Board of Trustees


My direct involvement with Saddle River Day School began in 2016 when my wife Claudia and I enrolled one of our three children at SRDS.  We immediately began to experience the benefits that an independent private school provides, and our entire family began to embrace the idea of being a part of this special community.  Several months later we enrolled another of our children at the school and fully immersed ourselves in the experience.  Claudia is an active and committed Parents Guild member who enjoys spending time on the campus and in the community, and I joined the Board of Trustees at the end of 2018 and assumed the leadership role of the Board in September 2019.

The school has many attributes that make it am attractive proposition for students and families alike.  We have been particularly impressed with the faculty and believe that they are a team of top-notch educators who have a keen ability to connect with students and bring out the best in each child.  The faculty bring a love and passion of both children and education to their jobs each day, and they have the freedom to teach in a way that fosters a love of learning in each student.  Saddle River Day School is committed to not only providing an outstanding education to each student but also to providing an environment that encourages each student to achieve his or her potential while growing into well rounded, ethical contributors to a global society.

This is a very exciting time for our school and our community.  We are making investments in our campus and supporting our staff to ensure that we continue to remain at the forefront of independent schools.  Our students will continue to have access to the latest technologies and learning methods in order to best prepare them for the pursuit of higher education at colleges and universities around the world.  More importantly, Saddle River Day School will continue to hold true to its mission and its core values of Everyone CountsLove of Learning and Intellectual Risk-Taking.  It is in the daily pursuit of these core values that each member of our faculty and staff does their part to provide a world-class experience for the students and families of our community.

John Haller
President of the SRDS Board of Trustees


The Trustees of Saddle River Day School provide commitment and leadership for the advancement of the School’s mission, vision, and growth, as well as the preservation of the School’s rich legacy.

In partnership with the Head of School, the Board of Trustees oversees and ensures all legal obligations are met and works to build a strong endowment by supporting annual fundraising and capital campaigns. The Board plays a vital role in guiding Saddle River Day School forward and ensuring that the institution is run with the utmost professionalism, while remaining at the forefront of educational and technological development.

The Board is comprised of parents, alumni, and community members with a deep affection, affiliation, and commitment to the school. They are highly skilled in their outside professions and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that allows them to work together toward the best interests of the school.

Board of Trustees

Executive Committee
Mr. John Haller – President
Mr. Rosario Ruffino – Vice President & Treasurer
Mr. Dale Smith – Secretary                  Mr. Jalaj Desai - Head of School

Mr. Scott Braen
Mr. Frank Coyne
Mrs. Lisa Kelly
Mrs. Kim Lawrie      
Mr. Wes Powell
Mr. Stephen Savas

Mr. William Cassidy III
Ms. Jackie Finestone '80
Dr. Mary Clark Romney '67
Mr. Lawrence Salameno
Mr. Stuart Steckler

Mr. John (deceased) & Mrs. Diane Alford

John Haller has extensive experience in Global Supply Chain Management and is currently running his own consulting business with a focus on global operations and leadership development. He spent 25 years with Stryker Corporation where he held the position of Vice President, Global Supply with responsibility for a team of 12,000 employees located at 43 manufacturing sites around the world. John was a member of the United States Army and left the service with the rank of Captain. He and his wife, Claudia, are blessed with three happy and healthy children: Aicha (Fairfield University '21), Cheyenne (SRDS '22), and John-Luca (SRDS '24). 

Dale T. Smith - Board of Trustee Member

Dale T. Smith is a 30+ year veteran of college administration with a focus on strategic enrollment management, marketing, admissions and business development. Currently Mr. Smith is a Vice President at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY where he has served in a wide variety of roles in higher education. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to SRDS and is actively involved in the Strategic Enrollment Management committee. His wife Karen is a Vice Chair at the college as well. They are long time Saddle River residents and have a daughter, Catherine who is a junior at SRDS and Stephanie, a freshman daughter at Immaculate Heart Academy.

Rosario Ruffino - Board of Trustees Member

Rosario Ruffino is a founder and managing partner of RR Advisory Group, now Mariner Wealth Advisors. Rosario works with clients on a variety of personal financial planning issues as well as oversees the daily operational functions of the firm. He combines many years of experience in personal financial planning, investment advisory services, and tax services for high-net-worth clients and professional athletes. In addition, Rosario has extensive experience in risk management, including life, health, and property & casualty insurance. Rosario is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a Certified Financial Planner (CFP(r)), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Rosario also holds life and health insurance licenses. He received a BBA from Bernard M. Baruch College.

jalaj desai

Jalaj Desai was appointed as Head of School in April 2020.  Prior to this he served as Interim Head of School and for the past two years, Jalaj worked with former Head of School Eileen Lambert as the Head of the Upper School. Before joining SRDS, Jalaj was Head of the Mathematics Department and Director of the Business & Entrepreneurship Program at Rutgers Preparatory School for five years and Mathematics teacher at Dwight-Englewood School for nearly ten years. Jalaj and his wife have daughters in the Lower School, Mehr ’32 and Maanya ‘29.  Jalaj holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering and two Masters degrees; one in Computer Science and one in Educational Leadership.

Scott Braen - Board of Trustee Member

Scott Braen is the President and COO of Braen Commercial Holdings Corporation (BCHC). Operating since 1904, BCHC's principal business is Braen Stone Industries, which specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of construction related materials such as asphalt, aggregates, sand, and recycled materials throughout New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. In addition, they are the leading supplier of masonry, landscape, and decorative stones in New Jersey. Scott and his wife Cielo, are very active in the SRDS community and are the proud parents of twins, Brooke and Scotty '25, and Ellie '27.

Weston (Wes) Powell - Board of Trustee Member

Weston (Wes) Powell is currently a McDonald’s Owner/Operator in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wes was elected President of the McDonald African American Owner/Operator Organization in 2008 and served two terms until 2015. Concurrently, Wes was elected as an Executive Member of the Regional Leadership Council, the governing body of the Boston Region McDonald's Owner/Operators. Wes served on the Board of Directors of the Ronald McDonald House Charity in Springfield, MA for five years. Wes was born in Jamaica, West Indies. He is one of seven children born to Marion and Legora Powell. Wes currently resides in West Nyack, NY with his wife Sarah and their son William '23, who is a student at SRDS.

Frank Coyne - Board of Trustees Member

Frank Coyne is currently the Chairman of the Board for Verisk Analytics. He led the initiative that created Verisk Analytics as the parent of ISO and its family of companies. In 2009, Verisk completed the initial public offering of its stock on the NASDAQ exchange. Mr. Coyne has played a leadership role in property/casualty insurance, delivering numerous speeches at major industry forums and writing many articles with performance-enhancing best-practices themes and forceful calls for market discipline. Mr. Coyne also served in key leadership roles at Kemper Insurance Companies, General Accident Insurance Company, Universal Underwriters Group, Reliance Insurance Company, and PMA Insurance Company. He began his career as a trial attorney with the U.S. Treasury Department. He also had a distinguished career in the United States Army, rising to the rank of captain. Frank is the proud grandparent to Dillon '26 and Aidan '23.