2016 Presenter Bios
Selene Almazan has represented students and families for nearly 30 years. Selene is a former Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland where she represented children in the foster care system, including representation in special education matters. For nearly 23 years, Selene represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment (LRE) issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Since September 2014, Selene has been the Legal Director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) where she supports the work of the Amicus Committee as well as works on federal and local policy issues. Since May 2015 Selene maintains a private practice focusing on parent and student representation in special education matters, including LRE. Selene represents families at IEP team meetings, state complaint proceedings, mediations, due process hearings, suspension/expulsion proceedings and federal court proceedings, including matters involving violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She has extensive experience training families, teachers, school administrators, attorneys and advocates on legal issues related to special education law as well as disability discrimination issues.
Dr. Carol Bartz worked in public schools in Illinois and California for over 39 years. She has been a LSH Specialist, Resource Specialist, Program Specialist, Diagnostician, Director of Pupil Services, and Principal of an inner city elementary school. She retired as the Senior Director of the North Inland Special Education Region (SELPA) in San Diego County. While serving as the SELPA Director, she coordinated the development of the Communication Severity Scales (CSS), which is used by LSH specialists throughout California. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Correction, a Master of Science in Learning Disabilities and Emotional Disturbance, and a Doctorate in Educational Administration. Dr. Bartz has presented staff development workshops at universities, as well as at national, state, and local professional conferences. Her book, The Special Ed Administrator’s Personal Trainer for Strengthening Leadership, Relationship, and Management Skills, is available through LRP publications. In her retirement, she is working with school districts on program development and special education finance.
Christopher P. Borreca is a founding partner of Thompson & Horton LLP. He is a former teacher and was the education director of The Center, a private United Way agency serving students with severe disabilities for nine years before becoming an attorney in 1991. A former partner at the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani, he has extensive experience in special education issues, as well as contract issues, employment issues and other school law matters. Mr. Borreca also has experience with hearings on student discipline, employee grievances, personnel and school board appeals. A registered lobbyist, he also is active at the state and federal legislative level working on behalf of school districts and educational organizations.
He has published articles in the Atlantic, the Houston Lawyer and Texas School Law: A Practical Guide, and has held a leadership position in the Education Law Association (ELA) since 2000 and is also past president of ELA.
Diana Browning Wright, MS, LEP, is a well-known initiative leader with successful Behavioral RTI/MTSS, LRE and restrictive settings for EBD, writing effective behavior plans, V-stag samhsa.gov evidence based threat assessment, and other initiatives on improving educational outcomes for all students in states and regions across the country.
Diana’s extensive background is in educational reform, behavioral RTI, emotional disturbance, school psychology, traumatic brain injury, behavior analysis and classroom teaching. She has worked with students with and without disabilities from preschool through graduate schools, across all disabilities and diversity groups, and is known for her practical, use-tomorrow materials.
She has published her work in numerous peer reviewed journals, authored three books for LRP publications, a book on TBI implications for educators, and three editions of “Positive Interventions for Serious Behavior Problems” published by the State of California as well as many other articles on both teaching and behavior support. Ms. Wright is a co- author of the Behavior Support Plan Desk Reference and the BSP Quality Evaluation Guide, work that teaches how to develop function based behavior plans and how to evaluate their quality across student populations, with and without disabilities. Much of her work is accessible at no cost at www.pent.ca.gov.
Art Cernosia is a licensed 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 national special education technical assistance center. He was associated with the University of Vermont’s Education Law Institute for over 30 years where he taught and provided legal workshops. 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.
Several decades advising and representing school districts allow Bill Coats to bring invaluable depth of knowledge and understanding to his clients’ problems. Bill’s practice encompasses administrative and municipal law, and employment and labor issues, primarily in the context of school law. He serves as Chair of Vandeberg Johnson & Gandara’s School Practice Group.
After obtaining his JD from the University of Washington in 1972, Bill served as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Washington from 1972 to 1975, after which he joined a predecessor of Vandeberg Johnson & Gandara. He has been a member of the Washington State Bar since 1972, and is admitted to practice in the Western District of Washington, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
He has served as an Adjunct Professor for the University of Washington, Tacoma, and Pacific Lutheran University. Bill is a frequent panelist and speaker in programs concerning school law, municipal law, and labor and employment. He is a member of the Washington State Council of School Attorneys (President 1978) and was a member of the Continuing Legal Education Committee of the Washington State Bar Association. He is a member of the bar sections on Labor and Employment Law, Urban, State and Local Government Law, and Administrative Law.
Outside the firm, Bill enjoys tennis, reading, and is an avid sports fan.
Karen Haase is a principal in the Lincoln law firm KSB School Law where she practices exclusively in the area of education law. She frequently presents in-services to the students and staff and speaks to all manners of education groups.
Ms. Haase graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Law with highest distinction. She also obtained a Maters of Arts in Political Rhetoric from Kansas State University in 1991 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hastings College. Prior to practicing private practice, she spent two years as a law clerk to the Honorable C. Arlen Beam, a Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Ms. Haase has taught on the university level and has served as an adjunct instructor in the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s educational administration department. She is the author of several articles published in academic journals. Three of her articles have appeared in the NEBRASKA LAW REVIEW: one December, 2000, entitled Challenges to Regulating Students’ Exotic Body Piercing; another in 1997, entitled Mixed Metaphors; Model Civil Jury Instructions for Title VII Disparate Treatment Claims, and a third in 1995, entitled You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, but You Can Never Leave: Attorney Conflict of Interest and Imputed Disqualification under Nebraska’s New Bright Line Rule. Ms. Haase is a past president of The National Counsel of School Attorneys and the Nebraska Bar Association and is admitted to the U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nebraska Supreme Court.
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). Dr. Hartwig is a well-respected and noted speaker providing training on a regional, state, national and international level.
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.
Jonathan P. Read is a founding partner in the San Diego area office. His practice focuses on student-related and special education law. A highly respected attorney with an outstanding reputation for building legally compliant, student-focused programs, Mr. Read has successfully delivered comprehensive special education training throughout the state.
Mr. Read represents school districts and other educational agencies in all facets of due process and disciplinary proceedings under the IDEA and Section 504. He has developed a specific emphasis on representing school districts at highly contentious IEP team meetings and in matters involving English language learners. Mr. Read has coauthored a book entitled ELLS with Disabilities: A Guide to Leading Assessment and Intervention for LRP Publications.
In addition to student-related and special education matters, Mr. Read advises clients across facilities matters, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the acquisition of real property, including preparation of purchase and sales documents, due diligence review, financing, and close of escrow.
A popular speaker, Mr. Read is frequently requested to present before the Association of California School Administrators, the California School Boards Association, the California Counsel of School Attorneys and at national events sponsored by LRP. His article entitled “Access to Achievement: The Changing Landscape of FAPE” appeared in the Summer/Fall issue of Urban Perspectives. (Vol. 15, No. 2) From 2008-2009, Mr. Read was a member of the Special Education Advisory Panel for the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Mr. Read serves as an adjunct professor at the University Of San Diego School Of Law. He is admitted to practice in California, the U.S. District Court for the Southern, Central, and Eastern Districts of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Read’s professional career in education began as a one-to-one aide for severely disabled students in the San Diego Unified School District. He subsequently taught elementary school in the Poway Unified School District. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. He received both his bachelor’s degree and multi-subject teaching credential from the University of California, San Diego.
Mary Schillinger has been an Assistant Superintendent for Education in Southern California for 10 years. Her career began as a general education teacher and then a special education resource teacher, before she moved into administration as a district program specialist, director of special education, and assistant superintendent of education. Mary has Masters Degrees in Special Education and Educational Administration. Mary has planned the professional development and strategic planning for implementation of the Common Core State Standards for both general education and special education K-12. As an educational consultant, Mary conducts training and gives presentations on a range of topics including alignment of the IEP to new Core State Standards and successful practices in accessing the rigor of Core State Standards for students with disabilities. As part of her work as a consultant and trainer, Mary has trained county teams in a trainer of trainer’s model for best practices in supporting special education students in the rigor of new state standards. Additional training topics include Co-Teaching for Special Education student success, Universal Design for Learning for all in the Core Standards, Essential Standards Implementation, and Building Defensible Programs for Students with Autism. She has presented at national and state level conferences for the past ten years.
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 has also 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, Common Core and the Special Education Student: Your Guide to Instructional Shifts and Implementing Services and Supports in 2014, and Successfully Implementing Core Standards for Students with Disabilities: A Professional Development Guide, in 2015.
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.
Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education and more recently held the Iacocca Chair in Education for its five-year term. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University. He has written more than 1,450 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes regular columns for Principal magazine NASP’s Communiqué, and did so previously for Phi Delta Kappan and Teaching Exceptional Children. Past president of the Education Law Association and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, he is the author of the CEC monograph The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability; the more recent books, A Digest of Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Education and Student Teaching and the Law; and the two-volume reference Section 504, the ADA and the Schools, now in its third edition. In 2012, he received Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership). In 2013, he received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders.