Amanda Fitzgerald, CAE
Amanda Fitzgerald serves as the Assistant Deputy Executive Director for the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). She has worked for the association since 2003 in various capacities. While she serves as a liaison for community partnerships, she primarily focuses on government relations efforts for the national office. Amanda serves as a liaison for both congressional offices and the US Department of Education. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University, a Master’s of Arts in School Counseling from The George Washington University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed the DC Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2010 and is an active member of the Association for Women in Government Relations and the American Society of Association Executives earning her Certified Association Executive designation in 2020.
Danny Carlson serves as NAESP’s assistant executive director, policy and advocacy. Prior to joining NAESP, Danny was a policy analyst for the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. In that role, he oversaw the education division’s K–12 human capital work, advancing policies to address principal challenges across the country. Carlson previously served as an education advisor to Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and was responsible for advancing her K–12 education agenda. In that capacity, he crafted policy provisions included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to improve principal and teacher recruitment and retention, address chronic absenteeism, and boost opportunities for STEM education.
Dr. Byron M. McClure, D.Ed.
Dr. Byron McClure is a National Certified School Psychologist currently redesigning a high school in Southeast, D.C. His work centers around influencing systemic change and ensuring students from high-poverty communities has access to a quality education. Dr. McClure has extensive knowledge and expertise in mental health, social emotional learning, and behavior.
Dr. McClure has done considerable work advocating for fair and equitable discipline practices for all students, particularly, for African-American boys. He has designed and implemented school-wide initiatives such as SEL, restorative practices, RTI, and trauma responsive practices. As a result of this work, led by Dr. McClure, his school recently won the 2019-2020 Whole Child Award.
Dr. McClure has presented across the country as a panelist, featured, and keynote speaker. He believes in the power of dreaming big to make dreams come true!
Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach
Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Association of School Psychologists. Prior to assuming this role, Kelly was a school psychologist in Loudoun County Public Schools (VA) where she also served as a member of the District PBIS Coordination Team and the District Crisis Intervention Team. Dr. Strobach has developed, authored, and coauthored numerous articles and resources, including NASP's Framework for Safe and Successful Schools and has presented nationally on issues related to school safety, school mental health, effective discipline policies, and the relationship between education policy and school practices.
Jarrod Hobson is a Special Education doctoral student and PRISE (Preparing Research Intensive Special Educators) Scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University. The PRISE Doctoral Training Program, an OSEP funded grant, includes a specific focus on conducting research on factors impacting teacher shortage and disseminating findings to both the academic and policy worlds. Jarrod is the current President of Virginia CEC. Jarrod’s original involvement with the Council for Exceptional Children began during his time as a student at Radford University, where he received both his undergraduate and master’s degrees. Jarrod is also a board member for the Virginia Council for Learning Disabilities. Previously, Jarrod taught as both an elementary and secondary special education teacher in Virginia. Co-teaching was Jarrod’s primary role as a special educator. Jarrod’s research interests include teacher preparation, assistive and instructional technology, reading, and education policy.
Jane E. West, Ph.D.
A former teacher and education administrator, Dr. Jane West is visiting professor at the University of Maryland and adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University. She serves as policy advisor to several national education organizations, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (http://aacte.org/), the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (http://www.hecse.net/) and the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (http://www.tedcec.org/). For 8 years she led AACTE’s advocacy and policy work as Senior Vice President. In the mid 1980’s she worked as senior education advisor on the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions where she led the national effort to craft multiple federal education statutes.
West holds a BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University and a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Maryland. She is currently working on a book for educators related to participating effectively in the policy making process.
Dr. Kaitlyn Brennan, PhD
A personnel preparation grant recipient, Dr. Brennan earned her PhD in Special Education from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017. She currently serves as the lead facilitator for the Pittsburgh Learning Collaborative, an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and as an education policy consultant and contributing author to TED’s weekly Washington Update. Dr. Brennan’s policy work focuses primarily on addressing the special education teacher shortage and diversifying the educator pipeline. Dr. Brennan is a former board member for the Council for Exceptional Children and lives in Pittsburgh.
CEC Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor Kuna Tavalin has 17 years of experience in public affairs, advocacy and strategic planning in the education and human services arenas. Drawing from her experience in the classroom, Kuna focuses on federal policy encompassing appropriations and education policy from birth through higher education and professional development. She began her career in the U.S. Senate where she worked for five years covering issues that ranged from education, early childhood education, and poverty to housing, transportation, and judiciary issues. Kuna holds bachelor’s degrees in politics and Spanish literature from Brandeis University and a master’s degree in teaching from Smith College.
Sarah Cohen is an Associate Director in the Government Relations Department at the American Federation of Teachers, where she has been a federal lobbyist on education issues since 2011.
At AFT Sarah works on a range of policy issues, including issues related to higher education, appropriations, and private school vouchers.
She is a member of the Steering Committee for the National Coalition for Public Education, and a board member of the Committee for Education Funding.
Prior to working at AFT, Sarah worked in a second-grade classroom, at an education advocacy organization, and as a Congressional staffer. Sarah graduated from Tufts University with a BA in History in 2003.
Sharon Hoover, PhD
Sharon A. Hoover, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH, www.schoolmentalhealth.org). She currently leads national efforts to support states, districts and schools in the adoption of national performance standards of comprehensive school mental health systems (www.theSHAPEsystem.com). Dr. Hoover has led and collaborated on multiple federal and state grants, with a commitment to the study and implementation of quality children’s mental health services.
Creating safe, supportive and resilient schools has been a major emphasis of Dr. Hoover’s research, education and clinical work. She has worked with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) to train school district and school leaders, educators and support staff in multi-tiered systems of support for psychological trauma. She has trained school and community behavioral health staff and educators in districts across the United States and internationally. In 2020, Dr. Hoover was awarded a SAMHSA grant to develop the NCTSN Center for Safe Supportive Schools (www.ncs3.org), aimed at integrating trauma-informed policies and practices in school mental health systems, with a specific focus on social justice and supporting youth of color, newcomer youth, and other marginalized students and families. Since the onset of COVID-19, Dr. Hoover has worked with education and mental health leaders across the United States as they support educators, students and their families with social, emotional and academic needs amidst the global pandemic.
Myrna Mandlawitz, M.ED., J.D.
As president of MRM Associates, LLC, Myrna serves as the policy and legislative consultant to the Council of Administrators of Special Education. She has worked in Washington for close to 30 years as a consultant/lobbyist on special and general education law and policy. Myrna is a former president of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of over 100 national organizations focused on increasing the federal investment in education, and also served for 12 years as co-chair of the National Alliance of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel. Her first position in Washington was as Director of Government Relations for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
A native of Virginia, Myrna spent fourteen years as a classroom teacher and assisted in the development of Virginia's program for infants and toddlers with disabilities. She holds a master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Boston University and a law degree from Temple University.
Naomi Ondrasek serves as a Sacramento-based senior researcher and policy advisor for the Learning Policy Institute. She works to advance evidence-based policy across a wide range of issue areas, including early childhood, whole child education, and educator quality, and is the lead author of California’s Special Education Teacher Shortage.
Before LPI, she worked as a science fellow on the California Assembly Education Committee, where she reviewed, analyzed, amended, and drafted education-related legislation. Ondrasek holds a Ph.D. in the field of behavioral neuroscience from UC Berkeley and received a B.S. in Biology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.
Valerie C. Williams is the Director of Government Relations for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. She previously worked on the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, advancing disability policy and civil rights.
In a professional capacity, Ms. Williams has served in many organizations including:
- President for the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of over 100 national organizations focused on increasing the federal investment in education, and
- Board member for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the largest coalition of national organizations working together to support and enact federal public policy that ensures the education, self-determination, independence, and empowerment of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society.
She holds a Bachelors degree in Political Economy of Industrial Societies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Masters degree in Public Management from Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, Ms. Williams has held numerous Board memberships in local and nationwide organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities, such as The Arc and the National Down Syndrome Congress.
Prior to her work in policy, Ms. Williams had nearly 20 years of experience in finance with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. She and her husband reside in Maryland, and have a son who happens to have Down syndrome.
Regina P. Howard Frazier, M.Ed.
Regina Frazier is a licensed Pk-12 special education teacher and a licensed administrator in the state of Virginia. She is currently a PRISE (Policy & Research-Intensive Special Educator) scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing her doctorate in Special Education. She is proud alumni of Virginia Commonwealth University, where she attained her bachelor's degree in Communications and Public Relations. Her master's of education in administrative supervision is from Virginia State University. Regina's policy and research interests lie in developing, implementing, and evaluating strategic initiatives to improve the education provided to children and youth with disabilities in our public k-12 school systems. In particular, she is passionate to help find solutions to address our pervasive shortage of special education-licensed teachers and prepare effective school principals who understand how to retain these essential members of the school team.