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Newest technologies help maintain old school success Lightbridge Academy has survived, thrived for two decades by being ahead of curve

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Guy Falzarano, CEO and founder of Lightbridge Academy in Iselin.
Guy Falzarano, CEO and founder of Lightbridge Academy in Iselin. - ()

Guy Falzarano and his wife, Julia Falzarano, don't have the oft-heard “we started in our garage” origin story.

It’s not for a lack of trying — they fixed up their garage 20 years ago to launch their child care business. It just turned out that the business, Lightbridge Academy, was better suited for a 5,000-square-foot facility down the street from their Iselin home.

They couldn’t have asked for a better market.

The Falzaranos feel their first center had everything they now look for in expanding their operation up and down the East Coast — highly concentrated populations of busy working parents who need to put children in a child care program on a daily basis throughout the year.

Each of the company’s centers provides daylong early education and child care to children ages 6 weeks through kindergarten, as well as special programming for children up to 10 years old during school holidays, breaks and summer camp.

The business model helped Lightbridge Academy become a $22 million company with a $5 million franchising business.

Biz in brief
Company name: Lightbridge Academy
Founded: 1997
Headquarters: Iselin
Employees: About 450 employees
Revenue: $22 million in 2016

But if you think this is an old company that is surviving by acting the same way it started two decades ago, think again.

For starters, some of the company’s impressive recent growth can be attributed to offering Lightbridge Academy as a provider for backup child care services that corporations may offer as a perk to all of their employees.

About a quarter of the parents that go to Lightbridge Academy are referred to it through interactions with companies, Guy Falzarano said.

“We go to those corporations, and, at no charge to them, offer their employees a discount — all they have to do is put us in their benefits package and advertise within their intranet,” he said.

Then there’s technology. The Falzaranos feel their utilization of the latest technology is another way they stand out from competitors.

“You don’t think of child care as being technology-driven, but we employ a lot of technology in our space,” Guy Falzarano said. “And you really have to with (this generation).

The exterior of Lightbridge Academy.
The exterior of Lightbridge Academy.

“I was in a (Lightbridge Academy) classroom a couple months ago where children were studying planets with our interactive technology. I asked, ‘What planet do we live on?’ And one of the kids said, ‘Google Earth!’

“Commentary for the times, I guess.”

Technology is everywhere in the centers.

Lightbridge Academy uses a fingerprint-scanning biometric scanner to secure the entrance and track people coming and going. It also has an internet monitoring system called ParentView, which allows parents to watch the activities of their children throughout the day.

“We want to keep parents connected — we want a strong bond between the children, their parents and our staff, so everyone knows what’s going on and they’re working with us in the development of their children,” Falzarano said. “We’re using technology to bring people closer together.”

It’s part of what the company touts as its core values — and what it sees as another point of differentiation.

“We really focus on our five stakeholders: that’s the child, the parent, the employee, the franchisees and the community,” Falzarano said. “You can’t run this business without any one of those stakeholders.”

E-mail to: brettj@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @reporterbrett

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Brett Johnson

Brett Johnson

Brett Johnson covers a wide array of sectors as a general assignment reporter. Before joining NJBIZ in 2014, he lived on the West Coast and wrote for a newspaper in Davis, Calif. You can contact him at brettj@njbiz.com or @ReporterBrett on Twitter.

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Dan Bonilla April 19, 2017 4:51 pm

I am not one to publicly comment on articles but I have to say something about Lightbridge Academy. My wife and I took our then-infant twins to Lightbridge Academy in Whippany from August 2016 – December 2016, and hated it. We spent a fortune for what was subpar quality of care and an understaffed classroom.

Our concerns about the low number of staff assisting with infants was met with general disregard or, alternatively, with statements that the Academy met the State’s minimum requirements for staffing. Our son has a rare condition that we explained on a number of occasions to staff but some of the staff seemed apathetic about it. At the same time, our daughter was breaking out in rashes from the way some of the staff members were changing her diaper and when we asked them to use an ointment that we provided, they often failed to do so, which only exacerbated the problem.

Then, we advised staff that our son was just beginning to stand but remained wobbly and often unbalanced. One morning while watching the in-classroom cameras we observed two staff members chatting in one part of the room while my son was in the background standing up against a piece of furniture. He fell backwards and struck his head on the floor. I drove to Lightbridge shortly thereafter to talk to the classroom’s head caretaker. She and the other staff member were dismissive of my concerns, claiming there was nothing to be upset about and that they were there to catch him before he hit the floor. She never reported this to her superiors or documented the fall.

One or two days later another incident made us decide to leave. We had asked staff to call us if the kids were sick. As part of our normal routine, my wife showed up one day to pick up the kids at about 4:30 p.m. One of the staff members said, with some attitude, something along the lines of, “your son’s been fussy all day.” We took him to the doctor and learned he had a double ear infection, but Lightbridge never called to let us know something might have been wrong with him.

We have learned since leaving Lightbridge Academy that certain staff members, and even a manager, were fired. Apparently, there were more issues going on than we were even aware of.

If anyone reading this disagrees with me, please let me know. But, I can speak for my wife and myself in certifying that the foregoing is the truth. If a company representative is interested in discussing this further, my number is probably still in the system – feel free to contact me.