families. Denise previously held a clinician position at Cornerstone Day School from October 2011 before her promotion to the Director of Clinical Services in July 2022. Denise graduated from Monmouth University, receiving her Master of Science in Professional Counseling degree. Her extensive crisis counseling and assessment training has provided her with a calm but firm approach while working with high-risk youth and their families.

Rosalia Minervini, Director of Student Services

Rosalia Minervini

Rosalia Minervini is the Director of Student Services at Cornerstone Day School.  Mrs. Minervini has served as a Special Education educator and administrator for more than eighteen years. Mrs. Minervini earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Special Education from Monmouth University, NJ, and a Master of Education in Learning Disabilities from Montclair State University, NJ.  Mrs. Minervini spent her early career beginning as a secondary-level special education teacher and Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant (LDTC) supporting students across a variety of settings, including in-class resource, resource replacement, workplace training, and post-secondary preparatory programs, and advancing into a number of administrative capacities including, Supervisor of Special Education and Administrative Supervisor of Student Services K-8. Throughout her career, Mrs. Minervini continued her advocacy for students, families, and educators fostering a collaborative culture that puts learners at the center of education, helping each student reach their full potential.

Sarah Cronin, Director of Eating Disorder Program 

Sarah Cronin

Sarah Cronin, LCSW, is the Director of the Eating Disorder Program at Cornerstone Day School. She graduated from Smith College School for Social Work, where she completed her Master’s Thesis: “Weighing the Options: professionals’ weighing procedures in the treatment of eating disorder patients.” She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She has more than eight years of clinical experience through various levels of care, including residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs, providing individual, group, and family therapy. Sarah offers a compassionate and research-based approach to eating disorder treatment. She supports clients and families in gaining knowledge and insight, developing adaptive coping skills, and building upon their strengths to achieve short- and long-term goals.

Karen Masciale, Director of Business Operations

Karen Masciale

Karen Masciale is our Director of Business Operations. She has been with Cornerstone Day School since 2013. Karen oversees Human Resources, Finance, and Payroll. Before her role at Cornerstone Day School, she worked in the private sector in contract management, marketing, customer service, and employee training. Karen has a B.S. in Management and a certificate in Adult Training from Kean University.

Letter from Our Staff

Dear Parents and Colleagues:

Cornerstone is a unique school that makes a difference for many students and their families. Students enrolling in Cornerstone have experienced major life difficulties and come to us with negative school experiences. We take great pride in providing our students with a new school experience that can excite them about school and renew their confidence and hope for the future.

For many of our staff, the highlight of our year takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On that day, we have a family dinner and invite students and staff to speak about something they are grateful for. The number of students who talk about being a part of the Cornerstone family never ceases to move us. We can tell you that day alone makes all the hard work we do during the year well worth it. We welcome your interest in our school. Please visit us and see for yourself why Cornerstone is so special.


The Staff at Cornerstone


Cornerstone’s publications provide support and education for both Parents and School Professionals

Parents Matter

Guiding parents to better help their children

Parents Matter November 2023


November 2023

Parents Matter September 2023


September 2023

Parents Matter June 2023


June 2023

Parents Matter April 2023


April 2023


Research and its applications for school professionals

Trends November 2023


November 2023

Trends September 2023


September 2023

CS Trends May 2023


May 2023

CS Trends April 2023


April 2023

Around The Corner

Our school newsletter for parents (not available online to protect the privacy of our students)

Around the Corner Oct/Nov 2023


Oct/Nov 2023

Around the Corner Aug/Sep 2023


Aug/Sep 2023



A newsletter for school professionals (not available online to protect the privacy of our students)

Cornerstone Winter 2023


Winter 2023

Cornerstone Fall 2022


Fall 2022

Cornerstone Spring 2022


Spring 2022

Cornerstone Winter 2022


Winter 2022