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Webinar Fall Presenters: 2014
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COPAA Fall Webinar Presenters

Mandy Favaloro, Esq, is an attorney at A2Z Educational Advocates.  She is originally from San Francisco and moved to Southern California for college. During college, Mandy worked in the Redlands Unified School District providing reading intervention strategies to at-risk students. She 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, 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 the precedent setting issue of mootness of an IDEA claim upon the death of a student.  Mandy is a member of CAPCA, the California Association for Parent Child Advocacy.  Mandy has presented at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) annual conferences on a variety of special education topics, including Advocacy Skills, Section 504, Independent Educational Evaluations, Methodology Disputes, Negotiation and Settlement Advocacy, and Parent Participation.  She presented a webinar entitled "Methodology Disputes: Getting Beyond the Assumption of Deference" for the Advocacy Institute's Advocate Academcy.  She has been a guest lecturer at Pepperdine School of Law, and has presented at other conferences, webinars and training events.  Mandy is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and has been involved in COPAA's Training Committee and Conference Committee.  She current serves as the Co-Chair of the Training Committee, and conference committee, was elected to the Board of Directors in 2012.  Beginning in 2013, Mandy serves as an instructor for COPAA's Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) program.  The SEAT program provides intensive education and training to special education advocates around the country in an online training course. 

Judith Gran, Esq. Judith is a founding member and past Board Member of COPAA and an active member of the COPAA Government Relations Committee.  Judith is perhaps best known within COPAA for providing her invaluable annual case law review at each conference.  Prior to joining Reisman Carolla Gran, Judith practiced law at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia from 1984 to 2009. She served as Director of Disability Projects from 1998 to 2009. She has conducted class action litigation to obtain community services for institutionalized persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, California, Illinois, and Tennessee. Her work as counsel for the Arc of Pennsylvania and the plaintiff class during the implementation phase of the consent decree in Halderman v. Pennhurst from 1986 through 1998 led to significant improvements in community service systems in Philadelphia and other counties. Ms. Gran represents special education students in administrative and judicial proceedings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states, including the class action suit, Gaskin v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a case – currently in its implementation phase - brought to enforce the least restrictive environment mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Buckley J. Hugo, Esq. is a parent advocate and proprietor of Midcoast Advocacy in Brunswick, Maine.  He has assisted over a hundred parents and caregivers helping them navigate the special education process and mental health system.  Prior to founding Midcoast Advocacy in 2008, Mr. Hugo worked for 20 years in the music industry negotiating agreements with renowned songwriters and entertainment attorneys.   Mr. Hugo is a member of the Autism Society of Maine, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), The Disability Rights Center of Maine, and served on the Maine Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities (MACECD).  He has also participated in a number of Wrightslaw Special Education and Advocacy Conferences.  Mr. Hugo lectures on matters related to special education advocacy throughout the state, having given presentations to the Gear Parent Network and the Maine Down Syndrome Network.

Marissa LaVette, Esq. has spent her career working on behalf of individuals with disabilities. After graduating with a bachelor's degree with Distinction in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Marissa worked as the director at a group home serving the needs of adults with developmental disabilities. Marissa received her Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law in 2010. While at DePaul, Marissa served as the Publications Director for the student board of the Health Law Institute and the Authorities Editor for the DePaul University Journal of Health Care Law. She received the CALI Award for Excellence in Estate Planning and was on the Dean’s List. During law school, Marissa was a law clerk with Children's Law Group, LLC, where she focused primarily on special education matters, with an emphasis on children with cochlear implants and children with autism spectrum disorders.Following graduation from law school, Marissa worked as an associate attorney with Children's Law Group, LLC, where she represented clients in special education matters and adoptions. Marissa also served as the supervising attorney for the DePaul University Domestic Violence Project, where she coordinated and supervised a law student volunteer program that aided victims of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection. Marissa has volunteered with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services as a Guardian ad litem in adult guardianship cases and with The Center for Disability and Elder Law to assist clients in estate planning and probate matters. Marissa joined Legal Advocacy Center in 2012 and continues to represent clients in special education, mental health and disability, and adult guardianship cases. 

Catherine Merino Reisman, Esq. is a founding partner of Reisman Carolla Gran LLP, a firm that specializes in special education counseling and litigation. She is a member of COPAA’s Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and Governmental Relations Committee as well as Co-Chair of the Amicus Committee. Catherine served as Chair of COPAA from 2011-2012. Prior to starting her own practice, Catherine was the Co-Chair of the Special Education Practice Group at Montgomery McCracken in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Catherine graduated from Yale Law School and received her B.A. from New York University School of Law. Catherine, who is also the mother of a child with special education needs, speaks regularly to parent and attorney groups on special education law. She is licensed to practice in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Richard L. O’Meara, Esq. is a shareholder and director in the law firm of Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, which has the largest practice in Maine representing families of students with disabilities.  He received his B.A degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College; an M.Sc. degree with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science; and a J.D. degree summa cum laude from the University of Virginia School of Law.  Mr. O’Meara has been involved with the ACLU of Maine since 1987 and with COPAA since its inception.  As part of his civil litigation practice, he regularly represents families of children with disabilities in disputes arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Maine Human Rights Act.  Mr. O’Meara is a past president and current vice president of the Board of the Disability Rights Center, Maine’s federally-funded protection and advocacy agency, and a member of COPAA’s Amicus Curiae Committee.

Sande S. Shamash, Esq. has devoted his career to working with children and families. He started in 1993 as an Assistant Cook County Public Guardian and Attorney successfully representing over 800 children alleged to have been abused or neglected. He was subsequently appointed by the governor as an Administrative Law Judge, and later Chief Judge of the formerly named Illinois Department of Public Aid. Sande also served as an Assistant General Counsel and Bureau Chief for the same agency through 2003. During that period, he presided over paternity establishment, child support, medical vendor, mental health and Medicaid appeal cases. In 2004, after serving on their Board of Directors, Sande was appointed as the first ever Executive Director of the Tourette Syndrome Association of Illinois, Inc. (TSA-IL). TSA-IL is the nation’s second oldest chapter of the national Tourette Syndrome Association and is now in its 35th year of operation. As an expert on Tourette Syndrome (TS), Sande has presented and conducted trainings for numerous community groups, school and school district staff. He also leads and trains leaders for TS support groups throughout the state. Sande serves on the steering committee for the Special Education District of McHenry County making recommendations to improve district programs to improve student outcomes and service delivery. Sande is also involved with many other local special education advocacy organizations. Sande has been affiliated with Roosevelt University since 1996. He’s developed courses and taught classes as an adjunct professor for the University’s paralegal program in the subject areas of commercial law and bankruptcy law, and more recently developed and conducted a 6 hour Introduction to Special Education continuing education course for legal professionals. Sande currently serves on Roosevelt University’s Faculty Advisory Board and is developing a course in special education law. Sande was engaged in private practice since 2004, focusing on education, business, estate, non-profit, real estate and social security disability law and now serves as the Director of the Legal Advocacy Center for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. In that capacity, Sande runs a non-profit program specifically dedicated to assisting clients with special education legal issues. Sande also serves on the Attorney General’s Committee on Special Education. Sande received his law degree from DePaul University (1993) and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin (1990).

Carrie Watts, JD, has a Certificate in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine’s Strauss Institute of Dispute Resolution and a Juris Doctor from Pepperdine School of Law, and over 10 years of experience in special education advocacy.  Prior to becoming involved in advocacy on behalf of parents, Carrie worked at the Office of the Child Advocate in Georgia, conducting oversight investigations in DFCS cases.  That background ignited a passion for the rights of children.  Currently, as part of the team of attorneys and advocates at A2Z Educational Advocates, she assists parents throughout Southern California in the process of obtaining appropriate educational services for students with disabilities. 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, writer, and blogger on many topics related to special education.  In addition to presenting at previous COPAA conferences, she has presented at conferences and trainings for Disability Rights California, Pepperdine School of Law, The 11q Research and Resource Group, and The Advocacy Institute.  Carrie is an active member of COPAA, serving as the co-chair of the Membership Committee and Chair of the Board of Directors.  She is a founding member of the Women’s Organization of Special Education Professionals (WOSEP), a member of the California Association of Parent Child Advocacy (CAPCA), and a participant in the Los Angeles Special Education Task Force. 

Mark Woodsmall, Esq.  is the founder of Woodsmall Law Group, PC, a law firm based in the San Gabriel Valley area. The firm practices exclusively in the areas of special education and representation before the Regional Center. In 2006, Mark joined the faculty of the University of Southern California (“USC”) Gould School of Law as a Professor Adjunct, teaching in the area of special education law. He also serves as the teaching attorney in the Special Education Advocacy Training Project - Los Angeles. The SEAT Project, an innovative nationwide advocacy training project, is funded by a  grant from the US Department of Education and administered through COPAA and the USC Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (Children's Hospital Los Angeles). Mark serves on the UCLA Center for Autism Research & Treatment (CART) Community Advisory Committee. He has been an active volunteer with Cure Autism Now/Autism Speaks, serving on the National and Los Angeles Walk Planning Committees and Government Relations Committee. In 2008, Mark was named to the Board of Autism Speaks - Southern California. He currently serves as its Chair. Mark is a national lecturer on parents’ rights under the IDEA, Section 504, and the Lanterman Act. 


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