Our Team

Dana Affatigato -Teacher Assistant and Coordinator of Student Activities

A teaching assistant at New Ventures, Dana Affatigato is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Special Education grades 7-12 from Touro College. After having worked at our school for many years, Ms. Affatigato is most inspired by observing the dedication students have had throughout the toughest of times in remote learning. Shout out to Ella and Sunny, Ms. Affatigato’s best friends! 

Joseph Caramanno - Social Studies Teacher and Special Education Teacher

Born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island, Joseph Caramanno has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the College of Staten Island, a master’s degree in adolescent education from Wagner College as well as a second master’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Working with and learning from an incredibly effective team of educators is Mr. Caramanno’s favorite part of teaching at New Ventures. In his spare time, Mr. Caramanno is an actor with experience in theatre, television, and film. He enjoys traveling, doing crossword puzzles, running, and spending time near the ocean. A fun fact about Mr. Caramanno has flown an airplane once before, and cannot wait to get his pilot’s license.

“When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

Amelia DePompo - Assistant Principal, ELA Teacher, and Academic Advisor

As a struggling teenager attending an alternative high school, Amelia DePompo grew up valuing the importance of having people in your corner to encourage, support, and guide you to your fullest potential. After graduating, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a concentration in Secondary Education (grades 7-12) from the College of Staten Island as well as her master’s degree in Special Education (grades K-12) from Western Governors University. Now the assistant principal of New Ventures, her favorite part of working at our school is being able to witness students receive their high school diplomas after spending years believing that they never would. Mrs. DePompo currently lives in Staten Island with her two young children and her hard-working and fun-loving husband. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with my family, listening to music, dancing, and dining out.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

Brian Fox - Math Teacher

Raised on the Island “with a splash of Cape Cod, Massachusetts,” Brian Fox earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Macaulay Honors College before studying at the College of Staten Island Teacher Education Honors Academy. Before applying as a math teacher at New Ventures, Mr. Fox worked for ICS as a summer intern with the Geometry Regents Prep class, including some of the first students to graduate from the school itself. Small class sizes are something that Mr. Fox values about New Ventures. He believes that it allows for students and teachers to connect more quickly and develop a family relationship with one another. Outside of school, Mr. Fox enjoys spending time with his own family, including his newest baby daughter. 

Michelle Lagana -Special Education Teacher and Academic Advisor

A teacher’s assistant at New Ventures, Michelle Lagana earned a Bachelor’s degree in science from the College of Staten Island and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Special Education at Touro Graduate School of Education. According to Ms. Lagana, the best part of working at New Ventures is the unique relationship between students and staff. Ms. Lagana enjoys music in her free time as she sings and plays the piano!

“A negative mind will never give you a positive life.”

John Lentine - Social Studies Teacher

John Lentine is a teacher at New Ventures with a Master’s education in Public Administration from Penn State. While he lives with his young son at home, the staff at NV has become a family to him as well. A fun fact about Mr. Lentine is that his favorite day of the year is Halloween!

“Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.” -Master Yoda

Kelly McNamara - Special Education Teacher and College & Career Advisor

Kelly McNamara is a college and career counselor at New Ventures with a BA in English and Global Culture from Binghamton and an MS in Childhood Education and Special Education from Wagner College. Ms. McNamara believes that the support from both students and staff is what makes working at New Ventures special. A fun fact about Ms. McNamara is that she has gone shark cage diving in Hawaii.

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Ryan Melis - Principal (Special Education Teacher)

The principal of New Ventures, Ryan Melis enjoys working with who he believes to be the greatest staff in the world, making an impact on the lives of Staten Island youth while inspiring them to be the best version of themselves. After earning a degree in business administration, Principal Melis went on to pursue his MSed in grades 7-12 as well as his New York State School Building Leader license. To him, the perfect day begins with his students and ends with his family. Principal Melis currently lives in central New Jersey with his wife and young son, Nikolas. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, playing ice hockey, and spending time with loved ones. 

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” -Benjamin Franklin

Charles Moser - Special Education Teacher and Testing Coordinator

Charles Moser is a teacher at New Ventures with an education background in theatre design/technology. Born in Brooklyn, he moved to Staten Island at a young age. Before teaching, he worked with special needs members of the community through a recreational program and freelanced as a design and technician in theater for four years.

“The difficult we can do, the impossible just takes longer.”

Edina Paljevic - Teacher Assistant

Edina Paljevic is a teaching assistant at New Ventures with a BA from Hunter College. Raised in Staten Island, Ms. Paljevic is a proud Albanian American who dreams of becoming enlightened through world travels. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and being outdoors. 

Thomas Payero - Social Studies Teacher and Internship Coordinator

Thomas Payero is a teacher and internship coordinator at New Ventures. He studied history in his undergraduate years at St. John’s University and continued on to earn his MSEd in Adolescent Education specializing in Social Studies. 

Linda Pocesta - Social Studies Teacher

Linda Pocesta is a social studies teacher at New Ventures.

Crystal Rios - Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, ELA and Wellness Teacher

Born and raised in the Bronx, Crystal Rios moved to Staten Island during her college years where she studied literature and education at the College of Staten Island. After earning her master’s degree, she moved to South Korea to teach before returning to New York. She then found the opportunity to teach at ICS and has held various positions at the organization since. Ms. Rios is currently the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at New Ventures as well as a teacher and wellness coach. Her favorite part of working at ICS is the passion that the staff and leadership have around growth and improvement. She believes it is a warm environment with a clear and common understanding that the interests and needs of the students are prioritized; therefore, centering Social Emotional Learning, hands-on learning experiences, and equitable practices. Ms. Rios is a proud vegetarian, RYT certified yoga instructor, and a social justice activist.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Nicholas Sayegh - Special Education Teacher, Culinary Chef and Internship Coordinator

Nicholas Sayegh is a teacher with bachelor’s degrees in hospitality and health/nutrition science. He has a master’s in nutrition and is currently working towards a master’s in special education. Prior to his career at New Ventures, Mr. Seyegh worked in the culinary industry for over 15 years and taught as part of the health and nutrition science department of Brooklyn College. One of his favorite parts of teaching at our school is being able to combine his passion for education with cooking and providing students with opportunities for growth at the same time. Mr. Seyegh currently lives on the island with his wife and considers himself to be an avid dog lover!

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.”

Florence Strzebala - Special Education Teacher and Acting Director of Special Education

Florence Strzebala is an English teacher, special education coordinator, and instructional coach at New Ventures. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the College of Staten Island, Mrs. Strzebala went on to pursue her Master’s in special education grades 7-12. Mrs. Strzebala’s personal mission is to influence others in a positive way by supporting them through life’s journey. Working at ICS allows her to do so with the help of her colleagues, whose teamwork she appreciates. Outside of school, family and music are important to Mrs. Strzebala. She describes music as the “root of her happiness” and loves to share it with her husband and new baby boy, Giovanni. Although don’t ask her to sing for you – she is extremely shy!

“This too shall pass.”

Amy Tuccillo - Social Studies Teacher

One of the first in her family to graduate college and earn a Master’s degree, Amy Tuccillo has a background in Adolescent Education specializing in Social Studies. Mrs. Tuccillo believes that the smaller class sizes at New Ventures allow her to get to know her students on a deeper level, which in turn, has a greater impact on their lives. A Staten Island native, she currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and young daughter. 

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Gandhi

Stefanie Villeroel - ELA Teacher

Stefanie Villeroel is a teacher at New Ventures with a master’s degree from Adelphi University. Born in Brooklyn, Mrs. Villeroel now lives in Staten Island with her husband and is expecting the birth of her first child. To Mrs. Villeroel, the best part of teaching at New Ventures is the family-like relationship between students and staff. Mrs. Villeroel actually has a twin sister who works at Integration Charter Schools as well!

Marco Venezia - Teaching Assistant

A teaching assistant at New Ventures, Marco Venezia has a bachelor’s degree from Baruch College. His favorite part of working at New Ventures is the support from his co-workers. A fun fact about Mr. Venezia is that he was born at 11:59 PM!

Steven A. Ward - Teaching Assistant and College & Career Advisor

Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, Steven A. Ward is a teaching assistant at New Ventures. He currently resides in Staten Island with his wife and is excited for the arrival of his newborn in 2021! In his free time, Mr. Ward is an avid gamer (30+ years of experience), plays the guitar, builds custom computers, and is part of a D&D Podcast.

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”  -Bruce Lee

Brittany Warshefskie

Brittany Warshefskie has a master’s degree in special education. She believes that the fun energy of her coworkers is what makes working at New Ventures special. A fun fact about Ms. Warshefskie is that she loves elephants!

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Orly Wiseman - Highly Qualified Teacher

A long-time resident of New York City, Orly Wiseman is a teacher with a BFA from New York University. Mrs. Wiseman currently lives in Staten Island with her husband, three children, and three toy Goldendoodles – Max, Ruby, and Coco. Her favorite part of teaching at New Ventures is her coworkers who believe in working hard to make sure their students succeed. Mrs. Wiseman is a proud recipient of 7 Emmy awards!

“Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

Valerie Wittlin - Principal's Assistant

Valerie Wittlin is the principal’s assistant of New Ventures. Born in Brooklyn, Mrs. Wittlin moved to Staten Island where she started a family with her best friend. Together, they have three sons (Danny, Mikey, and Jesse) as well as two grandchildren and three dogs. A fun fact about Mrs. Wittlin is that the most exhilarating thing she has done in her life jumped out of a plane! She loves the team she works with at New Ventures.

“It is what it is.”