As the new executive director of JESPY House, Edward Spauster hopes to boost its management systems while enhancing its reputation as a “showplace” for providing services to adults with learning and developmental disabilities.
Spauster succeeds Lynn Kucher, who has been at the South Orange-based agency since August 1979, less than a year after it opened in December 1978. She became director/CEO in July 1985. Kucher, who is retiring, will stay on as a special consultant for about a year.
JESPY is part of Greater MetroWest ABLE, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s collaborative network, whose member agencies support and advocate for individuals with disabilities and their families in the Jewish community. JESPY currently has more than 200 clients and a budget of over $5 million. It offers housing and training for adults with a range of disabilities.
JESPY board president Elaine Katz said Spauster has a “solid” background in the disability field and psychology, but also comes with administrative skills, both in technology and finance. The job listing for the opening said the new executive director would be asked to oversee the “financial restructuring” of the organization.
“We need to position ourselves for the future,” said Katz. “We need to develop a strategic outlook and vision.”
In a letter to JESPY staff, board, and families, Katz called Spauster a “mission-driven executive,” and highlighted his experience in direct service and administration. She also noted that his experience includes “the reorganization of agencies that faced major changes in their public and private funding mechanisms.”
As the state and federal governments change the way they fund services for adults with developmental disabilities, agencies like JESPY are increasingly turning to support from individuals, foundations, and grants.
Spauster, who holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Florida, served as president/CEO of Richmond Community Services in Mount Kisco, NY. The nonprofit, which provides residential and community-based support for people with disabilities, has a budget of over $35 million and 500 employees.
“The thing about large organizations is, it’s sometimes hard to move them,” said Spauster in an interview. “JESPY is a vibrant organization on the cutting edge of working with people with disabilities. Its family and community focus are really so important.”
Pointing out that Richmond was medically oriented, he said, “I’m interested in being part of an organization engaging people in real skills development, helping them get jobs and into schools,” he said. “It’s been nice to run a big organization. But you are very distant from the work. I think it will be much more real here.”
Spauster pointed out that JESPY staff members are not trained in management. “They’ve never had a CFO, for example. All of the staff are clinical people without management degrees,” he said. “I’d like to see JESPY navigate the waters that are choppy now, regarding setting up systems for management that will support the work we do.”
Still, he said, he sees JESPY as “a showcase for quality services in a world where people with disabilities are not ignored but work to the best of their abilities.” He plans to find opportunities to share its best practices. But first, he said, “I need to get to know the clients, their families, and the staff and see what they need.”
Spauster also served as CEO of League Education and Treatment Center in Brooklyn, a multi-site facility serving children, adolescents, and adults, and as president/CEO of LMG Programs Inc. in Norwalk, Conn., Fairfield County’s largest nonprofit provider of treatment for substance abuse.
Spauster is not Jewish, but has plenty of experience in the Jewish community. When in private practice years ago, he said, he specialized in working with Orthodox couples and individuals who wanted to see someone outside their own community.
He lives in Maplewood and is occasionally joined at home by his son, now in college.