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COPAA History

Blakemore, Catherine, Board member, 1998-2001

"While IDEA (and its many predecessors) have always had a clear vision and wonderful tools for ensuring that students with disabilities received equal educational opportunities; too often the law is merely a glimmer of possibilities without the strong advocacy of students, parents and their advocates. The advocacy, training and support provided by COPAA and its members is a wonderful means of helping students and families turn that vision into reality."

Dobel, Kathryn, COPAA Chair, 2001-02, Board Member, 1998-2003 

"How can I best describe the early days of COPAA? "Inspiring" and "exhilarating" are the first words that come to mind, and yes there was also a large complement of "frustration." But, for the first time we had available all in one location a committed cadre of individuals from across the nation focused only on the educational rights of students with disabilities. As a side benefit, we would also have a more comfortable alternative to the usual special education conference with school district orientation. No shared podium with, or seat in the audience to listen to, someone talking about the dangers of the holding in your case. No argument over the importance of inclusion and services providing intensive intervention.

Our first national parent advocate and attorney conference and the creation of our dedicated national non-profit Board happened at once over a brief few days. Of course Jim Rosenfeld, our first Executive Director, had long worked on the vision of a national group with parent orientation before the initial Board first met as a group. But, what were we thinking? This sounds like an endeavor calling for many years of preparation to first raise funds for the support staff required to take on this large-scale national effort. Surely this was the job of more than one person or an all-volunteer Board. Instead it was the adrenaline from within and the incredible dedication of our planning group of committed individuals volunteering their time to COPAA that carried us forward.

We soon established an important email list where members could quickly access and share information across the country. This was fairly novel at the time!

I was the second COPAA Chair, beginning my tenure in March of 2001. I had no idea how formidable and exhausting that task would be before I signed on to the job. At the beginning of the 2001 conference, we met in teams at the Capitol to discuss the need for change during the reauthorization process. Of course the reauthorization would be delayed after September 11th, as would our next annual conference, and the reauthorization would take its toll on all of us for the next several years. However, the seeds of COPAA's national presence were planted in Washington in those early days, and the formation of COPAA's committee structure during my tenure provided the forum for a more focused national presence.

I want to acknowledge Matt Cohen, Joyce Ginsburg, Pat Howey, Judith Gran, Bill Dussault and Pete Wright (Sonja Kerr was out with an injury) for their support and assistance on the steering committee we convened at (and after) the 2001 conference, as we met and worked to create the committee format that has helped to carry COPAA forward with strong member support.

I am awed by the many accomplishments that COPAA has worked hard to achieve since that time on behalf of disabled students, especially in the legislative and amicus arenas, and the important allies that COPAA has gained in the process. Over these ten years, individual members have contributed greatly, but it is the collective strength of the membership that has always kept COPAA strong, effective and forward moving. I do not know of a more dedicated membership and all volunteer Board that accomplishes at the level of COPAA.

It is hard work to build a diverse organization, with a national base and a national network, based on the overriding principle that what the collective membership can do for COPAA is critical to the operation of the organization. The COPAA experience has not been easy for all. As with any organization, there are always individuals who find it easier to work in a group format, and there are individuals who can contribute more toward the day-to-day work. The sum of all contributions over these ten years has helped COPAA to grow in a positive way. As a result, COPAAns are now able to come together to celebrate the achievements of the first ten years with a commitment to carry on the mission of COPAA, so that no child with a disability is ever left behind.

It is with fond memories of Diane Lipton and Beth Goodman, who fought hard with us to keep COPAA going during the early formative years, even when they were critically ill, that I celebrate COPAA."


1998-2016 Members, Board of Directors
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc.


Board Member




Alexander, Missy

2007-present, Secretary 2010-2011, Vice Chair 2011-2012, Chair 2012-2013


Almazan, Selene

2003-2015; Chair 2006-07, Secretary 2007-2009, Treasurer, 2010-2011


Archibald, Rose Marie



Bateman, Barbara



Beinke, David



Berlow, Bob



Blakemore, Catherine



Bruce, Susan

2012 – 2016 Secretary 2014-16


Butler, Jessica

2004-2009; Chair 2007-08


Byrnes, Wendy



Casillas, Alexis

 2013 - present


Chewning, Donna

1998-2003, Secretary 1998-1999


Cohen, Matthew

1998-2002, 2007-2009, 2015-present


Cortiella, Candace



Crumm, Eileen


  Daniels-Hall, Cynthia


Diehl, Nancy



Dobel, Kathryn

1998-2003; Chair 2001-02


Dussault, William

1998-2002; Treasurer 2001-03


Ebenstein, Barbara

2003-2007; Chair 2004-05


Favaloro, Mandy



Feinstein, Andrew



Gilhool, Thomas



Ginsberg, Joyce

1998-2005; Secretary 2000-05


Goodman, Beth


  Goodmark, Craig

2017 - Present 


Gran, Judith

1998-2008; Chair 2002-04

  Griffie-Jackson, Kimberly 

2017 -present


Grossman, Naomi



Gudger, Sharon



Hakola, Stewart



Hickman, Frank



Holt, Teresa



Howey, Pat



Hughes, Ginny



Jefferson, David

 2017- present


Jonson, Dana

2012 – present; Secretary 2013-14,Treasurer 2014-16


Kamleiter, Mark



Kerr, Sonja

1999-2004; 2008-2015; Chair 2000-01


Klebanoff, Howard



Kule-Korgood, Michelle

2008-present, 2015-16 Vice Chair


Laviano, Jennifer

2009-present, Secretary 2011-2012, Vice Chair 2012-2013, Chair 2013-2014


Lilly, Sheryl



Lipton, Diane



Little, Christine



Macleod, Anne



Margolis, Leslie Seid



Martin, Mark

2010 – present, Treasurer 2013-14, Vice Chair 2014-2015, Chair 2015-2016


Mattison, Deborah



Graves, Maureen



McIntire, Michael



McKnew, Mary



Nelson, Alice

2006-2015; Chair 2008-10


O’Connor, Mike

2001-2008; Treasurer 2003-06


Ordover, Eileen



Palmer, Brice

2001-07; Secretary 2005-07


Gloria Perez-Stewart



Philpot, Dorene


  Poe, Cheryl
2015- 2016


Reisman, Catherine Merino

2008-present, Treasurer 2009-10, Vice Chair 2010-2011, Chair 2011-2012


Rogers, Brenda



Ruppman, Jamie



Siegel, Jodi

2002-present; Chair 2004-05; Treasurer 2006-2011


Sindelar, Tim



Smith, Dawn

2003-05, 2008-2013 Vice Chair, 2009-10, Chair 2010-2011


Steedman, Wayne



Traynor, Lana



Vanaman, Valerie



Maureen van Stone



Warshaw, Meredith



Watts, Carolina

2011-present, Secretary 2012-2013, Vice Chair 2013-2014, Chair 2014-2015


Weschler, Terry



Whitehead, Nikole



Whitney, Sue



Willcutts, Diane

2008-2009; 2014 to present


Wright, Peter



Zimring, Jon

2010- present


Executive Directors



Rosenfeld, James



Marshall, Denise






Hipple, Marcie

Member Services Coordinator 2006-present


Robin Pick

Legal Analyst, 2013- 2014

   Selene Almazan Legal Director 2014-present


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