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2020 Two Day Pre-Conferences: Thursday, 3/5 AND Friday, 3/6




Thursday, March 5th AND Friday, March 6th, 2020 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM



Intended Audience


New Attorney Skills Training: Special Education Law, Procedure and Strategy

Selene Almazan

Jodi Siegel

Dawn Smith




Due Process Hearing Training

Jennifer D. Laviano

Craig Goodmark

Wayne Steedman

Michele Kule-Korgood





Advocacy 101: Making an Effective Difference for Families Using IDEA to Advocate for

“Appropriately Ambitious IEPs” with “Challenging Objectives”

Melissa Alexander

Catherine M. Michael


All Attendees


Advanced Advocate Training: Representing Parents in Impartial Hearings

Barbara J. Ebenstein

Richard Marsico



* Eligible for Advance Advocate Certificate Program, must meet other criteria.


Baselines, Bell Curves, Batteries, and Bias: Making Sense of Educational Assessments so You Can Make Sensible Educational Plans

Ann Simun

Sandra Dixon Shove


All Attendees

* Eligible for Advance Advocate Certificate Program, must meet other criteria.





Selene Almazan, Esq. Legal Director, COPAA (844) 426-7224 ext. 702



Jodi Siegel, Esq.

Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. 1229 NW 12 Avenue

Gainesville, Florida 32601  jodi.siegel@southernlegal.org


Dawn Smith

Smith & Lake, LLC

1 West Court Square, #410

Decatur, GA 30030 dsmith@smithlakelaw.com


Intended Audience:




Brief Session Description:

This is an introductory program designed for attorneys or law graduates only (law students if space permits) who are just beginning their special education practice. Participants learn basic special education law and procedure as well as strategies and practice tips for handling special education cases. Program includes an overview of the IDEA and Section 504, then focuses on practical skills in taking a case from the initial client interview to the due process request. We do not address skills and issues that arise in a due process proceeding as that is covered in the pre-conference session Skills Training for Due Process Training.  Participants work in a combination of large and small groups led by experienced practitioners in special education.


Presenters’ Biography:

Selene A. Almazan, Esq., Legal Director, Selene has been a member of COPAAsi nce its inception in 1998. Selene was on the Board of Directors from 2003-2014 and has contributed to COPAA as a volunteer in many substantial ways. Selene is a long time Co-Chair of the Amicus and Conference Committees. She led the Strategic Plan workgroup (2007) and the Litigation Workgroup (2012). As a member of the Board of Directors Selene has been Vice Chair, Chair, Treasurer and Secretary and a member of the Executive Committee since 2005. Selene has also been a trainer for COPAA Conference and webinars for a number of years beginning in 2004. Since becoming COPAA's Legal Director in 2014, Selene continues her work on the Conference Committee and Amicus Committees. As an Amicus member Selene has been involved in nearly every COPAA brief submitted, (and written at least three amicus briefs for COPAA in the 4th, 5th and 9th Circuits) as well as involved in a number of governmental affairs issues: the Reauthorization of 2004; Restraint Seclusion; ESEA (and its precursor NCLB); Charter Schools; Burden of Proof and expert witness fees. Selene, through a private practice, 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. From 1992-2015 Selene was Co-Executive Director and Director of Advocacy at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education where she represented families in inclusion cases. 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. 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.


Jodi Siegel, Esq. has been an attorney with Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. ("SLC"), a non-profit public interest law firm, since 1985, and became its Executive Director in July 2004. A predominant portion of Ms. Siegel’s responsibilities at SLC is in representing individuals with disabilities in a variety of forums. She has litigated class and individual actions involving federal constitutional and statutory actions under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Federal Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Federal Rehabilitation Act.  She also has presented extensively to various groups on special education and other issues.  She is currently litigating a statewide declaratory action under the Florida Constitution alleging that Florida is not providing a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system of free public schools.  Jodi is an Adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center where she teaches a Masters Level program in Special Education Law.  She has been the Director of SLC’s Education Advocacy Project since 1999, which is funded by The Florida Bar Foundation to provide state support and train, support, mentor and co-counsel legal service/aid lawyers and advocates to increase and improve special education advocacy.  She is a past Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Board of Director, including Past Chair and Past Treasurer.  She coordinated the 2003 and 2004 national conferences for COPAA, and continues to assist with conference planning.  She is a Past Chair of The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section.   Jodi is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. Middle, Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She received her B.A. in 1982 from New College (Honors College of University of South Florida), Sarasota, Florida; and a J.D. in 1985 from the University of Florida College of Law, Gainesville, Florida. She was the Senior Research Editor for one semester and Senior Student Works Editor for two semesters with the University of Florida Law Review.


Dawn Smith is a partner at Smith & Lake, LLC where she practices family and education law. She has represented children and families for over 26 years. Immediately prior to joining the firm, Dawn was a partner at one of Atlanta’s most prestigious family law firms. She also served as Deputy Director of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation where she was responsible for administration of the city’s largest pro bono family law program. In this role, Dawn worked in partnership with the Judges of the Fulton County Family Court to provide trained Guardian ad Litems in contested custody matters. She has trained Guardian ad Litems throughout the state and has lectured on their role nationally. Dawn is frequently appointed by Courts to serve as Guardian ad Litem in family law cases. She also is a certified arbitrator and mediates family law cases. In addition to her expertise in family law, Dawn is recognized as one of the leading advocates for the civil and educational rights of children with disabilities. She is the past President of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the national membership organization for special education attorneys and advocates. She has pursued actions on behalf of children in state and federal trial courts as well as in the 11thCircuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Dawn is a frequent lecturer both nationally and locally on the rights of children. At the firm, Dawn provides quality legal services on behalf of children and lends her expertise in this area to all of our family law endeavors. Dawn began her career as Law Clerk to United States District Court Judge Marvin H. Shoob and subsequently was appointed Special Administrative Master for the Court. Dawn was also a partner in the firm Zimring & Smith LLC and was later appointed Administrative Law Judge for the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. She is a 1985 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 1989 cum laud graduate of Georgia State University College of Law where she served as Style Editor on Georgia State Law Review. Dawn is a member of the Atlanta, Cobb and DeKalb County Bar Associations; the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar, the American Bar Association Family Law Section, Lawyers Club of Atlanta and a barrister of the Charles Weltner Inn of Court. She is a member of the Ethics & Professionalism Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Founder of Cool Girls, Inc., served on the Board of the Greater Georgia Chapter of the Autism Society of America and was on the Advisory Board of Emmaus House. She is a current member of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church. Dawn is a 2014, 2015, and 2016 Super Lawyer and Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite for 2014 and 2014. Dawn is married to Robin Griffith, has two sons and resides in Decatur.

B.2 Due Process Hearing Training



Jennifer D. Laviano, Esq.

The Law Offices of Jennifer Laviano, LLC

76 Route 37 South

Sherman, Connecticut 06784



Craig Goodmark, Esq.

Goodmark Law Firm

209 B Swanton Way

Decatur, Georgia 30030



Wayne Steedman, Esq.

The Steedman Law Group

Galleria Towers

1447 York Road, Suite 508

Towson, Maryland 21093



Michele Kule-Korgood

Kule-Korgood &Associates, PLLC

118-35 Queens Boulevard, 17th Floor

Forest Hills, New York 11375



Intended Audience:




Brief Session Description:

This program is for attorneys who are familiar with the IDEA and who want to focus on and practice skills for impartial due process hearings. Large group discussions cover important pre-hearing tasks, from complying with 10-day notice provisions to requesting appropriate remedies such as compensatory education.


Presenters’ Biography:

Jennifer Laviano 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.


Craig Goodmark, Esq. is currently a consultant at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc. and an education civil rights attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Goodmark was previously the director of the TeamChild Atlanta Project at ALAS. TeamChild Atlanta provided legal services to low-income families with outstanding educational issues, children involved with the juvenile justice system or children whose unmet needs have not been addressed. In that capacity, Mr. Goodmark provides technical assistance, advocacy, and full legal representation to low income families whose disabled children are not having their developmental, educational or mental health needs met. Mr. Goodmark has represented hundreds of students in the metropolitan Atlanta area secure appropriate educational services. Prior to entering legal services, Mr. Goodmark spent five years in private practice at law firms specializing in education law, with an emphasis on special education litigation. Mr. Goodmark has represented teachers, students and families of children with disabilities. Mr. Goodmark is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta Class of 2014 and recognized by the Daily Report as an Attorney on the Rise in 2013. Mr. Goodmark currently sits on the State Bar of Georgia Children and the Courts Committee. Mr. Goodmark is also member of the national organization for special education lawyers, the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates. Mr. Goodmark is an honors graduate of the University of Florida College of Law where he participated in the initial TeamChild Clinic in Gainesville, Florida. 


Wayne Steedman, Esq. is a principle in Steedman Law Group. His practice is devoted primarily to the representation of children with disabilities. He has represented his clients in administrative due process hearings and state and federal courts. Mr. Steedman obtained his J.D. degree from the University of Maryland Law School. In addition to his law degree, Mr. Steedman has a Masters degree in social work from the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Prior to practicing law, Mr. Steedman was in charge of the clinical treatment program at the Forbush School at Shepherd Pratt Hospital where he was employed for more than 20 years. Additionally, he served for approximately ten years as a Due Process Hearing officer in special education cases.  In Gerstmyer v. Howard County Public Schools, Mr. Steedman was able to convince the U.S. District Court Judge that a Montessori School was able to provide a free appropriate public education for a child with a learning disability. The Judge thus found that a school which is not a traditional special education school can be an appropriate placement for children with disabilities. 


Michele Kule-Korgood 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 as Chair of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and 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 Dept 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.

B.3 Advocacy 101:  Making an Effective Difference for  Families Using IDEA to Advocate for

Appropriately Ambitious IEPs with Challenging Objectives



Melissa Alexander, Advocate

P.O. Box 802

Chaptico, Maryland 20621




Catherine Michael, J.D.

Managing Partner & Head of Education Law Division

Connell Michael Kerr, LLP

550 Congressional Blvd., Suite 115

Carmel, Indiana 46032



Intended Audience:


All Attendees


Brief Session Description: 

This interactive training is specially designed for parents, advocates and related service professionals with 1 to 5 year of experience in the field, and attorneys considering the practive of special education law. The session begins with a comprehensive, parent-friendly review of the Endrew F. decision to assist participants in understanding the impact at each IEP table across the country. We walk through the regulations implementing IDEA, as well as Federal guidance documents and current case law, with a view towards identifying areas of potenital conflict and strategies; either to prevent from occurring in the first place, or to address then when they do occur using the decision in Endrew F. The session concludes by reviewing strategic strategies to help parents get what they need. The objective of this session is for participants to leave this training with effective guidance that enables them to be proactive in efforts to ensure the rights of children with disabilities and their parents. 

Presenters’ Biography: 

Melissa (Missy) Alexander is a Parent Educator with Maryland’s Parent Training and Information Center and Family-to-Family Health Information Center, The Parents’ Place of Maryland.  In her 17+ years with PPMD, she’s worked with hundreds of families in Southern Maryland, 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 has helped facilitate study groups using Wrightslaw’s “From Emotions to Advocacy” publication. Missy is the parent advocate on the St. Mary’s County Local Care Team (formerly known as the Local Coordinating Council) and is a member of the St. Mary’s County Local Management Board.  She has been a guest lecturer at Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, and The College of Southern Maryland on the parent perspective of raising a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Missy is the Secretary of the Learning Disabilities Association of Southern Maryland and is on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland. Missy’s dedication and passion for advocating for the civil rights of children with disabilities stems from advocating for her own daughter, Shelby.  Her initial experience with special education law was a ‘trial by fire,’ which resulted in successfully securing 90 hours of compensatory services for her daughter.  Missy feels very strongly that a parent’s role in their child’s education should never be usurped and strives to help parents effectively advocate for their children. Missy is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, specifically the Conference Committee, the Training Committee, and the Amicus Committee’s Litigation Workgroup.  She was the first advocate member to Chair the COPAA Board of Directors in 2012 to 2013.  


Catherine M. Michael is the Managing Partner of Connell Michael Kerr, LLP.    She is licensed, and practices, throughout the states of Indiana, Texas, and Michigan.  She represents students and their families in a wide variety of educational matters including special education due process hearings, Section 504 matters, expulsion and disciplinary issues, personal injury of children, private school issues, as well as other civil rights and disability claims experienced by students with disabilities.  She possesses extensive knowledge regarding special education due process, teacher and student discipline and dismissal matters, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), personal injury of children in schools, and other civil rights matters. Her passion has led her to speak on topics regarding education law, such as student discipline, educational due process, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as Every Student Succeeds Act), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other special education student-specific issues.  A member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), she has appeared in the national news, including television and radio, on numerous occasions for her cases focused on children with disabilities and abuse in schools. 

B.4 Advanced Advocate Training: Representing Parents in Impartial Hearings



Barbara J. Ebenstein

Attorney at Law

53 Pengilly Drive

New Rochelle, New York 10804

(914) 409-5761




Richard Marsico

Professor of Law and Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law

New York Law School

185 W. Broadway

New York, NY 10013

(212) 431-2180



Intended Audience:



Brief Session Description:

This intensive two-day training gives advanced special education advocates the basic skills to represent parents in impartial hearings through readings, lectures, discussions, and skill practice in small groups as we work on an actual case together.  Participants receive direct feedback from knowledgeable and experienced trainers.


Presenters’ Biography:

Barbara J. Ebenstein (BJ) is a private attorney whose law practice focuses on the representation of parents in special education cases in New York State. BJ has been an adjunct associate professor at New York University where she taught the graduate course in Education Law.  BJ served as a member of the Disability Policy Committee of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and she served as one of the surrogates speaking on disability issues on behalf of the campaign.  She also serves as an impartial hearing officer in New York City and Long Island, and as a Vocational Rehabilitation hearing officer in New York State.  BJ has extensive experience conducting CLE for attorneys and workshops for parents, advocates, school personnel, physicians, and other professionals from Hawaii to New Hampshire. She served as Chair of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) from 2005 to 2006. Barbara J. Ebenstein holds a J.D. from Pace University Law School, a M.A. in Education from Teachers College of Columbia University, and a B.A. cum laude from Boston University.


Richard Marsico is Professor of Law and Director of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law at New York Law School.  He teaches Torts, Professional Responsibility, Special Education Law and Practice, the Impact Center Colloquium:  Legal Practice for Social Change, the Regulatory Advocacy Clinic, and Race, Bias, and Advocacy. He is the author of law review articles about community reinvestment and home mortgage lending, clinical teaching, and special education,  as well as two books, Special Education Law and  Practice:  Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press 2017), and Democratizing Capital:  The History, Law, and Reform of the Community Reinvestment Act (Carolina Academic Press 2005). Marsico graduated from Fordham University, summa cum laude, in 1982, with majors in philosophy and history.  He was the editor-in-chief of The Ram, Fordham’s student newspaper.  He graduated from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1985, where he was the executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Following law school, Marsico was a law clerk to Hon. Shirley Wohl Kram in the Southern District of New York.  He then worked as an attorney in the Bronx neighborhood office of the civil division of the Legal Aid society, where he specialized in class action litigation around housing and working with community organizers to represent tenant associations in rent strikes, repair cases, and urban homesteading efforts. Marsico served as president of the Mamaroneck Union Free District School Board and is the founder and board chair of The Charter High School for Law and Social Justice in the Bronx, New York.  He also serves as a New York State impartial hearing officer.

B.5 Baselines, Bell Curves, Batteries, and Bias: Making Sense of Educational Assessments

so You Can Make Sensible Educational Plans



Ann Simun, PsyD

Licensed Psychologist (PSY20113)

Simun Psychological Assessment Services, PC/Neuropsychology Partners

2001 S. Barrington Avenue, Suite 214

Los Angeles, CA 90025

Ph.: 310-478-8888

Fax: 310-478-8890




Sandra Dixon Shove

Non-attorney Special Education Advocate

EPIC Advocacy and Consulting

81 David Love Place, Suite 100

Goleta, CA 93117

Ph.: 805-252-1807




Intended Audience:


All Attendees


Brief Session Description:

Assessment reports are essential to educational planning for students with disabilities. In this session participants learn statistical terminology, analyze core components of psychoeducational and developmental reports. Through interactive practice exercises, participants increase their confidence in reading, understanding, and using the information contained in these perplexing documents to create meaningful and appropriately individualized educational programs for the students they serve.

Presenters’ Biography:

Ann Simun, PsyD, has been working professionally with children with learning and behavioral challenges since 1989. She is a licensed psychologist (PSY20113), with a specialization in neuropsychology. She is also a credentialed and experienced School Counselor, School Psychologist, and Licensed Educational Psychologist, making her eligible to conduct IEEs for school district matters. Dr. Simun is a member of the American Psychological Association, National Academy of Neuropsychology, National Association of School Psychologists, and International Neuropsychological Society. She regularly presents at conferences nationwide and provides training for school districts, parents, advocates, and nonprofit disability agencies. Dr. Simun conducts neuropsychological and psychoeducational assessments, provides expert witness and consultation services, conducts formal observations, and teaches psychoeducational assessment at the graduate level.


Sandra Dixon Shove is a former elementary educator, a non-attorney special education advocate in private practice, and a longtime Autism Society affiliate leader. She has 12 years of experience teaching, 14 years advocating for children with a variety of disabilities, and more than 15 years supporting and mentoring parents, as well as developing and presenting community awareness programs countywide as an Autism Society leader. She is the mother of three young adults (one with autism), former Vice President of Autism Society of Santa Barbara and First Vice President of Autism Society of California, and a member of the Alliance of California Autism Organizations, Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys, and Women’s Organization for Special Education Professionals. Sandy draws from this broad background and shares lessons learned while helping other parents become empowered members of their children’s planning teams.

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