Presenter Bios


2015 Presenter Bios

Donald Austin
Attorney at Law, Principal, Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch, Inc., P.S., Seattle, Washington

Mr. Austin has practiced law since 1986 primarily in the areas of school law and public entity defense. He was General Counsel for California’s Ventura Unified School District for eight years, where he handled nearly all legal issues for that 17,500 student district. In 2004 he was President of the California Council of School Attorneys.

Mr. Austin’s experience includes litigation of a wide variety of sex abuse and school law issues, including: catastrophic injury lawsuits; special education advice, due process hearings, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal court appeals; personnel law advice, employee termination (probable cause matters), and investigating complaints about employees; employee and union grievances and advising on collective bargaining issues; school construction contracts and school construction disputes; student and teacher rights and discipline; curriculum and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) matters; board governance, open public meeting act and public records act issues, and dealing with governmental complaints from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). He has also served as the arbitrator in more than fifty superior court cases.

Mr. Austin has taught education law as an adjunct professor at several universities, most recently in the Seattle Pacific University School of Education’s School Principal Certification Program. Before practicing law, he taught English and coached football, wrestling, soccer, and swimming at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon.

Lynette Baisch
Attorney at Law, Porter Foster Rorick LLP, Seattle, Washington

Lynette Baisch advises and defends school districts on a broad range of legal issues with a particular emphasis on special education law. She frequently works with IEP teams to develop defensible and appropriate programming, and has extensive experience defending school districts in due process hearings and court appeals.

Lynette graduated magna cum laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1999 and with honors from the University of Washington School of Law in 2005. During law school, Lynette served as a Managing Editor of the Washington Law Review and interned with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General. Prior to joining Porter Foster Rorick in 2006, Lynette clerked with the Supreme Court of Illinois. Prior to her law career, she worked as a local government reporter for a Kitsap County daily newspaper.

Art Cernosia
Attorney at Law/Education Consultant, Williston, Vermont

Art Cernosia is an attorney and an education consultant from Williston, Vermont. Art previously worked as a teacher, an Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Vermont Department of Education, a practicing attorney, and consultant with a  special education technical assistance center.  He also volunteered as a surrogate parent for students with disabilities who were placed in juvenile detention facilities. He provides training, consultation and other technical assistance services to state and local education agencies and advocacy organizations throughout the nation pertaining to special education legal issues.

Carlos Chavez
Attorney at Law, Partner, Pacifica Law Group, Seattle, Washington

Carlos represents public school districts and other municipal agencies and educational entities. His practice focuses on representing school districts in special education matters, including counseling, advice and all phases of dispute resolution. Carlos also assists school districts in navigating their complex and ever-changing obligations under state and federal education law, including issues of employee and student discipline, privacy, due process, equity, and nondiscrimination. Carlos routinely provides in-service trainings for school districts on these issues and has also served as adjunct faculty and panelist in the area of school law for the University of Washington’s Danforth Educational Leadership and Leadership for Learning programs and for the University of Washington-Bothell and Seattle University teacher certification programs.

Eric Hartwig
Administrator/Psychologist, Marathon County Special Education, Wausau, Wisconsin

Eric P. Hartwig, Ph.D. received his doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin- Madison, a M.S. in School Psychology and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is experienced and licensed as a Director of Pupil Services, District Administrator and a School Psychologist/Private Practice ®. Presently, he is the Administrator of Pupil Services for the Marathon County Children with Disabilities Education Board and is the author and principle trainer on the Just-in-Time: Behavioral Initiative Project.He has been an adjunct professor for Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and has been an adjunct professor and research advisor for Cardinal Stritch College-Milwaukee and Aurora University-Wisconsin Campus. Dr. Hartwig was named Administrator of Special Services of the Year for 2007-2008, by the Wisconsin Counsel of Administrators of Special Services (WCASS). He is a well respected and noted speaker providing training on a regional, state, national and international level.

Graham Hicks
Attorney at Law, Graham M. Hicks, P.C., Beaverton, Oregon

Graham is an attorney in private practice in Beaverton, Oregon. He advises and represents school districts throughout Oregon and Southwestern Washington on special education law and other disability law matters. After 33 years with the Portland office of Miller Nash, LLP, Graham founded his own law firm in 2006. He is a member of the Education Law Association, NSBA Council of School Attorneys, Oregon Council of School Attorneys, and the state bars of Oregon and Washington and serves on the Dispute Resolution Committee of the Oregon Department of Education.  Graham is a frequent presenter at law conferences and conducts workshops and trainings for school district staff on a variety of special education topics. He is an author of “The Educator’s Guide: Student Discipline in Oregon,” a widely-used reference on discipline of general and special education students.

David Hodgins
Attorney at Law, Partner, Thompson & Horton LLP, Houston, Texas

David B. Hodgins represents and counsels public school districts, junior and community colleges, universities and other governmental entities concerning all areas of education and government law including labor and employment matters, special education law, student discipline concerns, contracts and service agreements, open government, election law, civil rights matters, and state and federal litigation. Mr. Hodgins is a frequent speaker regarding education law issues at the state and national level. Before joining Thompson & Horton, Mr. Hodgins was a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in its Houston office.

Jeanne Kincaid
Attorney at Law, Drummond Woodsum, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Jeanne Kincaid is a nationally known disability lawyer and consultant, representing colleges and universities nationwide and public and independent schools regionally on a host of disability and special education issues, including the physical accessibility requirements imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Jeanne has been a special education hearing officer and mediator for the State of New Hampshire, and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of New Hampshire’s Graduate School of Education, Antioch University and Franklin Pierce Law Center (now the University of New Hampshire School of Law).

Jeanne worked in an advisory capacity with AHEAD, a national organization whose membership consists of higher education staff that coordinate services for students with disabilities. She has held staff attorney positions with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Oregon Department of Education, and served as a hearing officer for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and the New Hampshire Department of Education. She has been a contributing author to “Section 504, the ADA and the Schools” and “Disability Compliance for Higher Education.”

Jeanne represents institutions of higher education before the Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice. She has an active practice serving in a consulting capacity to the Office of General Counsel for numerous private universities throughout the country. An engaging presenter whose improvisational comedic background affords participants a unique approach to understanding complex legal issues, Jeanne has shared her expertise in dynamic presentations on hundreds of campuses from coast to coast.

Jose Martin
Attorney at Law, Richards Lindsay & Martin LLP, Austin, Texas

Jose Martín is a partner with the school law firm of Richards Lindsay & Martín in Austin, Texas. His law practice of over 20 years has focused exclusively on matters involving the education of students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. He is a graduate of the University of Texas and the University of Texas School of Law. A background in journalism has led Jose to frequent publication in the area of disabilities laws and their impact on students and public schools. He currently serves as Contributing Editor to the national publication The Special Educator and LRP’s web-based Special Ed Connection As a speaker, Mr. Martín presents numerous topics on disabilities laws to audiences at local, regional, state, and national conferences.

Dave Richards

Attorney at Law, Richards Lindsay & Martin, LLP, Austin, Texas

David M. Richards is a graduate of Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas School of Law. He is a partner in the Austin law firm RICHARDS LINDSAY & MARTIN, L.L.P., where his practice is focused on the defense of school districts and special education co-ops. Dave is the General Counsel for the Council of Educators for Students with Disabilities, and is a frequent presenter on special education and §504 at education service centers, school districts, state-wide events, and national conferences throughout the United States. His analysis on education law issues frequently appears in LRP’s publications The Section 504 Compliance Advisor, The Special Educator, and Your School and the Law.

Mary Schillinger

Assistant Superintendent, Las Virgenes Unified School District, Calabasas, California

Mary Schillinger has been the assistant superintendent for education in LVUSD for the past ten years.   Her career began as a general education teacher and then a special education resource teacher, before she moved into administration as a high school coordinator, district program specialist, director of special education, and now assistant superintendent of education.  Mary has Masters degrees in Special Education and Educational Administration.  As the Assistant Superintendent, she oversees the professional development and strategic planning for implementation of the CA Common Core State Standards for both general education and special education K-12.    As a member of the faculty of California State University Northridge, Mary teaches courses in the special education teacher preparation and school psychology departments.  She authored the LRP publications; The Administrator’s Guide to Building and Maintaining a Comprehensive Autism Program in 2010,  Write On, A Guide to Compliant Documentation of Special Education Policies and Procedures in 2012 , and most recently Common Core and the Special Education Student:  Your Guide to Instructional Shifts and Implementing Services and Supports in 2014.   Mary is a presenter at state and national conferences.

Jan Tomsky
Attorney at Law, Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, Oakland, California

A nationally recognized leader in special education law, Ms. Tomsky has represented school district clients in mediations and due process hearings, as well as in special education-related litigation in both state and federal courts and in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Her expertise in special education matters has helped scores of districts to address issues and resolve disputes in this specialized field.  Additionally, Ms. Tomsky has assisted districts in countless student expulsion hearings, particularly those that involve complex or sensitive issues, and has successfully defended districts’ decisions on appeal to county boards and in court.

Ms. Tomsky presents at state and regional conferences throughout the country, but most enjoys designing and delivering workshops for individual districts, which are specifically tailored to address their unique needs.  Ms. Tomsky is the author of  Personal Liability for IDEA Violations: Where the Courts Stand, and was a contributing author to The Administrator’s Guide to Building and Maintaining a Comprehensive Autism Program and IDEA Due Process Survival Guide, all of which are LRP publications.

Vincent Varrassi
Director of Varrassi Educational Associates, Ho Ho Kurs, New Jersey

A popular presenter at the state and national level, Vincent Varrassi is the author of Transition to College and Career: Experienced-Based Strategies to Inprove Readiness of Students with Disabilities  released in March of 2015 by LRP Publications.

He was the Campus Director of the Regional Center for College Students with Learning Disabilities at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Prior to that time Mr. Varrassi’s career in Public Education spanned 27 years. During that time he was a general education teacher, special education teacher, Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant and the Supervisor of Special Education for a high school district in North Jersey. He has served on the boards of several professional organizations including the Professional Advisory Board of ASPEN-The Asperger Syndrome Education Network and the ABC’s of College Planning (NJACAC) and the New Jersey Branch of LDA (Learning Disabilities Association).

In May of 2005, the NJ Association for College Admissions Counseling presented Vincent with its Special Service Award terming him “an incredible bridge to college for students with learning disabilities”. In the fall of 2005, Vincent received a Presidential Citation from J. Michael Adams, President of Fairleigh Dickinson University, for his work on behalf of college students with learning disabilities.

He serves on the Executive Board of several professional organizations and is on the professional advisory board of ASPEN and the editorial board of the A B C’s of College Planning published by the NJACAC. Mr. Varrassi holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Arts in Learning Disabilities.

Varrassi presents at the state and national level to parents, students and professionals on the topics of Learning Disabilities, Asperger Syndrome, and Transition to post-secondary options, Executive Function and Assistive Technology.

Julie Weatherly
Attorney at Law/Owner, Resolutions in Special Education, Inc., Mobile, Alabama

Julie J. Weatherly, Esq. is the owner of Resolutions in Special Education, Inc. with attorneys in Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama.  Julie is a member of the State Bars of Alabama and Georgia, and for almost thirty years, she has provided legal representation and consultative services to school districts and other agencies in the area of educating students with disabilities.  In June of 1996, Julie appeared with Leslie Stahl on CBS news program “60 Minutes” to discuss the cost of meeting the legal requirements of the IDEA.  She has been a member of the faculty for many national and state legal institutes and is a frequent speaker at special education law conferences.  Julie has developed a number of videotape training series on special education law and has been published nationally as a part of her trainings, workshops and seminars.  She is the author of the legal update article for the National CASE quarterly newsletter and is a member of LRP’s Special Education Attorneys Advisory Council.   In 1998, Julie was honored by Georgia’s Council for Exceptional Children as Georgia’s Individual who had Contributed Most to Students with Disabilities and, in April 2012, Julie received the National Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) Award for Outstanding Service.

Amy Whitehorne
Policy Analyst, The National Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE), Eugene, Oregon

Amy Whitehorne is a Policy Analyst at the National Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE).  She provides technical assistance on the procedural safeguards and dispute resolution provisions of Parts B and C of the IDEA, and uses quantitative and qualitative data analyses to assist state educational agencies, policy makers, and their stakeholders develop or improve related policies and procedures.  Amy is a licensed attorney and worked for the State of Vermont prior to joining CADRE.  She has worked with an array of individuals and organizations on education law and policy issues, including elementary and secondary education, special education, postsecondary education, and workforce training.  Amy received her J.D. from Vermont Law School and B.A. from the University of Georgia, and Certificate in Mediation from the University of Oregon School of Law.

Diane F. Wiscarson,
Attorney at Law, Wiscarson Law, Portland, Oregon

Diane Wiscarson, Esq., represents students and their families in education matters, with a particular focus on special education law. Having experienced the sometimes difficult IEP process first-hand as a parent, Diane has a unique parent perspective on how to navigate the IEP maze, as well as recognized legal expertise. Diane actively represents families throughout Oregon and Washington. Additionally, Diane serves on numerous boards and committees related to special education interests, and is a frequent presenter at local, state, regional and national meetings and conferences.