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Key Staff Bios

Jacque Digieso, Ph.D., Executive Director

Jacque Digieso, Ph.D., Executive Director

Jacque Digieso has been an educator for over 40 years. Her innovative educational philosophy has shaped the educational model of schools in which she has worked since her first position in Bangkok, Thailand. She serves as a private consultant to both public and private educational agencies.

Dr. Digieso attended Agnes Scott College, The University of Kentucky, Georgia State University, The University of Georgia and Century University. She holds a Masters Degree in Education with emphasis on Special Education and a Ph.D. in Education Administration.

After several years of living and teaching overseas, she and her husband settled in Atlanta to raise their two sons. In 1985 they founded The Cottage School in order to bring a relevant and successful educational program to adolescents with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and other special educational needs. The School currently serves close to 170 middle and high school students.

Jacque is past President of the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools and Past President of the Roswell East Rotary Club and Roswell Rotary Club. She is active in the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, The Learning Disabilities Association, St. David’s Episcopal Church, and a member of Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities as well as several other professional associations. She was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Atlanta Crohns & Colitis Foundation in 1998 and was the recipient of the Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship in 2002.

Contact Jacque at jacqued@cottageschool.org


Joe Digieso, M.Ed. Co-Founder, Middle School Principal

Joe Digieso, M.Ed. Co-Founder

Joe Digieso began his career in education twenty-five years ago after deciding to leave his position as a management consultant for Beatrice Foods.  Once his wife talked him into tutoring students, he discovered that he loved teaching and sacrificed a promising career as an executive to return to school to obtain a Masters Degree in Education.  His teaching experience began in Dekalb County and he was selected as one of the three teachers to open one of Georgia’s first alternative schools, Hamilton Alternative, for students whose behavioral problems prevented them from attending their home schools.  Joe spent five years teaching and serving as an administrator at an independent school for students with learning disabilities, now called Mill Springs Academy.

Joe co-founded The Educational Resource Center, a tutorial center in 1983 and The Cottage School in 1985 where he has served as an instructor, the High School Principal, the Middle School Principal and the Treasurer of The Cottage School Board of Directors.

Joe is very involved in his community.  He served on the International Dyslexia Association Board, is a past member of the Vestry of St. David’s Episcopal Church and served as Senior Warden.  He served on the Advisory Board of First Colony Bank.  He is a current member of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce Small Business Person of the Year Committee.

Most recently, Joe has moved into a support position for the Advancement Department and assists with the cultivation of major donors for Annual and Capital Campaigns.

In addition, Joe has launched two new programs for The Cottage School as an outreach of the mission of the school.  The Virtual Diploma program is aimed at students from around the globe who find that the educational system available to them does not meet their needs.  Some are involved in high level training in sports or performing arts.  Their traditional school day is spent in developing skills in their specific sport or area of performing art.  These students require an extremely flexible, accredited, on line, school program, supported by certified teachers, that will allow them to complete their High School educational journey and earn their diploma.  Thus far, at the end of the first year, the program has graduated ten students and assisted them with achieving their post-secondary goal. Two recent graduates achieved their goals in performing arts and sports. A ballet student completed her senior year with the program and was accepted to Julliard.  A sports student successfully signed his NCAA commitment letter to play golf for Central Florida University. All first year graduates are now accepted at the colleges of their choice and are preparing for their freshman year.  Currently, the Virtual Diploma Program includes aspiring athletes in tennis, hockey and soccer and two students are engaged in performing arts. Students come to this program from around the globe and all are enrolled as Cottage School Students.

The Dual Diploma Program is designed to assist students in foreign countries who have a desire to earn a U.S. High School Diploma.  The program allows them to earn their High School Diploma from both The Cottage School and their home school.  Not all foreign students have the financial resources to attend a private school for the completion of High School.  Nonetheless, they desire to earn a High School Diploma from an accredited school as their post-secondary plans do involve seeking admission to a U.S. College or University.  Currently, the program has been established in China, Brazil and South Africa and Joe expects to grow the program over the coming school year.

Contact Joe at joed@cottageschool.org


Laura Finnell, M.Ed. High School Principal

Laura Finnell, began her career with The Cottage School as an English teacher in 1991, and while she still enjoys teaching literature and writing, she has served as the High School Principal for the last 7 years. She has lived in Roswell and Alpharetta most of her life, graduated from Milton High School and completed her bachelor’s degree in English, Speech and Drama from the University of Georgia.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University in 2000.  During that time, she was initiated in Pi Lambda Theta, an honor society for graduate candidates, and was invited to present at the national convention in Boston. In the Atlanta community, she completed six years of service with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Associates young professionals organization, Bravo!, served for two years as Co-President of their board and was featured in the 2006 spring issue of Catalyst magazine for her volunteer efforts.  She currently maintains her membership in many educational organizations including: International Dyslexia Association and Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia; Georgia Independent School Association and state conference presenter- seven years; National Association of Secondary School Principals; Association and Supervision of Curriculum and Development; North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and NFCC Leadership graduate in 1999.

When not at TCS, you may find Laura at her daughter’s basketball games, playing outside, trying to catch a few minutes of a Georgia Bulldog football game, or volunteering with her dog, Princess, through Happy Tails Pet Therapy group.

Contact Laura at LauraF@cottageschool.org


Crudgington_Julie_00191

Julie Libro Crudgington, M.Ed., MS Principal

Julie Libro Crudgington holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Georgia, has an extensive background in Special Education, and is certified in all areas of middle school education.  She spent ten years as a special education teacher and department head in the public school system before her tenure began at The Cottage School.   From 2000-2007 she served as learning specialist, high school career counselor and middle school assistant principal. In 2007, Julie married and moved to Texas with her husband.  When Julie and her husband moved back to Atlanta, she knew she belonged at TCS and, based on her credentials and prior knowledge of TCS, was appointed Middle School Assistant Principal. Eventually Julie was promoted to Middle School Principal when her predecessor took on new responsibilities at the school.

Julie has always been involved in mentoring new TCS teachers and assisting them in adapting to the students’ many learning styles.  She is active in facilitating the faculty’s professional development programs and assists teachers with certification processes.

Besides being actively involved in her middle school students’ educational and life skills development, Julie is and always has been the Georgia Bulldogs’ biggest fan.  When she is not here, she is on the road with her husband.  Every summer, they get off the beaten path and travel the back roads of America.

Contact Julie at juliec@cottageschool.org


Richie Briggs, M.Ed., Athletics Director

Richie Briggs, M.Ed., Athletics Director

Richie Briggs is in his tenth season as head coach for The Cottage School Cougars varsity boys’ basketball program. He also serves as the schools’ Athletic Director, PE/Health Instructor, and is Co-Commissioner of the Atlanta Athletic Conference.

Coach Briggs has taken the Cougar basketball program to unprecedented heights. In his nine years at the helm, he has led TCS to their first ever Atlanta Athletic Conference championship in 2009, then adding three more rings in 2010, 2012, and 2013. In 2014, the Cougars fell just short of their fifth title finishing in 2nd place. During this time, Coach Briggs has recorded over 100 wins and has also beaten several GISA opponents including one of the greatest school victories in 2013, defeating the mighty Furtah Preparatory School Falcons in their annual Christmas Tournament. TCS has never placed in this tournament and went on to finish 2nd losing to another GISA State contender in the championship game to Bethesda Christian.

The 2012 and 2013 Cougars broke a league record becoming the first school to have two back-to-back undefeated seasons (24-0). There have been four other schools to finish undefeated in one season in the twenty-five year history of the AAC (Brandon Hall, Furtah Prep, Hidden Lake, and the Weber School).

Briggs joined TCS after serving two seasons as assistant varsity girls basketball coach at Franklin County High School in Carnesville, Georgia, where he helped to lead the Lady Lions to a region championship in 2004 and back-to-back state playoff appearances in 2004-2005. His second year as coach, earned him assistant coach of the year honors.

Prior to coaching on the high school level, Briggs served four years coaching women’s college basketball, two years were at Emmanuel College, GA. and two years at the University of West Georgia.  At Emmanuel College, he helped lead the Lady Lions to a region championship in 2001 and a 4th place finish at the NCCAA I National Championships. At West Georgia, he helped lead the 2003 Lady Wolves to their first playoff appearance in seven years.

Briggs played basketball at Ambassador University, Texas from 1995-1997 and Emmanuel College, Georgia from 1997-1999, where he earned the honorable Coaches Award, and received a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management in 1999. He than earned his master’s degree in Physical Education in 2005 from the University of West Georgia.

“I am honored and thankful to teach and coach here at TCS. My vision was to run a quality physical education and health department and to help guide the basketball program to succeed both on and off the court. With the students’ will to improve, both in skill and in self-confidence, we have been able to accomplish historic success in and out of the classroom. I am blessed to be a part of this amazing environment and plan to continue guiding our youth to be strong, confident, open-minded, and honest hard working citizens.”

Richie Briggs is married to his lovely wife Nadine and they have two beautiful children.

Contact Richie at richieb@cottageschool.org


Tracy Ballot, Director of Advancement

Tracy Ballot, Director of Advancement

Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Tracy moved to the Atlanta area in 1996 after graduating from the University of Rhode Island. After several years in the event planning industry, Tracy’s first stint in fundraising for education was at Atlanta International School (AIS) in Buckhead. As AIS’s Director of Events and Marketing, she was responsible for the school’s major event fundraisers and marketing efforts. In 2007, Tracy transitioned her extensive project management experience in event planning to lead AIS’s new department of Auxiliary Programs and Services. This department was responsible for bringing streams of revenue to the school that were not fundraising or tuition based including dining services, school store, after-school programs, summer camp and facility rentals.

One of the highlights of Tracy’s career was helping to project coordinate the filming of the movie, The Blind Side. After taking time off as a stay-at-home mom, Tracy returned to fundraising in 2013 as the Director of Advancement for The Cottage School.

A Roswell resident since 2002, Tracy lives with her husband and daughter and can be found enjoying many weekends with her family at Riverside Park.

 

Contact Tracy at tracyb@cottageschool.org


Bob Crenshaw, CFO

Bob Crenshaw, CFO

Bob Crenshaw’s career began with working in the large IBM mainframe computer industry straight out of college.  He worked for major firms including Eastern Airlines, RCA Government Systems, TRW Aerospace, CAD/CAM Online, IBM, and others.  During his computer career, Bob was involved heavily in project management and development of several domestic and international programs including multiple installations in Beijing, China.  Bob’s education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance form the University of Florida and MBA coursework through the New York Institute of Technology and National University.

As more and more firms were moving to PC Server based systems, Bob and his wife Bettina made the life changing decision to move to Atlanta in 1991 with their three children where they opened an independent child development center and preschool.  While Bob was still working at IBM, he obtained his Real Estate License and eventually opened his own brokerage firm, all the while helping in the startup and operation of his family owned business.  With the success of the school, Bob stopped his computer based career for good and with his wife opened two additional schools as well as a large independent preschool through twelfth grade college preparatory school.

Looking for more to do, Bob joined The Cottage School in 2009 where he became the Chief Financial Officer and works closely with the founders and Board of Directors in the day to day management of several areas of the school’s operations.

Bob’s outside the school life revolves heavily around his family with four generations of the Crenshaw family all living together and growing faster than there are rooms in the house.  His son, now grown and working successfully in a large New York Investment Bank, was a child that grew to learn how to cope and compensate through his educational career with severe learning differences and is a true testament to what a school like The Cottage School can do for all of our unique learners.

Contact Bob at bobc@cottageschool.org