2019 Special Education Leadership Academy - Session Descriptions, Presenter Bios and Handouts


Monday, July 22, 2019


1:00 - 2:45 Opening Keynote

From Early Intervention Through Post-Graduation, It Takes Guts to be a Special Education Leader
The ultimate goal of my Keynote session is to skillfully highlight the highs and lows of special education administration to ignite and renew, if necessary, energy into the participants' work in our schools. Although a career as a special education leader comes with sacrifice, I wish my participants to be able to recognize and value the gift of effectuating change in our students and seeing them grow from early intervention to a positive post-school outcome with a strong measure of self-advocacy developed throughout their educational experience.
Barbara Mozina, Bureau of Special Education


3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

General Session for All: School Improvement…Just a Label or Catalyst for Change?

RoseMary Hughes, Ph.D., Pennsylvania Department of Education

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


8:30 am – 10:00 am

Leadership in Literacy: A Conversation to Introduce the New PILs Course
This informative session will provide participants insight into a NEW PA Inspired Leadership (PILs) course that will prepare school leaders to Promote Systemic Change to Build Success in Reading Achievement for ALL Students. Administrators will be advised of best practices to initiate and foster sustainability over time.
Nichole Kopco, PaTTAN Harrisburg
Creating Career Ready Students
Under the requirements of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Pennsylvania identified Career Readiness as one of six indicators for measuring school performance for all students, including students with disabilities.
During this session, participants will engage in learning activities to explore career portfolio requirements, the individual career plan requirements, and resources to engage district level teams in mapping of the Career Education and Work Standards across the curriculum to create opportunities for sources of evidence within student portfolios. Emphasis will be placed on methods to analyze the instructional, physical, and social environment in order to ensure meaningful inclusive participation for students with disabilities.
Christine Moon, PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Dr. Hillary Mangis, PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Handout Slides

Think Before you Discipline: Lessons Learned in the Field
Federal and state laws and regulations provide protections for students identified as eligible for special education services who are receiving disciplinary exclusions, as well as processes for LEAs to follow when implementing disciplinary actions. This session ill provide an opportunity for participants to review the regulatory disciplinary requirements for school-age students with disabilities. Case studies of application of disciplinary procedures will be shared from a hearing officer perspective.
Diane Funsten, Consultant
Cathy Skidmore, Office for Dispute Resolution
Handout Slides

10:15 am – 11:45 am

GRAD Is a Four-Letter Word That We All Want for Every Child
Schools in Pennsylvania are working to increase the graduation rate and decrease the dropout rate for students with disabilities. Two current projects sponsored by the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) include the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) focusing on high school students with disabilities as well as an OSEP affiliated grant project titled Middle School Success: The Path to Graduation (P2G) with an emphasis on middle school students with emotional behavioral disorder. This session will include a brief overview of both projects, will review the benefits of utilizing an Early Warning System (EWS), examine what evidence-based practices are being implemented in both projects to help students stay on track for graduation, and offer lessons learned in being a part of this process.
Jacki Lyster, PaTTAN East
Tracy Ficca, PaTTAN East
Dr. Laura Moran, PaTTAN Harrisburg
Handout Slides
HELP! What do the regulations say about…
As new (or veteran) special educator, and you are employed in a brick/mortar or cyber charter school no one needs to tell you that you have a very difficult and demanding job. If you attended last year's conference you know that there were many more topics to discuss. This session focuses on the ‘grey’ areas in special education. There are many State and Federal procedures and policies that we, as special educators are required to follow but what about questions that have no easy answers? Typically, there is no cut and dry in our business. As BSE Advisers, many times we hear, "I never came across this before. What should I do"? The solutions require complex thoughts and actions; you may not be sure what to do or where to start.

If you want to be part of a lively discussion and you seek answers for real-life questions that cannot be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ then this session is for you. Many current issues will be discussed in small group formats permitting us the opportunity to learn from each other. Most educators want to talk through their experiences at work. Now you have a chance. We cannot promise that you will leave this session with concrete solutions to challenging problems, however, having the opportunity to talk through strategies with peers can be meaningful and rewarding. Come join us for an informative, engaging, and enjoyable time together.
Margaret Marvin, Ed.D., Bureau of Special Education
Kenesta Mack, Bureau of Special Education
Handout Slides
Parent Engagement in Alternative Dispute Resolution
A due process hearing is not the only way to solve a special education disagreement between parents and schools. The Office for Dispute Resolution provides an array of alternative dispute resolution options that allow schools and parents to work together toward a resolution. This session will highlight alternatives to the due process hearing, weaving in concepts of best practices in parent engagement when resolving special education disagreements. Participants will reflect on conflict scenarios and consider different approaches to resolution.
Samantha Pudlowski, Office for Dispute Resolution

Handout Slides

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Essentials for Creating a Productive Team (novice session)
This session will heighten a participant’s understanding of one’s own communication style, behavioral tendencies, strengths and potential limiters, while offering insight into others. The personal interventions will help special education administrators move from reaction to response modes and become more aware of potential limiters. Participants will also learn ways to decrease unintentional consequences and increase intentional outcomes, and a brief introduction to E-Colors in Education will be introduced.
Leigh Dennick, Intermediate Unit 1
Melissa Wyllie, Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV
Regan Weldon, Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit 27

Caring for the Caregiver-Creating a Community of Care (veteran session)
Special education administrators are called upon to wear many hats due to the complex nature of their work. On one hand, this work can be exhilarating. However, at times the work can also be depleting. This session will provide participants with strategies to energize and care for themselves as well as those they lead. Creating a Community of Care requires mindful and deliberate action on the part of members of the community. Presenters will use a variety of resources to engage participants in discussion and activities designed to foster thought and equip them to create a Community of Care within their organizations. Ideas gleaned from the research surrounding mindfulness, mindset, the power of gratitude, work-life balance, and leadership will be used to support the development of personal action plans. Participants will leave with ideas and tools that they can turn around and use with their teams.
Deborah Lock, Intermediate Unit 1
Dr. Lenny Greaney, Bucks County Intermediate Unit 22
Handout Slides
Concussion and Return to Learn: Is Your District Following Best Practices for Consistent Student Management?
Concussions are traumatic brain injuries. Returning to the full demands of school too soon will significantly increase and prolong symptoms. This period of recovery should be appropriately supported by school personnel until the concussion has resolved. Research states that 70% of students will recover in 4 weeks. However, research also shows that if students push through their symptoms early on in recovery, it can prolong their recovery from 20-30 days to approximately 100 days. With an increase in public knowledge due to recent media emphasis, as well as the passage of return to play laws, PA schools are experiencing an increasing number of identified students with concussion. Students must progress through a Return to Learn process, prior to beginning a Return to Play process. Striking a balance between the need for rest to recover yet keeping up with academic content is the greatest struggle for concussed students and educators. The BrainSTEPS: Return to Learn Concussion Management Team (CMT) Model is based on the fact that data should drive all decision making to assist student recovery, as well as to keep districts out of litigious situations. Data is required to implement, adjust, and end concussion accommodations or aid in establishing the need for more intensive educational supports over time. The session will describe the need for schools to establish a CMT. Over 2,400 PA teams have been trained since 2013. PA's model has also been adopted by the Colorado Department of Education. The latest research on this model will be discussed.
Brenda Eagan-Johnson, Ed.D., BrainSTEPS
Handout Slides

2:45 pm – 4:15 pm

Inclusive Practices for Secondary Transition
Essentially the job of every school is to help ALL students to learn, grow, and succeed in the classroom ---but more importantly--BEYOND the classroom. Research tells us that inclusion that has the characteristics of administrative support, a receptive school atmosphere, evaluation of programming, and multiple modes of instruction will result in improved education, employment, and independent living outcomes for all students, including those with significant disabilities. With legislation under Workforce Opportunities and Innovation Act (WIOA) and Employment First calling for competitive integrated employment, this need to create inclusive educational experiences is more important than ever.

Christine Moon, PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Dr. Hillary Mangis, PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Handout Slides
The Role of Administrators in the Delivery of Exemplary School-based Autism Support Programs
Students with Autism present complex needs that require an integrated team approach. This session will review the qualities of effective evidence-based approaches for students with autism and iterate the role of administrators in assuring quality educational programs. This session will provide guidance for establishing defensible instructional arrangements, data systems, and delivery. Considerations relevant to staff support, intervention integrity, parent communication, and instructional design will be reviewed. The presentation will include a review of resources that may assist administrators in evaluating and promoting effective practice for autism support personnel through the process of assessment, intervention, and program review.
Michael Miklos, PaTTAN Harrisburg
Handout Slides
Handout-Guided Questions

Case Law: What Would You Do?
A perennial favorite! This session will provide participants with an opportunity to review special education regulations and requirements. Brief scenarios of actual Pennsylvania special education due process and court proceedings will be presented and participants will be asked to analyze how they would “judge” the case. Additional information will be provided from the Federal and state regulations to support the decision from the scenario.

Sandy Shacklady-White, PaTTAN East
Jeffery Coover, PaTTAN Pittsburgh

Handout Slides
Case Study Handout  20499-1718  
Case Study Handout  20925-18-19

Case Study Handout  21005-18-19 

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Retirement – Lessons Learned
Judy Ball

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


7:45 am – 8:30 am

Topics in Special Education Law & Due Process
This session will include an overview and interactive dialogue about recent issues and trends in special education law and due process in Pennsylvania.

Charles W. Jelley, Esq. LLM, Office for Dispute Resolution

Handout slides


8:45 am – 10:15 am

Differentiating: Compliance Monitoring for Continuous Improvement
The goal of Differentiated Monitoring Support for LEAs is to jointly assess performance with IDEA requirements towards the improvement of results for students with disabilities. Results drive the intensity, type of technical assistance and improvement towards meeting compliance. Differentiated Monitoring Support provides LEAs with measures to assess their areas of need and support results towards outcomes. PDE and our partners will leverage resources to provide ongoing support to the LEAs with the focus on the outcomes of our students with disabilities.
Gina Colarossi, Bureau of Special Education

10:30 am – 12:00 pm

What’s Trending in Emotional Disturbance Identification?
Presented jointly by School Psychologist Jessica Dirsmith and School Solicitor Rebecca Heaton Hall, this session will discuss collaborating to promote student well-being through intervention, prevention, best practices in assessment and identification of students with emotional and behavioral needs, and legally defensible practices. The presenters will analyze national and Pennsylvania case law trends and operationalize interpretation of the five Emotional Disturbance characteristics and elements of the federal definition. They will discuss legally defensible assessment and identification practices and review specific assessment methods and instruments with a focus on economic, cultural, language, and gender considerations.
Rebecca Heaton Hall, PREVAIL Educational Solutions
Jessica Dirsmith, PREVAIL Educational Solutions
Handout Slides
The Impact of Networking
This session will share the insights learned while creating a statewide network for parents and families. The sharing of stories and networking has had a powerful impact on student success. When parents and educators presume competence, hold high expectations and work collaboratively student outcomes are far reaching. Come and hear about how both parents and educators have come together to lead change. As administrators you can share the resources you learn about during this session with both parents and staff.
Jacqui DiDomenico, PaTTAN East
Linda Cartwright, PaTTAN East
Handout Slides
Fitting You to AT: Compliance and Best Practice in Provision of Assistive Technology for Leaders
As Special Education leaders, you don't need technical expertise in Assistive Technology. But leaders do need to be aware of what is required by IDEA, and Chapters 14, 711 regarding AT, and most importantly, how to support IEP teams in the consideration and provision of AT devices and services. This session will provide resources and discussion to assist leaders in examining their local processes for responding to AT needs and support.
Susan Gill, PaTTAN East

1:15 pm – 2:45 pm

A Leader's Guide to Effective Emotional Support Programs and Services
This session will provide special education supervisors and directors guidance on how to systematically improve ES programs and services across an LEA. Participants will be provided a tool that will enable the baseline establishment of current practices across 7 domains and develop an action plan to improve services.
Tina Lawson, Ed.D., PaTTAN East
Handout Slides
Case Law: What Would You Do? (repeated session)
A perennial favorite! This session will provide participants with an opportunity to review special education regulations and requirements. Brief scenarios of actual Pennsylvania special education due process and court proceedings will be presented and participants will be asked to analyze how they would “judge” the case. Additional information will be provided from the Federal and state regulations to support the decision from the scenario.
Sandy Shacklady-White, PaTTAN East
Jeffery Coover, PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Handout Slides
Case Study Handout  20499-1718  
Case Study Handout  20925-18-19

Case Study Handout  21005-18-19 
STEM and the Special Education Leader--Session Cancelled
During this session you will gain insights about the current state of STEM in Pennsylvania. We will look at the future of STEM in education. We will discuss being advocates for our student population as well as how to best support students receiving special education services in the STEM classroom(s). We will share examples of students receiving special education services and STEM projects they have worked on.


3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

Why Mediation?
Special Education is a leader in advancing mediation as an option to support families and schools as they work to manage and resolve conflict. Many states including Pennsylvania have gone one step further to offer model expanded resolution processes including IEP facilitation and resolution meetings. The goal of facilitative style mediation is not simply to help parties write an agreement, although that is often the result. Our commitment as neutral third parties is to empower people in conflict in ways that improve relationships and restore opportunities for trust, communication and collaborative decision-making moving forward, all while keeping the student centered in the dialogue. Join this session to learn more about mediation first hand from an active special education mediator and leader in the field of integrated conflict management systems with foundations in restorative justice and inclusive excellence. This informal session will make space for attendees to learn about mediation and companion resolution practices and voice questions and concerns about the process in ways that will help the PA Office for Dispute Resolution serve the special education community.
Dr. Nancy Giacomini, Office for Dispute Resolution
Handout Slides
Equity in Education: Leadership, Awareness and Application
Equity, as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a cornerstone of all practices to improve student outcomes. Pennsylvania, as a state, has focused on the importance of equitable practices. Schools and districts across the state are seeking ways to enhance their school climates to be responsive, accessible and inclusive.
Educational leaders are in a prime position to serve as the catalyst for systems-change to promote equity. Leadership supports buy-in from the community-at-large to internal stakeholders. The concept of equity begins with an understanding that access, diversity, and inclusion is paramount not only in racially diverse systems, but also in settings where there are various groups including (but not limited to), students with disabilities, students who receive free and reduced lunch, as well as students with varying sexual orientations and gender identities. Once leaders have an understanding that equity impacts each of their individual school systems, the work can begin. The goal of the presentation would be to begin the process of informing leaders of the definition of equity in Pennsylvania, engage in self-awareness activities, and provide strategies to support equity via data-based decision making, family and community engagement, as well as tiered systems of support.
Nikole Hollins-Sims, Ed.D., PaTTAN Harrisburg
Handout Slides
Handout Checklist


Thursday, July 25, 2019


8:15 am – 9:45 am

Special Education: Informing Practices, Building Support
This interactive session with the Bureau of Special Education Advisors will focus on questions and concerns of practicing administrators in the field.
Bureau of Special Education

10:00 am – 11:30 am

RISE and Shine! Resilient...Innovative...Self-motivated...Ethical
Leaders of any level demonstrate characteristics of effective leadership. These attributes have been documented and actually measured in terms of efficacy and utility. This session will weave participants through a series of leader qualities, responsibilities, situations, and "Need to Know" items that affect our daily leadership lives. Times to reflect and provide commentary will be emphasized. ALL participants will need to be able to laugh and look at the lighter side of their daily special education leadership lives!

Gina R Scala, Ed.D., Stroudsburg University

Handout Slides