Monday, July 11

Monday, July 11


8:00 – 8:45 a.m.

Speaker: Alex Graham
Executive Director, Council for Exceptional Children


Alex Graham has 25 years of association management experience. Prior to joining the CEC in October 2013, Alex served as the executive director of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell). Through advocacy, education, research and financial aid, AG Bell helps families, health care providers and education professionals understand childhood hearing loss and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.

In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Va., Alex has earned a master’s degree in organizational effectiveness and a master’s degree in business administration from Marymount University in Arlington, Va.

Alex is the father of two teenagers with learning disabilities, and he knows firsthand the critical role that special education professionals play in students with special needs being able to reach their potential.  Alex’s wife Melissa is an advanced academics specialist with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

Speaker: Luann Purcell
Executive Director, Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE)


As chief executive officer of an international professional organization of school administrators, whose primary responsibility is in leadership of special education programs for children, Dr. Luann Purcell’s major job responsibilities include: consulting and advising administrators on best practices for leadership and development of quality programs for students with disabilities; assisting members in developing networking systems through state, provincial, and country units in order to provide better services to members; advocating at the governmental level to assure appropriate legislation to facilitate the development and maintenance of quality programs for students with disabilities; and providing keynote/breakout sessions/etc. at state/provincial and regional conferences on leadership, legislative/policy updates, attitude adjustment, the passion in compassion, and other current education issues. In the last 14 years, she has keynoted and led sessions in over 43 states and 3 other countries on IDEA, NCLB, and the development of proactive leadership skills in times of change.

Luann has had a variety of experiences throughout her 44 years in public education including teaching general education at both high school and middle school level, teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, coordinator at a regional educational service center, and assistant superintendent for pupil services in a local district of 25,000+ students. This July marks the completion of 14 years as executive director of CASE.

Student Advocates Panel

8:10 – 8:45 a.m.

Moderator: Kathy Boisvert
2016 CEC’s Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award Recipient

Dr. Kathy Boisvert, is a special education teacher in Blackstone-Millville public schools in Mass. When she’s not teaching her preschool students, Boisvert lectures at the University of Massachusetts, volunteers as a mentor to young colleagues, and gives her time as a consultant for the Hope Foundation for Autism Awareness, where she shares her expertise with teachers, parents, and community members in Turks & Caicos. On April 13, 2016, CEC awarded Boisvert with the Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award at the CEC 2016 Convention & Expo.

Panel speaker: Alex Campbell
2016 Yes I Can Award Recipient, Self-advocacy

When he was in 1st grade, Alex Campbell, 10, was subjected to multiple instances of restraint and seclusion by his principal. His parents had no idea about the punishment until Alex begged his parents not to send him back to school.

To advocate for all children’s safety, Alex met with dozens of lawmakers to persuade them that laws were needed to regulate the use of restraint and seclusion in Virginia’s public schools.  In March of 2015, he saw his efforts pay off when Virginia’s governor signed two restraint and seclusion bills into law.

Panel speaker:  Paloma Rambana
2016 Yes I Can Award Recipient, School & Community Services


When Florida’s Division of Blind Services cut off access to the equipment and training, Paloma Rambana, 10, chose to advocate for legislature to support her and kids like her. Paloma joined forces with the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind  to request funding for this gap in services. The result is an impressive $1.25 million and counting in additional funding for kids with visual impairments.
Since achieving this victory, Paloma hasn’t backed down. She has appeared on local talk radio programs, and continues to lobby for further funding. Having proven a force to be reckoned with, Paloma was called “one of tomorrow’s leaders” by President Obama and a White Hat Lobbyist in an Influence Magazine article.

Issue Breakout Sessions

Presenter: Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach
Director, Government Relations, National Association of School Psychologists

Session 1 — School and Community Based Mental Health
9:00 – 10:15 a.m.


Dr. Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach is a nationally certified school psychologist and is currently the director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). 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.

Presenter: Erin Maguire
Executive Director of Student Support Services, Chittenden Central Supervisory Union in Essex Junction, Vermont

Session 1 — School and Community Based Mental Health
9:00 – 10:15 a.m.


Erin Maguire earned her master’s degree in special education from Castleton University and is in the process of completing her certificate in advanced education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Erin has been an educator for 18 years in many roles including special education director, special educator, and middle school science teacher and para-educator.

Legislative advocacy specific to the intersection of mental health and education has been of critical importance to Erin for many years.  Her role as the co-chair of the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators Legislative Committee, her work on the CASE Policy and Legislative committee, and her many opportunities for testimony in the Vermont legislature have given her much experience in the policy and legislative arena. She served as the president of her state’s CASE unit from 2013-2015 and presently serves as past-president.

In addition, Erin has been the education leadership representative to her local mental health agency. She served on the committee that designed the rules for seclusion and restraint in Vermont and has collaborated with others nationally on the Vermont model. In 2013, she served on the committee commissioned by the Vermont legislature to study and make recommendations specific to mental health services in Vermont schools.  Her advocacy at the national and state level has included a focus on high quality mental health supports for students and families. Erin is a strong proponent of proactive and preventative social and emotional supports in our nation’s schools and communities.

Presenter: Elizabeth Talbott
President, Division of Research (CEC-DR)

Session 2 — Research in Special Education
9:00 – 10:15 a.m.


Elizabeth Talbott is an associate professor of special education at the University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC). She also serves as president of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research (CEC-DR).

In June of 2014, Dr. Talbott participated in the Management Development Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass. Talbott is a faculty member in the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention, where UIC serves as a participating institution.

Elizabeth Talbott holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and english from Virginia Tech, and a master’s and doctorate in special education from the University of Virginia.

Presenter: Deb Ziegler
Director, Policy and Advocacy ,Council for Exceptional Children

DeborahDeborah A. Ziegler is the director for policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), one of the world’s premier special education organizations.

She has broad public policy experience at the international, national, state, and local levels. Dr. Ziegler works to further the overall goals of CEC through improving policies affecting exceptional children and youth and the professionals who work with them, at all levels of government. In her position, she is responsible for providing leadership and direction for the association’s public policy agenda, including policy development, implementation, and analysis; information collection and dissemination; and maintaining a grassroots network of Children and Youth Action Network (CAN ) Coordinators. She works closely with the White House, the United States Congress, and the Federal Agencies including the U.S. Department of Education to advocate for policies that guarantee a free appropriate public education for children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents.

Dr. Ziegler has worked as a special education teacher, special education administrator and faculty at the university level. She has consulted widely and written extensively in the policy arena.

Presenter: Phyllis Wolfram
Executive Director, Special Programs, Springfield Missouri Public Schools

Session 3–School Choice
9:00 – 10:15 a.m.
Session 1–IDEA Reauthorization
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Review of Legislative Talking Points, Q&A
2:45 – 3:30 p.m.


Phyllis Wolfram is the executive director of special programs for the Springfield R-12 School District in Springfield, Mo.  She has worked in the field of education for 33 years.  Phyllis’ administrative experience spans 27 years in the field of special education administration at the local level. She has been a local special education director in three different districts ranging in size from a small rural district to the largest urban district in the state of Missouri.  In addition, she has experience in the area of gifted education, Section 504, ELL and early childhood.

Phyllis is currently the president elect for CEC’s Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE).  Prior to this position, she served as the chair of the CASE policy and legislative committee for three years. She has also chaired the CASE ad hoc committee on IDEA Reauthorization in 2010, and served as a member of the CASE task force, design for the future, 2005. In her home state of Missouri, Phyllis serves on the Governor’s Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders and has served on various state level committees including Early Childhood Special Education, Electronic IEP Development, Missouri’s RTI initiative, Transition from School to Work, and the Elementary English Language Arts Advisory Committee.

Phyllis also serves on the board of directors for the Council for Exceptional Children, and was most recently appointed to serve on the IDEA Reauthorization Workgroup.

Presenter: Sharon Walsh
Co-Director of Walsh Taylor Incorporated

Session 2–Early Childhood
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Sharon Walsh has worked in the field of special education and early intervention for over 30 years.  She currently provides consultation to state and local agencies (e.g. SEAs, state lead agencies for Part C, school districts and local lead agencies) on the implementation of Part C and Part B of IDEA. She also is the Governmental Relations Consultant for the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC) and the IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association (ITCA), which is the national association representing the state Part C lead agencies.  Sharon also works as a consultant on the federally funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy).

Sharon taught in a large suburban school district in early childhood and served as the district’s IEP Specialist, developing policies and procedures and designing and implementing training programs on the implementation of P.L. 94-142 when it was enacted.  She also has worked for several OSEP funded projects including The Data Accountability Center, the National Center for Special Education Monitoring (NCSEAM), the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE),  and LRP Publications serving as the Editor of The Early Childhood Report.

Sharon also served for several years as the Court Appointed Monitor in the federal Part C case, Marie O.

Presenter: Samantha Mrstik
Doctoral Candidate

Session 3–Higher Education Act Reauthorization 
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

SamanthaSamantha Mrstik was a high school English teacher for students with learning disabilities and emotional behavioral disorders for 15 years outside of Orlando, Fla. Both of her bachelor’s and master’s in special education.  Besides teaching students with disabilities, Samantha has taught high school English, drama, and worked as a disciplinary dean.  She has worked in Chile, Argentina, and Peru teaching English and in South Africa teaching special education.

Samantha is currently working on her Ph.D. in special education at the University of Central Florida.  Her dissertation research will focus on secondary students with learning disabilities in an inclusive setting in Gaborone, Botswana. Samantha currently serves as a policy intern at the Council of Exceptional Children.

Presenter: Pamela Williamson
Associate Professor – University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), Department of Specialized Education Services, and CAN Coordinator, Teacher Education Division

Session 3–Higher Education Act Reauthorization 
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Dr. Pamela Williamson serves as an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the Department of Specialized Education Services.  She received her Ph.D. in special education from the University of Florida, as well as a master’s degree, with an emphasis in reading, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Dr. Williamson prepares undergraduate and graduate students to teach reading to students with disabilities, including undergraduate students enrolled in a dual general education/special education program, the special education program, and the deaf and hard of hearing education program.  She also teaches at the doctoral level.  She is co-author of a book on collaboration, as well as co-editor of a book on teaching reading to individuals with autism.  In addition, she has co-authored numerous research articles around policies for the inclusion of individuals with disabilities, reading and autism, and individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Presenter: Kimberly Osmani
CAN Coordinator, Division on Career Development and Transition (CEC-DCDT)

Session 2 — Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act Reauthorization
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.


Kimberly Osmani is the statewide transition coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.  She holds two master’s degrees—in special education and educational administration and was a special education teacher for 10 years.  She was also an associate state director at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.  Kim is the past president and president elect of the National Rehabilitation Association’s Transition Specialties Division, Chairs the Oklahoma Transition Council, is chair of the CEC-DCDT Policy and Advocacy Committee, and coordinates initiatives for youth with disabilities.

Presenter: Donna Wandry
Professor in the Department of Special Education at West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Session 2 — Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act Reauthorization
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.


Dr. Donna Wandry has served children and youth with disabilities directly in school and agency settings. She was the project director for a federal systems change transition grant while serving as the transition coordinator at the Kansas Board of Education.

Donna has taught transition coursework at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in higher education for over 20 years, and legal issues coursework at the graduate level for over ten years. She is a national past president of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Career Development and Transition. She is co-editor of two books on parental engagement in transition planning and implementation, and has authored or co-authored numerous book chapters and journal articles on various aspects of parent roles in special education and transition practices.

Dr. Wandry also was the project leader on the conversion of the Life Centered Career Education curriculum to the current web-based Life Centered Education format.  Most recently, she completed a sabbatical semester with the CEC Policy and Advocacy Center during spring 2016.  Her primary areas of interest are special education legislation and movement from school to adult life for persons with disabilities, with a focus on working with families and providers to create systemic changes that facilitate that movement.

Presenter: Jane Clarenbach
Director of Public Education and Publications at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)

Session 3 — Gifted Education for High-Ability Learners
1:00 – 2:30 p.m
JaneJane Clarenbach coordinates NAGC’s legislative and advocacy initiatives and works to raise awareness and promote the needs of high achieving and high-potential children through various communications strategies, through the work of several NAGC committees, including the development of national gifted education standards, and by working with state and national organizations. Jane has more than three decades of federal advocacy experience, including as a staff member in the U.S. Senate and for several national advocacy organizations.

Reception with Attendees, Partner Associations, and Organizations

5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Speaker: Roberto Rodriguez
Deputy Assistant to the President for Education

RobertoRoberto J. Rodríguez serves in the White House Domestic Policy Council as deputy assistant to the president for education. He coordinates the administration’s education policy initiatives from early learning through college and career training.

Previously, Roberto was Chief Education Counsel to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the health, education, labor and pensions (HELP) committee.

Roberto began his tenure on Capitol Hill working for the Senate HELP Committee on the development of the No Child Left Behind Act. He has worked on various reauthorizations of federal legislation, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Head Start, Child Care, Higher Education, and the America COMPETES Act.

He is a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., and a graduate of the University of Michigan and of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass.