Rock Brook School Welcomes Back Therapy Dogs

By Thomas Connolly, Principal

Students at Rock Brook School in Skillman had the opportunity to meet and interact with some furry friends last school year and are looking forward to continuing this wonderful program in the 2023-2024 school year.

Spearheaded by Bob Hegedus, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, The Attitudes in Reverse (AIR) Therapy Dog program has proven to support our students, staff, and community regarding social and emotional well-being.  Bob Hegedus stated, “Therapy dogs have been providing assistance to people for well over 100 years. The support that the dogs have provided began with individuals in nursing homes, retirement communities and medical facilities.  In recent years therapy dogs have begun to spend time in schools to help students with learning disabilities. Tricia Baker, who established the Attitudes in Reverse (AIR) Therapy Dog program in 2010 reported in a news article that it wasn’t until about 30 years ago that scientists began to conduct studies about dogs and the effects that they had on humans.  They knew that dogs made people feel better, but they didn’t understand the physiological impact on the body.  They soon realized that contact with a dog releases “feel good brain chemicals” that promote a sense of well-being and improves the overall mental and physical health of an individual.  Tricia Baker added that the AIR Dogs Therapy program makes the most of these scientific facts in helping to create a safe, friendly and secure environment.

Throughout the course of the year, students and staff had opportunities to meet with two dogs for up to an hour.  Some of the special therapy dogs who visited the school included Alice, McKenly, and Nomie. Each month, classes would gather and students and staff had the chance to learn about the dog as shared by the dog handler.  They would discuss the breed of the dog, age, and daily activities the dog would participate in.  The dog handler would then provide numerous opportunities for the students to pet and sit next to the dog, while other students observed the positive interactions. At the conclusion of the session, the students were provided with a picture of the dog including interesting facts about the dog such as birthday and favorite foods.

The primary focus of AIR is to promote messages of understanding, empathy, and kindness towards others. In addition, there are many potential benefits of having therapy dogs in school.  This includes:

  • Provides a calming effect on students and reduces stress
  • Improves concentration, self-confidence, and self-esteem
  • Increases level of motivation to learn 
  • Improves academic skills
  • Builds trust and a sense of security
  • Provision of unconditional acceptance
  • Encourages respect and therefore improves relationships amongst students and staff
  • Reduces anxiety and elevates mood and temperament
  • Promotes character traits, such as cooperation, gratitude, nurturance, patience, and responsibility

Thomas Connolly, Principal of Rock Brook School, shared, “This program has been such a positive experience for our school community.  We are looking forward to continuing this incredible program for our students and staff.”  Additionally, Thomas Connolly stated,  “Seeing our students interact, communicate, and smile while they are with the therapy dogs is absolutely wonderful.”  

Rock Brook School is a private, non-profit school for communication impaired and multiply disabled children, ages 3 through 21. Located in Skillman, Rock Brook School is approved by the New Jersey State Department of Education and is recognized as a School of Excellence by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET).  The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools (MSCES).  Currently, the school serves over 50 students from 25 school districts in New Jersey.

Congratulations to the Rock Brook School Class of 2023

By Thomas Connolly, Principal

Pictured from left to right: Graduate Dominick Natoli and Mr. Thomas Connolly, Principal.

Rock Brook School celebrated its two graduates, Lauren Libou and Dominick Natoli, on a beautiful sunny morning, Thursday, June 16. The commencement took place at the school in a ceremony under a large tent which was decorated with balloons, banners, and personalized messages for this special event. It was wonderful to have over 50 guests join us for this celebration which included parents, families, staff, and students.

The graduation began with a welcome message from Mr. Glenn Famous, Executive Director, followed by a procession of our graduates. Principal Thomas Connolly addressed the graduates stating, “Each and every day you brought your very best, a strong work ethic, and a friendly smile that went from ear to ear. We enjoyed learning along with you every day and you inspired us by your many contributions to our school. Today you have crossed the finish line!”

Read the full story …

Students at Rock Brook School Spread Kindness

By Thomas Connolly, Principal

Pictured from left to right: Lesly Mateo-Nunez (student), Alioune Ndiaye (student), and Ms. Jen Small (teacher)

The students and staff at Rock Brook School participated in The Great Kindness Challenge February 6 through February 10, 2023, which is a positive and uplifting national program that creates a culture of kindness in schools and communities. Throughout the week, students learned, witnessed, and practiced kindness with those around them. Rock Brook School had a creative menu of school-wide activities that were ready to go for the students and staff.

The Great Kindness Challenge was launched by three California schools in 2012 to promote connections, inclusion, and compassion. Across the nation and around the world, the annual program has grown each year in participation.

Read the full story …

New Principal Announced at Rock Brook School

Mr. Thomas Connolly has been appointed as the new Principal of Rock Brook School, located in Skillman, New Jersey.

Thomas Connolly brings over 20 years of public and private school experience along with an extensive background as an educator and school administrator. After earning his bachelor of science degree in speech pathology and audiology from Clarion University, Mr. Connolly went on to earn a master of science degree in education of the deaf and hard of hearing from Bloomsburg University. In addition, he holds Council on Education of the Deaf (CED) certification.

Mr. Connolly’s teaching background includes positions as a response to intervention teacher in the Lebanon Township School District and as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at the Summit Speech School in New Providence, New Jersey. In addition to his teaching experience, Mr. Connolly served as an assistant principal in the Clinton Township School District and as a principal in the Florham Park School District. Furthermore, he has worked as a mentor for aspiring school leaders in the nationally recognized NJEXCEL program and has conducted action research projects in his tenure to examine pedagogical approaches and best practices.

Mr. Connolly is a school leader who clearly aligns with Rock Brook’s mission and vision. He shared “I am excited to be joining the Rock Brook School community and for the opportunity to share my passion and dedication in education and ensuring the success of all students.”

On behalf of the Rock Brook school community, we welcome Mr. Connolly to our team and look forward to partnering with him to continue the excellence at Rock Brook School.

Rock Brook Community mourns the loss of Maggie Deeds, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

A Tragic Loss for RBS

September 9, 2022


Dear Rock Brook Families,

It is with a very heavy heart that I reach out to you with news of the unexpected passing of Rock Brook family member Mrs. Maggie Deeds. There are no details to share with you at this time, but more information will be forthcoming. For now, we ask for your prayers and positive thoughts for Maggie’s family during this very difficult time.

Maggie has been an integral part of Rock Brook School over the past 14 years and her passion for serving our students is unmatched. With great energy, enthusiasm and positivity, she has served as a classroom teacher, a Speech Language Pathologist, Director of Technology, and most recently as our Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

“Miss Maggie” has been part of every intake for every child at Rock Brook over the last 14 years and she clearly set the standard for how to build positive relationships with students and families. Our school crisis team is already gathering resources for you and your family and we will be sharing additional information over the weekend.

Along with our counselor, Mr. Chris, we will have additional staff available to help support students on Monday and throughout the coming weeks. In the meantime, you may find the following links helpful as you process this unexpected news:

I thank you for your support as our Rock Brook School community deals with this devastating loss.

~ Glenn Famous

RBS Family Update

September 11, 2022


Dear Rock Brook Families,

Thank you so much for your outpouring of condolences, remembrances, and offers of support in the wake of the loss of our colleague and friend, Maggie Deeds. This update provides you with information, resource links, and a few ways to support Maggie’s family during this challenging time.

We have provided some links below that you may find helpful as you speak to your child this weekend. From our shared experience base, we know that there is no easy nor singular way to help children understand death, especially when it is sudden and there has been no time to prepare. Each family deals with loss differently and we ask that you share the news of “Miss Maggie’s” death according to your own family, cultural or religious beliefs, and within the context of you knowing your child best.

We will have additional staff available tomorrow to help any child in need, but no class or school “announcements” are planned. As always, we will meet the individual needs of students in the same differentiated manner in which we deal with them on all topics and issues. Should you have specific concerns or questions, please feel free to reach out directly to me or any of the following:

School Counselor –
Supervisor of Instruction –
School Nurses –

You may find helpful resources by clicking the links below:
Addressing Grief
Grief and Bereavement Resources Autism Speaks

Additionally, as a way of sharing valued resources and ideas, we have also created a shared Google Doc: Shared RBS Resources for Loss and Grief where you can share titles or links to articles, books, videos, etc., that you have found helpful in the past when dealing with a personal loss or unexpected tragedy. We ask that you simply post the link or the resource you know of and specify whether it is specifically to help students or the adults of our community. Should you have any difficulty posting or accessing the shared doc, please email the information directly to and we will post it for you.

At this time, we have no information in regard to services or arrangements but will forward that to you when received. Many of you have requested contact information or asked how to best support the family. For now, we provide the following options for you:

  • Expressions of condolence and sympathy may be mailed or dropped off at Rock Brook School and we will ensure that Maggie’s family receives your expression.
  • Similarly, direct financial support for the family may be sent to the school or click the following link for a GoFundMe page that has been set up by Maggie’s friends from the tennis community:
    Deeds Family – GoFundMe page

Previously shared resource links:

I thank you for your support as our Rock Brook School community deals with this devastating loss.

~ Glenn Famous

Updated COVID-19 Protocols – Effective September 1, 2022

As COVID-19 begins a transition from a pandemic to endemic status, schools across New Jersey and the country have begun a focus on full-time uninterrupted on-site instruction. Please know that the COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses for those eligible, remains the most critical strategy to prevent severe illness, protect students and staff, and reduce interruptions to on-site learning. Read more…

New Director Announced

Dear Rock Brook Community,

On behalf of the Rock Brook School Board of Trustees, I am pleased to announce the appointment of W. Glenn Famous as the next Executive Director of Rock Brook School.

The Board has engaged in a thorough and thoughtful process to find an outstanding candidate to replace Mary Caterson who will be retiring at the end of the school year. Glenn has had a long career in public education serving as Principal in several elementary and middle schools in South Brunswick, New Jersey with a strong record of accomplishment. His commitment to children and their families, as well as to the staff who support them, is well recognized. His leadership, creativity and problem solving skills will add to our continuing efforts to help our students reach their full potential.

The formal transition process will start April 1 with Glenn and Mary working together through the end of the school year. We look forward to having Glenn join the Rock Brook family and will be planning opportunities for all of you as stakeholders to meet him. This is an important next step for Rock Brook and we look forward to the future of our program and our continued commitment to the children and families that we serve.

Rick Sugam
Rock Brook School Board of Trustees

Original release