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   OFFICERS
   
 photo of Michele Kule-Korgood

Michele Kule-Korgood, Esq., Chair (NY) is the founder and managing attorney of Kule-Korgood & Associates, P.C. Michele has devoted more than twenty years, in private practice, to representing parents of children with disabilities in order to secure an effective education for their children. While studying psychology as an undergraduate, Michele became a personal care assistant for a classmate with cerebral palsy.  Her classmate’s refusal to be defined by his disability inspired Michele to pursue a career in teaching special education.  Years later, as a special education teacher, Michele’s efforts to help a student obtain assistive technology, so he could have a voice in the world, again changed the course of her life. In order to effect change for a greater number of people, she decided to attend law school and become a legal advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.Today, Michele is one of the most well-known, respected attorneys in the field and has successfully handled thousands of matters in special education, ensuring that every child receives equal access to the high quality education to which he or she is entitled. Her experience working closely with other professionals in the field, as well as her extensive knowledge of educational programs, allow Michele to assist parents in finding and accessing appropriate placements and services.  As a former special educator, Michele brings unique insight into the complex issues related to obtaining effective opportunities for children. Michele is highly sought after as a speaker on special education law and policy. She has chaired many conferences, and presented on various topics in special education law at numerous conferences, including those held by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the New York State Bar Association, the Practicing Law Institute, Lehigh University, and at various agencies which provide education and advocacy services. Michele also serves on the board of the Center for Learning Differences. Michele has argued and presented cases involving novel issues in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Eastern and Southern District Courts, the Appellate Division and state Supreme Court (including as lead counsel, along with Greenberg, Traurig, in the landmark decision of Mr. and Mrs. A v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Educ., 769 F. Supp.2d 403, 428, 430 (S.D.N.Y. 2011), holding that the exercise of rights under IDEA cannot be made to depend on the financial means of a disabled child’s parents, and extending the right for direct tuition payment to parents without economic means pursuant to the Burlington/Carter analysis).  She has a number of published decisions in various courts in special education and additional education-related areas of law. Michele earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Hofstra University School of Law and prior to that obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Boston University.



 

 

Cynthia Daniels-Hall (NC), Treasurer is the parent of children with diagnoses on the autism spectrum.  Cynthia is a special education advocate and owner of EveryChild Solutions, an education advocacy business. Cynthia is an advocate member of COPAA, a Black American female born in the southeast, raised in the northeast, and now live in North Carolina in the southern eastern region of the USA.  As a person who was raised in a family of educators, and as the parent of young adults with disabilities, she understands the process from a unique and personal perspective.  Cynthia understands how the inconsistent implementation of special education laws by public school systems affects parents and their children. As a military spouse, having lived in six states, she realizes that when helping parents obtain a free appropriate public education for their children in the least restrictive environment, any solution must be tailored to their individual child and their situation.  Cynthia interest in serving on COPAA Board and committees is advocate training promoting the development of knowledge and skills necessary to support, inform, and empower parent's participation in the special education process.


 photo of Maureen van Stone Maureen van Stone, Esq. (MD), Secretary, is the associate director of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) and the founding director of Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law), a MCDD community-based program. Project HEAL is Maryland’s only comprehensive medical-legal partnership, which provides advocacy and legal services to low- and moderate-income families and children with disabilities who receive clinical services at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Maureen is also a core director for Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education and adjunct faculty at Towson University. Maureen is a member of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s ethics committee. Maureen earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Southern California, a master’s degree in developmental psychology at The Johns Hopkins University, and a Juris Doctor at Whittier Law School, with a concentration on children’s legal issues. Prior to law school, Maureen worked as a clinician on the Neurobehavioral Unit in the Department of Behavioral Psychology at KKI for six years. Maureen is a graduate of the Leadership Maryland Class of 2012 and received the following awards from Maryland’s business and legal newspaper, The Daily Record: 2014 Very Important Professionals award, 2013 Maryland’s Top 100 Women award, 2012 Leadership in Law award, and 2011 Leading Women award.

   
   BOARD MEMBERS
   
 photo of Missy Alexander

Melissa Alexander,  MD - (Missy) is a parent educator with Maryland’s Parent Training and Information Center.  She works with families of children with disabilities in the 3 Southern Maryland counties, helping them advocate for appropriate educational services for their children and finding community resources to meet their children's needs. She presents parent and professional workshops on a variety of topics, and helps facilitate study groups using Wrightslaw's "From Emotions to Advocacy" framework. She is the parent advocate on the St. Mary's County's Local Care Team (formerly known as Local Coordinating Council), and is a member of the St. Mary's County, Maryland Local Management Board. Missy has been a guest lecturer at Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, and The College of Southern Maryland on parenting a child with autism. Missy is Secretary for the Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, and is on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland. And the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.  Missy’s dedication and passion for advocating for children with disabilities stems from advocating for her own daughter.  Missy is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, specifically the Membership and Conference Committees, and was the first advocate member to Chair of the COPAA Board of Directors in 2012-2013. 


 photo of David Beinke

David Beinke TX  is currently Director of Advocacy for Cirkiel and Associates, a disability law firm in Round Rock, Texas . With 20 years of case management experience in the mental health field and 14 years with law firm, David brings a unique brand of support for children with special needs in their educational environment to families throughout the State of Texas. Participating in COPAA as co-chair of Advocates Committee and one of the founding members of TOPAA (Texas Organization of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates) he maintains a statewide presence in training and mentoring advocates and parents. He has a B.S in Education and is a former United States Marine Sergeant claiming the moniker and related email address of "specialedmarine" During the summer David is seen frequenting various Texas musical venues as a drummer.


 photo of alexis casillas

Alexis Casillas, Esq.  CA has been committed to special education advocacy since her brother was first diagnosed with autism. As an undergraduate she volunteered with nonprofit advocacy organizations like Best Buddies and Autism Speaks. She then attended Columbia Law School where she was trained to work with special-needs families by Advocates for Children of New York, volunteered with the Autism Legislation Project, and also worked at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission where she participated in a forum on disability access for public transit, and at the Department of Health and Human Services where she worked on Medicare access issues. Having grown up with a developmentally disabled sibling and deciding to go to law school specifically to practice disability rights law, Alexis has a strong commitment to helping children with special needs and a unique perspective on the special education process. She has experienced firsthand many of the emotions her clients confront every day, and approaches her cases with that experience in mind.


                               photo of matt cohen             

Matthew Cohen, Esq, (IL) has been an attorney practicing special education and disability law since 1981.   Prior to starting his current firm, he was a founding partner in Monahan & Cohen, from 1990 to 2011. In addition to my special education and disability rights work, he has extensive experience in health care and mental health law.  He is the primary or collaborating author of several amendments to the mental health and special education laws of Illinois, as well as working on legislation at the federal level. In 1997, he presented frequently on a wide variety of special education topics, as well as on mental health and confidentiality law.  Matt has conducted presentations in 47 states and abroad.  He is also the author of a book on advocacy, published in 2009 and has authored numerous articles on these subjects. Equally or more important, he is the parent of a young adult with a disability and is dealing with the many challenges that all families face in securing appropriate education, housing, training and support services for him. He served as President of the Board of Directors of the national Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (CHADD) organization from July of 1999 to June of 2000, where he was on the board from July of 1995 to June of 2002.  He currently serves on CHADD's Public Policy Committee and is also the chair of the Illinois Attorney General's Special Education Committee and was a founding board member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) a national special education and disability rights advocacy organization, where he served on the Executive Committee from 1999 to 2003 and continues to serve on the public policy committee.  Matt also serves on the public policy committee of the national Learning Disabilities Association of America, as well.


 photo of eileen crumm

Eileen Crumm, PhD., (CA) is a longtime COPAA member who serves on the training committee and as a SEAT instructor.  Eileen works as theExecutive Director of a nonprofit in northern California that serves families of children with developmental delays, disabilities, social emotional concerns and special health care needs.  Eileen and the multi-cultural, multilingual peer parent staff work with about 2500 families a year,  helping with community services including IEPs and IFSPs.   Eileen participates in Family Voices of California, Help Me Grow Alameda County and the Family Resource Center Network of California.   She has worked for the local Parent Training and Information Center (DREDF), as a special education advocate in private practice, and as a university professor.  Eileen is the proud parent of two young adults, one with physical disabilities.


 photo of mandy favaloro

Mandy Favaloro, Esq. (CA) is an attorney at A2Z Educational Advocates.  Mandy graduated magna cum laude from the University of Redlands with a B.A. in Government, and then attended law school at Pepperdine University, where she graduated with a Juris Doctor degree.  While at Pepperdine, Mandy participated in the Special Education Advocacy Clinic, where she worked with families involved in the IEP process.  Since joining A2Z Educational Advocates Mandy has advocated for parents of students with disabilities at all stages of the process including IEP meetings, mediations, due process hearings and in federal court. Mandy prepared and delivered oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving a school district’s denial of a student’s access to school, obtaining a favorable opinion from the Ninth Circuit on the precedent setting issue of mootness of an IDEA claim upon the death of a student.  Mandy is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors and is a Co-Chair of the Training Committee and a Co-Chair of the Conference Committee.  Mandy has presented at previous COPAA conferences and in webinars on a variety of special education topics, and has given presentations for other organizations.  Mandy is currently one of the instructors for COPAA’s SEAT program.


 photo of andy feinstein

Andrew Feinstein, Esq. (CT) has represented children with disabilities as an attorney for the past 20 years. For the past eight years, he has practiced out of Mystic, Connecticut. He now has an office in Manchester, Connecticut, as well, with two lawyers in it. He co-chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee of COPAA and is an adjunct professor in the School of Education of both Central Connecticut State University and Southern Connecticut State University. Attorney Feinstein was graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 and the New York University School of Law in 1975.  He completed the Senior Manager in Government Program at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, in 1983.  He has served as a professional staff member of the House Committee on Armed Services and Chief Counsel of the House Civil Service Subcommittee.


 photo of michael gilberg

Michael Gilberg, Esq. (NY)has years of both Special Education and Disability Rights Law and Advocacy Experience. Michael also has his own personal experience as someone on the Autism Spectrum. Michael received his J.D. from Pace University School of Law in 2007 after receiving both his B.A. and M.P.A. also from Pace University.   Michael holds numerous Professional Affiliations and Leadership Roles and is on the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and the National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities (NAAD).

 photo of frank

Franklin J. Hickman, Esq. (OH) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1973, where he received the Wiley C. Rutledge Memorial Award. Frank has focused his career on legal issues affecting persons with disabilities. Frank's first major case established the right of indigent persons in Ohio being civilly committed to have legal counsel provided at public expense. During nine years as a member of the Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Frank brought numerous successful class actions establishing and defining the treatment rights of patients in psychiatric hospitals and state institutions, individuals with cognitive disabilities, and inmates with psychiatric issues. He was founder and director of the Cleveland Bar Advocacy Project. Since going into private practice in 1981, Frank has focused his practice on families with members who have disabilities, as well as the agencies and county boards throughout the state which provide services to persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities. He has represented families in special education cases since 1975 in negotiations, mediations, due process proceedings, and cases in numerous courts. Frank was lead counsel in Knable v. Bexley City School Dist., 238 F.3d 755 (6th Cir. 2001), which clarified the scope of children’s rights to a free appropriate public education and required the school district to pay the costs of the child’s out-of-state residential services. Frank devotes a major part of his practice to cases under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which defines and protects the rights of children who need special education services. Frank is on the faculty of the medical and law schools at Case Western Reserve University, where he teaches law and psychiatry. He has presented over 2,000 local, regional, and national seminars and workshops on legal issues relating to cognitive disability.  He has been designated among Best Lawyers in America for education issues in 2014.

 phot of dana jonson

Dana Jonson, Esq., (CT)  has focused her law practice exclusively in the area of Special Education.  From 2005 to 2009, Ms. Jonson exclusively represented students with disabilities contracting to the Law Offices of Jennifer Laviano, LLC. She has held several high profile legal internships. For the United States Department of Education, she handled discrimination complaints based on race, gender and disability in public schools and post-secondary institutions.  At Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP, Ms. Jonson prepared legal memoranda on variety of issues including special education and was responsible for intakes of prospective special education clients.  For the United States Attorney’s Office in Boston, MA, she interned for the Criminal Division, Major Crimes and Drug Task Force Unit. Her work there included preparation of legal memoranda as well as portions of an appellate brief for the First Circuit, affidavits, and opposition to motions filed.As Director of Special Education at the Boston Renaissance Charter School, Ms. Jonson coordinated the special education program and 504 accommodation plans for students in kindergarten through 8th grades.  She maintained school compliance with state and federal statutes and personally trained and supervised special education teachers and staff, including in-service training.Prior to this role, Ms. Jonson was a special education teacher at both the Charter School as well as the New England Center for Children in Southboro, MA.  She conducted assessments, presented reports at PPT meetings, and created and implemented individual educational programs (”IEP’S”) for students with learning and behavioral disabilities.  Her tenure at the New England Center for Children focused extensively on students with severe developmental and behavioral disorders and Autism Spectrum Disorders (”ASD’s”).  She specialized in creating and implementing individual programs using Applied Behavior Analysis techniques (”ABA”).Ms. Jonson is a graduate of the Northeastern University School of Law and is currently admitted to the Connecticut State and Federal Bar.  She also holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons College, with a focus on Intensive Special Needs and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Fairfield University.


 photo mark kamleiter

Mark S. Kamleiter, Esq. (FL) is Board Certified in Education Law in Florida.  He is a graduate of Old Dominion University in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and the College of William and Mary (Marshall-Wythe School of Law-1978) in Virginia with a Doctorate of Jurisprudence.  He has completed additional course work at the University of South Florida to earn a teaching certificate in Special Education, Varying Exceptionalities. Mark has taught regular education (History, Geography, Government) at the middle school and high school level and for several years taught a course in Law and Politics at the University of South Florida.  He taught in the Pinellas County School system for five years, teaching the profoundly mentally handicapped and the autistic and serving as a behavior specialist.   Having practiced law in both Virginia and Florida, Mark has established a law firm, Special Education Law and Politics, in St. Petersburg where a major part of his practice is reserved for the representation of individuals with disabilities. Having been actively involved in advocating for the rights of students with disabilities for a number of years, Mark is on the administrative board of the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA).  A frequent national speaker and presenter on issues related to the education of children with disabilities, Mark represents children with disabilities, in due process and Federal Court, in an effort to obtain for them an appropriate education in the public school systems.


 photo jennifer laviano

Jennifer D. Laviano, (CT) holds a B.A. in English Literature from Skidmore College and earned her J.D., cum laude, from Quinnipiac University School of Law. Jennifer has dedicated her law practice entirely to the special education rights of children and adolescents with disabilities. Her representation encompasses the full spectrum of advocacy under IDEA, from IEP team meetings and mediation to zealous litigation in due process and federal court proceedings. Jennifer co-hosts the weekly radio show, “Your Special Education Rights with Jen and Julie,” on Autism One, is a member of the faculty of Solo Practice University, and authors the popular blog, "Special Ed Justice." Jennifer practices law in Connecticut.  She is a former chair of COPAA's Board of Directors.

 

Mark B. Martin, Esq. Immediate Past Chair, (MD) represents individuals and families throughout Maryland and has many years of experience in litigating special education, juvenile delinquency, criminal and civil rights cases. Before entering private practice, Mr. Martin was the litigation director of the Public Justice Center, a nonprofit organization in Baltimore, Maryland, where he managed and litigated class action and other high impact cases involving children's rights and civil rights. Prior to that, The Legal Aid Society of New York employed him as a criminal defense attorney where he represented indigent defendants in New York City.  Mr. Martin has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education and United Cerebral Palsy of Central Maryland.  Annually, Mr. Martin helps lead a program at the national conference for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) in advanced litigation for attorneys who represent parents in special education proceedings. Mr. Martin is a member of the COPAA Board of Directors and serves on the Amicus, Conference and Awards Committees. He regularly presents throughout Maryland on issues related to special education law.


 photo of catherine reisman

Catherine Merino Reisman, Esq., (NJ) is a founding partner of Reisman Carolla Gran LLP, providing consultation and guidance regarding the legal rights of children and adults with disabilities. She has represented clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and nationally in administrative hearings as well as federal and state court. Upon graduation from law school, she was a clerk to the Honorable Edward N. Cahn, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Ms. Merino Reisman then practiced employment law at a small Philadelphia firm for several years. Prior to forming Reisman Carolla Gran, she was “Of Counsel” to a regional mid-sized law firm, where she co-chaired the Special Education practice group in addition to handling appellate, commercial and employment litigation. Ms. Merino Reisman is a past Chair and a member of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates ("COPAA"), a national independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents. Ms. Merino Reisman is Co-Chair of COPAA's Amicus and Committee. She serves on the Board of SPANNER, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people with developmental disabilities in South Jersey. She is a former parent member of the Program Advisory Board to the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education. Ms. Merino Reisman speaks regularly to groups of parents and attorneys regarding special education, civil rights, and disability rights.


 photo of carolina watts

Carolina Watts, JD, (CA) graduated from the University of Georgia with Bachelor's Degrees in English and Speech Communications. She then moved to California to attend law school at Pepperdine University School of Law, where she obtained a Juris Doctor, as well as the Strauss Institute's Certificate in Dispute Resolution.  Carrie has a background working in child welfare and conducting oversight investigations of child protective services cases and foster care cases, and published an article on the liability of social services workers in cases involving child abuse related deaths.  Carrie participated in the Pepperdine Special Education Advocacy Clinic in law school, where she worked with parents on preparing for and attending IEP meetings for their children.  Following that experience, she pursued her passion for special education law and children's rights, joining A2Z Educational Advocates. While at A2Z, she has assisted hundreds of parents of students with disabilities in school districts throughout Southern California, working with the A2Z team of special education attorneys and advocates to represent parents throughout all stages of the process, from IEP meetings to Due Process hearings.  She has also been actively involved in research and writing for A2Z's cases at the Federal District Court and 9th Circuit levels.   Carrie is a frequent speaker on topics related to special education, and has presented a several prior COPAA conferences.  Carrie is also an active COPAA member, and has served on its Board of Directors since 2011.  She is the former Chair of COPAA for the 2014-2015 year and currently the membership co-chair and a member of the conference committee.

 

 photo of diane willcutts

Diane Willcutts, (CT) lives in Connecticut and is the parent of two children who have extraordinary abilities and disabilities.  For the past 13 years, she has worked as an advocate, helping families navigate the complex and often overwhelming special education process.  Diane also serves as a state-appointed educational surrogate, advocating for students with disabilities who are in foster care. Diane’s previous professional experience included work in research and program development through the University Of Connecticut Department Of Psychology.  Both there and at Rutgers University, she taught courses in statistics and research design, providing her with a practical foundation for understanding and interpreting education research that describes methods of assessment or instruction.  Diane has facilitated focus groups, developed user-friendly education manuals, implemented and monitored training programs, presented at national and international conferences, and co-authored articles published in peer-reviewed journals. As an advocate, Diane has helped parents to obtain an appropriate education for children with learning disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, dyspraxia, bipolar disorder, cerebral palsy, and other unique learning needs. In addition to her work on the COPAA board, Diane has served as president of the Learning Disabilities Association of Connecticut and is a member of additional organizations supporting children with disabilities, such as the Autism Spectrum Resource Center, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, and the International Dyslexia Association.

 

 photo of jon zimring Jonathan Zimring, Esq. (GA) is a principal in the Zimring Law Firm with a primary practice in education law. Mr. Zimring a 1974 graduate of Duke University School of Law was Director of the Georgia Mental Disability Law Project, a program funded by the ABA Commission on Mental Disability to provide representation to persons with disabilities. He was education law specialist for the Georgia Legal Services Program. He has been chairman of the State Bar of Georgia Mental Health and the Law Committee, the ABA/Younger Lawyer's Section on Handicapped and the Law, and Chairman of the School and College Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia.  He has presented in numerous Continuing Legal Education programs for judges, attorneys and educators on educational rights, special education and civil rights issues. He was guardian ad litem in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. ex rel Zimring, 527 U.S. 581(1999), which established the definition of discrimination under the ADA.A sample of other cases under the special education laws include: Georgia Ass’n. for Retarded Citizens v. McDaniel,  716 F.2d  1565 (11th  Cir.1983) (extended school year services for children); Georgia Conference of Branches of NAACP v. State of Georgia, 775 F.2nd  1403  (11th  Cir. 1985) (inappropriate placement of children of color in special education classes);  Mitten v. Muscogee County School District, et. al., 877 F.2d 932 (11th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1072 (1990) (independent claim for attorney fees and costs);  Greer v. Rome City School Dist., 950 F.2d 688(11th Cir. 1991) (least restrictive environment);Walker County School District v. Bennett, 203 F.3d. 1293 (11th Cir.), cert denied, 121 S.Ct. 670 (2000) (procedure for the trial of IDEA cases);Georgia Department of Education v. Derrick C., 314 F.3d 545 (11th Cir. 2002) (provision of services to 3 year old disabled students). Mr. Zimring is on the COPAA Board of Directors and co-chair of COPAA’s publication committee.

 

The COPAA Board adopted the following goals in the Strategic Plan for 2012-2017

GOAL 1: Increase Membership to 2000
GOAL 2: Increase Revenue to $500,000 per year
GOAL 3: COPAA is the leading National Information Dissemination Network on Educational Rights of Students with Disabilities and Their Families.
GOAL 4: Protect Civil Rights and Promote Excellence in Education for Students with Disabilities
GOAL 5: Assure each child eligible for services and supports has equal access to a quality education

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