Ideas that Work, office of special programs U.S. Department of Education

The contents of this website were developed in part under a grant from the US Department of Education, #H328M150052. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government or Project Officer, David Emenheiser.

Staff Directory
Laryssa Beatty
Beatty, Laryssa
Information Specialist/Trainer, East Central Office

Laryssa began her career with OCECD as of September 2014. Laryssa holds an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting and worked in Pediatrics prior to being a stay at home mom for 14 years before becoming a Parent Mentor for Muskingum Valley Educational Service Center. Laryssa is a mother of 3 children. Two of her children have given her experience with Down Syndrome, Autism, Metabolic Disorder, ADHD, severe behavior challenges and non-verbal communication, as well as navigating the special education system. Laryssa resides in Carroll County and provides information, training and support to families in East Central Ohio. Laryssa also does fundraising for the organization.

Chantelle Blackburn
Blackburn, Chantelle
Executive Assistant , Marion Office
Chantelle is the Executive Assistant to the Assistant Director. She is bilingual, having been the Hispanic Ministry Coordinator for her church for several years. Chantelle has a BS in Middle Education and taught Spanish at Marion Catholic High School. She is a lifelong Marion resident, the mother of two daughters, and is blessed with four grandchildren.
Sandy Brickner
Brickner, Sandy
Statewide Preschool Parent Mentor - Northern Office

Sandy started her career serving students as an early childhood educator providing direct instruction for students with a variety of needs. Having a deep commitment and passion to support students, she continued on in a new capacity to serve students with disabilities and their families as a parent mentor for the Seneca/Wyandot County Parent Mentor Project. In 2000, Sandy began working for OCECD as an information specialist, supporting families in North Central Ohio and providing training throughout Ohio. Currently, Sandy is part of the Parent Mentor Oversight and Professional Development Project as a Statewide Preschool Parent Mentor working in the northern office.

Robin Bryant
Bryant, Robin
Information Specialist/Trainer, Southwest Office

Robin has been with OCECD since 1990 and as a consultant prior to that time. She provides information, training and support to parents in her area. Previously she provided services to families as an employee of the Southwest Special Education Regional Resource Center for ten years from 1979-1989. Robin has a love for early childhood education and has taught pre-school and kindergarten in the public school system. Robin has a hearing impairment and is the parent of a son and a daughter with learning disabilities.

Kelly Buerger
Buerger, Kelly
Information Specialist/Trainer-Northwest Office and Web Support

Kelly began her career with OCECD in October 2018.  She is an Information Specialist and Trainer for Northwest Ohio.  She also serves as Web Support for OCECD.  Kelly holds an associate degree in Accounting.  Prior to starting at OCECD, Kelly worked for 15 years as a Program Manager administering testing in the medical field.  In this position, Kelly was responsible for approving and coordinating ADA accommodations for candidates in the testing process.  She has prior experience as a nurse’s aide in a long-term care facility and residential support staff to individuals with developmental disabilities. Kelly came to OCECD as a result of her personal experiences in struggling with the special education arena.  She has one son who has Autism and ADHD. 

Marbella Cáceres
Cáceres, Marbella
Assistant Director & Statewide Multicultural Director, Marion Office

Marbella has been with OCECD since 2006. She is currently the Statewide Multicultural Director and the Assistant Director. She is working with Dr. Lisa Hickman, the new Executive Director as of August 19, 2019 to manage staff, projects and all OCECD operations. Previously she worked with Lee Ann Derugen, as they were both Interim Co-Executive Directors since December 1, 2018.  Marbella continues to coordinate multicultural trainings and groups for empowerment and education for multicultural families, supervising and training the multicultural information specialists/trainers across the state. She translates materials for families from English to Spanish and is involved in the development of trainings that address the cultural needs in the state of Ohio. She also serves multicultural families across the state regarding information and provides individual assistance concerning their rights. She started a statewide support group which the parents have titled P.L.A.N.E.O. (Latino Parents Associated for Special Children in Ohio). Marbella currently serves on the State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children and as a volunteer for National Alliance on Mental Illness in Franklin County.  Marbella is the mother of a child with special needs, as well as a gifted child. 

Pam Cotrell
Cotrell, Pam
Information Specialist/Trainer, West Central Office

Pam has been with OCECD since 2008. Prior to 2008, she served as a consultant. Pam provides information, training and support to parents in her area. Pam became interested in advocating for children with disabilities when she found herself overwhelmed while navigating the educational system on behalf of her own daughter who was non-verbal and had cerebral palsy. She is passionate about training parents in their rights under IDEA, and supporting them in acquiring the skills to advocate for their child. Pam is a Registered Nurse and graduate of Rhodes State College and Bluffton University.

Nancy Crabtree
Crabtree, Nancy
Information Specialist/Trainer, Southern Office

Nancy has been with OCECD since 2004. She provides information, training and support to parents in her area. For 4 years prior to joining OCECD, she provided advocacy services for parents as a volunteer. Nancy’s interest is in children with behavioral challenges and in empowering parents to advocate for their child. Nancy has 2 children. Her son has AD/HD and needed specialized supports when he was in school.

Kim Dennison
Dennison, Kim
Information Specialist/Trainer, Ohio River Valley Office

Kim has been with OCECD since 2005. She provides information, training and support to parents in her area. She previously worked as a Parent Mentor for Gallia County Local School District in Southeastern Ohio. She is a parent of a daughter who was born deaf and received a Cochlear Implant at the age of 3 ½ years of age.

Valorie Dombroskas
Dombroskas, Valorie
Statewide Preschool Parent Mentor Southern Ohio

Valorie has been with OCECD since 2002. In June, 2017, she became OCECD's Statewide Preschool Parent Mentor for the Southern part of Ohio.  She works with the Parent Mentors, SST Family Consultants and provides information and support to parents in her area focusing on preschool. Before coming to OCECD, she was a Parent Mentor serving families in Athens County. She is also the former director of the Special Education Parent Advocacy Network (SEPAN) when she also worked with OCECD for several years. Valorie is the parent of a son with a learning disability.

Joe Farry
Farry, Joe
Information Specialist/Trainer, Contractor

Joseph Farry started working as Information Specialist/Trainer for OCECD August, 2019. He covers the north central area of the state. Joe received his Bachelor’s Degree from The Ohio State University and his Master’s Degree from Ashland University. He has been a Family Services Consultant for State Support Team Region 11 for 15 years.  Joe provided professional development and assistance to families, districts and agencies to better understand and meet federal and state special education regulations. He provided surrogate parent training, worked closely with the Central Ohio Parent Mentors. Prior to his work at SST 11, Mr. Farry served as a Director of Special Education for both Fairbanks and North Union Local Schools. In that capacity, he supervised and evaluated programs and teachers, oversaw compliance issues, and coordinated all services for students.  In 1995, Mr. Farry developed the inaugural Option IV Program for Eastland Fairfield Career Centers, supervising staff and placing students into job sites in three counties. He served on the Option IV State Task Force.  Mr. Farry’s early career began as a special education classroom teacher at Whitehall-Yearling High for 21 years where he restructured the special education department, implemented the first inclusion classrooms as well as serving in leadership capacities throughout the district. Mr. Farry has been a National CEC Convention Presenter, a recipient of the Whitehall Teacher of the Year Award, and a Walter-Horn Partnering for Progress Award winner. 

Angie Ferdinand
Ferdinand, Angie
Executive Assistant, Marion Office
Angie began working for OCECD October 25, 1999. She works closely with the Governing Board which includes parent and professional organization representatives.  She performs outreach to develop new member relationships with other Ohio organizations with similar interests.  Angie assists the Executive Director.  She assists with general office duties in Marion, as well as with reports, materials, forms, supplies and office equipment for OCECD statewide offices.  
Amy Freeman
Freeman, Amy
Reading Mentoring Director
Amy has been with OCECD since July 2014. Her focus is on developing and coordinating a 1:1 reading mentoring program for students reading below grade level. This program is called Mentoring 4 Reading Achievement (M4RA). Amy and Debby Ambroza will train schools and parents throughout Ohio to establish 1:1 reading mentoring programs to help their struggling readers. Partnerships include: the Ohio Department of Aging and the Department of Youth Services. Amy holds a M.Ed. in Special Education. Amy was the former director of Project MORE, also a 1:1 reading mentoring program. She has over 35 years working as a: teacher, sheltered workshop director, behavior specialist, superintendent, state-wide preschool reviewer and regional DD program consultant. Amy’s youngest brother had Down Syndrome and was her inspiration for her life’s work. She also has boy/girl twins that are juniors in college.
Elaine Hamilton
Hamilton, Elaine
Information Specialist/Trainer - Franklin County
Elaine began with OCECD March 12, 2018.  She is the Information Specialist/Trainer currently covering Franklin County.  Previously she covered 20 counties in the state.  She provides special education information, assists with understanding the special education evaluation process, rights, educational programs, services and supports to parent/guardians of students with special needs. Elaine formerly was a Parent Mentor working within the Columbus City Schools. She received training from the Ohio Department of Education as well as Columbus City Schools. Elaine has been actively involved in several programs and workshops to assist parents with their needs. She is able to support families with their students with disabilities school programs such as 504, IEP, Rights, information and resources as well as any other situations involving the Special Education process. Elaine works with families that have children from Pre-School on up to transitioning into adulthood. Elaine also works with various community agencies to discuss multiple topics surrounding children with disabilities. She is trainer and presenter for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University in the area of Family Centered Care and Autism. Elaine and her husband Reginald have two children, a son Donovan and a daughter Maliyah. Maliyah was diagnosed with autism at 3 years of age. Elaine is a volunteer at heart as she serves on several family advisory Council's including Nationwide Children’s Autism Treatment Network and Nationwide Children’s Family as Faculty where she gives a presentation to staff about her experiences at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Elaine supports the Mid-Ohio Food Bank by hosting free produce markets throughout the community.
Lisa Hickman Ph.D.
Hickman Ph.D., Lisa
Executive Director
Lisa is the Executive Director for the OCECD as of August 19, 2019.  She holds a Bachelor’s, Masters and Ph.D. in Sociology.  For over 11 years Lisa was faculty in the Department of Sociology at Grand Valley State University (in Michigan), and additionally served as chair for the department for two years.  She taught courses and conducted research in the areas of education, children and families.  Lisa moved back to Ohio for family reasons and began her work as the Research Specialist at the Ohio Criminal Sentencing, conducting research to help inform criminal justice policy in Ohio.  The transition to working as Executive Director for the Ohio Coalition is an honor and feels like coming back to her roots, what she is trained in and what she does well.  She looks forward to providing support to the staff and parents so that the Coalition can continue to move forward in its mission.
Cheryl Huckaba
Huckaba, Cheryl
Parent Training Assistant, Marion Office

Cheryl has been with OCECD since 1998. She copies and collates training materials for regional trainings and state conferences. She fills publication orders, completes mailings and assists staff in various ways. She also assists the librarian in disseminating library material. She has previous worked at Mobile Meals, Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and Compass Group Homes. She has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Connie Hudson
Hudson, Connie
Conference Coordinator

Connie has been OCECD Conference Coordinator since 2004. She coordinates the annual conferences and events such as: Partnering for Progress, Leadership and the Horn/Walter Awards Banquet. She previouly  wrote the FUN Newsletter which was geared to families of young children 0-9. She was a Parent Advocate from 1998 to 2004 for the West Central office. She graduated from Columbia College with an Associate Degree in Business Administration. She became interested in special education after having two children with special needs. Connie is the parent of three children; a daughter who has A.D.D. with Depression and a son who is medically fragile with Cognitive Disability. She has served on the board of Family Voices of Ohio and is a member of Logan County Supported Living Advisory Council.

Martha Lausé
Lausé, Martha
Information Specialist/Trainer, Central Ohio

Martha Lause has been with the OCECD since 1997. Martha assists parents by phone, refers parents to other area OCECD Information Specialists, Parent Mentors, ODE or other agencies. She also researches and keeps OCECD staff up-to-date on disability related topics. She has a master's degrees in Library Science and in Education. Martha is the mother of three children; her eldest son, a college graduate, has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities.  As of July 1, 2016, Martha became the Information Specialist/Trainer for Central Ohio counties too.

Lisa Lutz
Lutz, Lisa
Information Specialist/Trainer, Northeast Office
Lisa started with OCECD in July 2017.  She assists families in her northeast area of the state by providing information, training and support. Lisa was a Parent Mentor for the Kirtland School District 7 years, where she also assisted families. She has a Masters Degree in Health Promotion/Wellness and her Wilson Reading Certification. Three of Lisa's 4 children have type 1 Diabetes and 1 has Dyslexia and AD/HD.
Iliana Martinez
Martinez, Iliana
Multicultural Information Specialist/Trainer, Mid Ohio Latino Office

Iliana has been with OCECD since June 2010. She is from Mexico D.F. She serves the Hispanic/Latino families in Mid Ohio regarding information and individual assistance on their rights through trainings and advocacy skills. She also supports with the coordination of P.L.A.N.E.O. (Latino Parents Associated for Special Children in Ohio), a statewide support group for Spanish speaking families. She holds a B.S. in Biology Science. Iliana has two sons, which one of them has learning disabilities.

Maria Messer
Messer, Maria
Multicultural Information Specialist/Trainer, Southwest Ohio Latino Office
Maria Messer, who comes from Mexico, brings her experience to aid her in assisting the Spanish speaking community in the southwest area of the state.   She earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the State University of New York in Buffalo. In 1998 she earned a certificate in human rights advocacy from the prestigious Inter-American Institute for Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica.

Maria began her career in the non-profit sector in assistant communications with the Artemis Center for Domestic Violence in Dayton.  She founded Casa Amiga, an outreach program for Hispanic migrants in Miami Valley.  Maria also served as health promotion director for Su Casa, a program of Catholic Charities of South West Ohio.

Maria has travelled extensively along both sides of the US-Mexican border, documenting her experiences in a short educational documentary, titled “Journey of Hope.”

Maria has earned certifications in immigration law from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and certification in Mental Health from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  She has begun work towards a master’s degree in community counseling at the School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton.

She resides in Dayton with her daughter Sofia.  Maria started with OCECD in February 2019.
Najma Mohamoud
Mohamoud, Najma
Somali and African Communities Contractor
Najma Mohamoud joined OCECD in April 2017 as an Information Specialist, working with the Somalin community in Franklin County. Najma has a bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Memphis and has been working with the Somalin community in Ohio since 2015. 
Nick Pirnstill
Pirnstill, Nick
Information Technology/Webmaster
Nick Pirnstill joined the OCECD Marion Staff March 3rd, 2020 as an IT/Web consultant. Nick focuses on website and IT needs at the Marion Executive Office and provides remote support to all staff throughout the state. Nick is from Bucyrus, Ohio and studied Media Communications at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to joining the Coalition, Nick did freelance Web, IT and Graphic Design work for various clients and worked in the automotive industry as a process technician/troubleshooter.
Indira Ram Shriyan
Ram Shriyan, Indira
Parent Training Assistant, Marion Office
Indira Ram Shriyan joined the OCECD Marion staff in February 2019 as a consultant and began as full-time staff July 1, 2019.  She is the Parent Training Assistant in the Marion Executive office, answering phones, working in shipping and receiving by copying training materials and packing resources for regional trainings and state conferences, as well as assisting information specialists by filling training orders.  Indira moved to America from Ghana in 2011 to pursue higher education at Ohio Wesleyan University where she majored in Economics Management and minored in French.  She previously did some volunteer work for an early childhood center and has two energetic boys of her own.  She worked as a training manager at Panera Bread before coming to the Coalition.  
Barbara Rice
Rice, Barbara
Grants Manager/Bookkeeper, Marion Office

Barbara has been with OCECD since 2002. She is the grants manager and bookkeeper for all OCECD projects. She previously coordinated conference events and all activities for the Parent Mentors of Ohio. She holds a bachelor's degree in Education. Her background in is social services and casework through Marion County Job and Family Services. Active in her church, she helped establish Prospect Christian Preschool and served on an all female work team in West Virginia through the Appalachia Service Project. Barbara is married to Greg for more than 40 years.  They  have two daughters, two son-in-laws, three grandsons, and a granddaughter.

Ivette Sarkar
Sarkar, Ivette
Multicultural Information Specialist/Trainer, North East Ohio Latino Office

Ivette works in the Multicultural Department of OCECD as an information specialist/trainer assisting the Latin-American community in Northeast Ohio since September 2014. Her responsibilities include providing resources, training, and guidance to families that have children, teenagers, and young adults with special needs. She also attends school meetings and collaborates with school personnel to improve outcomes for children. Ivette has a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Spanish from The Ohio State University. Before coming to OCECD she assisted adults with developmental delays, physical disabilities, and mental illness in a residential adult group home. In Chicago, she assisted the Latin and American communities with legal issues related to substance dependence and abuse. Additionally, she managed group counseling, taught remedial education classes and provided progress reports and affidavits to the courts, probation and the Secretary of State’s office. Ivette’s mother is from Mexico City and she learned Spanish by visiting family every summer. She has dedicated her career to helping the Latin American community and understands the unique challenges associated with preparing and educating special needs children for the future from a personal and professional experience. She also looks forward to being a resource and advocate to parents.

Ivette trabaja en la sección multicultural de OCECD como consultante bilingüe, apoyando a la comunidad Latino Americana desde Septiembre 2014. Sus responsabilidades incluyen proporcionar recursos, entrenamientos y asesoramiento a familias que tienen niños pequeños, adolescentes y jóvenes adultos con discapacidad. También asiste a las reuniones escolares y colabora con el personal de la escuela para mejorar los servicios y resultados para estos niños. Ivette tiene una Licenciatura en Psicología y Español de la Universidad Ohio State. Después de graduarse, trabajo en el área residencial ayudando a adultos con retrasos en el desarrollo, discapacidades físicas y enfermedades mentales. En Chicago, asistió a la comunidad desarrollo un grupo de asesoramiento y proporcionó reportes y declaraciones bajo juramento a los tribunales, oficiales de probatoria y oficinas del Estado. La madre de Ivette nació en La Ciudad de México. Ivette aprendió el español viajando a México todos los veranos, para visitar amigos y familiares. Ha dedicado su carrera a ayudar a la comunidad Latino-Americana, y entiende las dificultades asociadas con preparando y educando niños con necesidades especiales por tener experiencias propias en lo personal y profesional. Su meta es ser una fuente de suporte y apoyo a los padres y a sus hijos con discapacidad.

Tammie Sebastian
Sebastian, Tammie
Statewide Program Coordinator/Social Media Coordinator, Cleveland Office

Tammie started with OCECD in September, 2011. She provides information, training and support for parents in Cuyahoga County and manages social media for OCECD. Previously Tammie was an advocate for the Tapestry System of Care. Her focus before coming to OCECD was the Juvenile Justice System and helping families getting the schools to evaluate children that were not getting the proper services they needed and therefore ended up in the court system. Tammie has two daughters, one who is challenged with AD/HD and one who has the diagnosis of Autism and Anxiety.   

Lily Tsai
Tsai, Lily
Asian Community Contractor, Central Ohio Office

Lily Tsai began her job as a Multicultural Specialist/Trainer for OCECD in April 2012. Prior to that, she worked as a Registered Nurse in Taiwan’s largest military hospital for several years before coming to the US. She graduated from Columbus State Community College with a Respiratory Therapist degree and worked as a national licensed RRT in most of the hospitals in metropolitan Columbus for more than 10 years. She almost finished her Art degree in Columbus Art and Design. She has been involved in a lot of volunteer activities such as teaching Mandarin Chinese in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. She has been working at AACS (Asian American Community Service) as a Mandarin/Taiwanese interpreter in most of the hospitals and juvenile courts in Columbus metropolitan area for many years. She organizes and supports Asian parent support groups for special needs children in central Ohio. She has been living in Worthington with two boys and twin girls.

Executive Director Emeritus

Photo of Margaret Burley
Margaret Burley is now the Executive Director Emeritus as of July 1, 2018 and had been the Executive Director of OCECD for 39 years since 1979. From  January 1 to June 30, 2018, she was the Co-Executive Director with Marcie Beers.  Since 1979, Margaret expanded the organization from five parent and professional organizations, working out of her home with no money for the phone bill or staff to assist her to an over $2.5 million budget. She obtained and sustained grant funds from the state and federal departments of education. She built the organizational members from five in 1979 to over 38 organizational members, which includes parent and professional organization representatives and over 130 individual members which make up the Governing Board. She directed public policy and research for OCECD. Margaret is known nationally for her work in the field since 1972. Tom, her son, is the youngest of four children and has multiple disabilities from Congenital Rubella Syndrome. Margaret lives on the family farm.


Retired Lee Ann Derugen is retiring from OCECD as of September 30, 2019 after almost 40 years.  She was recently the Interim Co-Executive Director with Marbella Caceres.  She worked along side Marbella from December 1, 2018 until August 19, 2019.  She has been the Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center Director and Webmaster for several years.  She was the Co-Director for 21 years from 1995 until 2016.  As Co-Director she was the financial manager and program coordinator for six grants from various funding sources.  She also managed staff.  For 11 of those years she was the Regional Co-Director for the Alliance Region 4 Parent Technical Assistance Center where she provided technical assistance to the 14 parent centers in the Midwest states. Since 1979, she has worked beside Executive Director, Margaret Burley, now Executive Director Emeritus.  Starting out as a volunteer answering the phone in that home based office to managing 28 staff in 15 offices across Ohio.  Lee Ann became involved with OCECD because of her compassion for individuals with disabilities and her interest in the field. Her youngest brother has multiple disabilities. As his guardian, Lee Ann continues to be his advocate and supervises the staff in his own home through a supported living program.

In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Jeanith Ryle
The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities is sad to report the passing of Jeanith Ryle. She was one of the strongest and most passionate advocates for the rights of children with disabilities that you could meet. She passed away on December 20, 2017, following a ten year battle with numerous medical ailments. For thirty-seven years, she was an advocate for her daughter, Katie. Further, she had been a member of the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities for over ten years. She dedicated twenty years of her life assisting other families in Ohio as an Information Specialist with the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities. She touched the lives of many families of children with disabilities. Her legacy will continue to thrive through the lives of these children.   Those who worked with Jeanith experienced her passion first hand and knew how selflessly she worked on behalf of the educational rights of Ohio’s children with disabilities.  For the past ten years, Jeanith had received bad news on top of bad news, but that never stopped her. Despite fighting renal failure, cancer, dialysis, and chemo, she never stopped her fight for Katie and Ohio’s children with disabilities. Her strong will and determinations helped her endure the unthinkable. Ten days before she died, from her bed at The James Cancer Hospital at OSU, she was strategizing for an upcoming Manifestation Determination meeting. What strength of character and determination to see the case through to its resolution.    The Ohio Coalition hereby acknowledges her dedication to the thousands of Ohio families of children with disabilities that she served for twenty years.  
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