Cooke envisions a world in which all people with special needs are included as valued members of their communities, leading independent and purposeful lives.

Every day, we appreciate the importance of our mission.

As families with a current Cooke student and two alumni, we are keenly aware of our need for a place that values our children as meaningful contributors to society and teaches them to advocate for themselves.

Cooke’s journey began in the mid-1980s when the founders’ children were aging out of early intervention programs. At that time, the options in the public special education system and the parochial system were extremely limited. When we reached out to private schools and described our children’s needs, we were told, “we serve students with special needs, but not that special.”

The founders could not find a school that recognized and valued their children for who they were—so they decided to start one.

From that original class of seven students, Cooke has grown to more than 290 students. It has expanded to provide a continuum of support from kindergarten through high school as well as programming for young adults ages 18-21. Cooke has also become a vibrant support community for parents and caregivers.

Today, Cooke educates a broad range of students with special needs from all 5 boroughs, regardless of socioeconomic background. Moreover, it shares its unique educational approach with teachers and administrators around the city and across the globe through the Cooke Institute. Over the past 30 years, Cooke’s willingness to share its knowledge and expertise has positively impacted thousands of students in NYC alone.

We believe that Cooke’s dedication to its mission is the reason its alumni have such exceptional outcomes –

87% are achieving independence through meaningful community engagement and, 53% are actively employed (compared to a 17% national average for adults with special needs).

That is why we are excited to help advance Cooke’s mission for current and future families for years to come. Through the Building Futures Campaign, we will continue building on Cooke’s strong foundation to create even more possibilities for those with special needs in and around New York City. We hope that you too can envision this future and will join us in making the Building Futures Campaign a success.

With great hope,

Karen, Tom, David, Chris, Kate Robards.
Adam Usdan, Andrea Pollack, Hanna Usdan, Matthew Usdan.

Building Futures Committee

Karen and Tom Robards, Co-chair
Adam Usdan and Andrea Pollack, Co-chair

Debbie Cooper and Dan Sternberg
Amanda and Taylor Lukof
Andrew Morris
George Olsen
Eileen Schwab
Michael Termini, PsyD
Eamon Walsh

Michael Eaton
Jessica Nesbihal
Renée Nicholson
Joyce Pariser
Sierra Soucy
Francis Tabone, PhD

Cooke School Board of Trustees

Andrea Pollack, Chair
Eileen Caulfield Schwab, Vice Chair
Karen P. Robards, Chair Emerita
David Warren, Treasurer

Wendy Banner
Gary Barton
Michael D. Beck, Esq.
Ellen J. Bickal, Esq.
Rufus Collins
Heather Damon
Dagnall Folger
Christine Hennessey
Roger W. Miller
Andrew Morris
June Niklus
Sarah E. Paul, Esq.
Arthur N. Skelskie, Esq.
Eamon Walsh
Lisa Westlake
Kenneth I. Wirfel
Brett Rogoff



Andrea Pollack and Adam Usdan


Kate and Robert Niehaus Foundation
Karen and Tom Robards
Mary White


Robin and Brian Leach
Juanita Leff
Deborah and Andrew Morris
Sarah Paul and Mark Nachamie
The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund
Helen Lee-Warren and David Warren


Benno Ansbacher
Marcia and Michael Beck
Ellen Bickal and Gary Bieber
Eileen Caulfield Schwab
June Eichbaum and Kenneth Wirfel
Hyde & Watson Foundation
Donald Jonas
Nancy and Daniel Neff
June Niklus and David Murphy
Louise Parent and John Casaly
Tara Litin Usdan
Christine and Eamon Walsh


Cooke School & Institute • 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 730 • New York, NY 10115 • P. (212) 280-4473 • www.cookeschool.org