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About Us

"We, the parents, the professionals and the concerned citizens of the State of Ohio joined together as the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) to endorse and promote efforts to provide appropriate quality education for children and youth with disabilities. We do so in the belief that all children have a right to a meaningful and relevant education. This belief affirms the dignity of each child or youth with disabilities, whose needs are unique and whose needs must be met equally and appropriately.  We, therefore, pledge our full and combined support to this Coalition dedicated to ensuring meaningful and relevant education for all children and youth with disabilities in Ohio"

The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) is a statewide nonprofit organization that serves families of infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities in Ohio, educators and agencies who provide services to them. OCECD works through the coalition efforts of over 40 parent and professional disability organizations and over 70 individual members which comprise the Coalition. OCECD has also been funded since 1984 to serve as the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for the state of Ohio from the federal government, U.S. Dept of Education, Office for Special Education Programs.

Established in 1972, currently employing 28 staff in 15 offices who are primarily parents or family members of children or adults with disabilities or persons with disabilities, the Coalition's mission is to ensure that every Ohio child with special needs receives a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment to enable that child to reach his/her highest potential. Throughout Ohio, the Coalition’s services reach families of children and youth, birth through 26 years of age, with all disabilities.

OCECD’s programs help parents become informed and effective representatives for their children in all educational settings. In addition, youth are assisted to advocate for themselves. Through knowledge about laws, resources, rights and responsibilities, families are better able to work with agencies to ensure that appropriate services are received for the benefit of their sons and daughters. To the right are links to OCECD's Executive Committee, Governing Board Member Organizations, Constitution, Bylaws, Regional Map, Annual and Financial Reports.

About the Directors

Lisa Hickman, Ph.D.
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. 

Marbella Cáceres  
Assistant Director & Statewide Multicultural Director

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.


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The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) was established originally under the name Ohio Coalition for the Education of Handicapped Children in 1972. It was founded by five parent/citizen groups along with three professional groups to advocate for the appropriate education of children with disabilities. The five parent/citizen groups were called Citizens Committees for Special Education from the following Ohio cities: Dayton, Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

The majority of these parents on the committees had children with learning disabilities or mental retardation. The major committee representatives at the beginning were Paula Pierce, of Dayton, who had a son with hearing impairment; Pat Lilac, also of Dayton, who had a daughter with a hearing impairment; Mary Rumm, of Toledo, who had a child with learning disabilities; Mary Giallombardo, of Cleveland, who had a child with learning disabilities; Ed Lippitt, of Dayton, who had child with cerebral palsy; and Ray Horn, of Columbus, who had a daughter with mental retardation.

The three professional groups who offered financial and organizational support to these parent committees were: the Ohio School Psychology Association (O.S.P.A.), the Ohio Federation Council for Exceptional Children (O.F.C.E.C.) and the Ohio Speech and Hearing Association (O.S.H.A.). Originally The Ohio Coalition was funded only by private donations from the parent and professional organizations. The groups formed the coalition because, like most states at the time, Ohio excluded many children with disabilities from public education. Unable to make progress in that public policy arena, the groups decided to come together to insure that parents' voices were heard regarding significant public policy issues affecting children with disabilities. The professional organizations, through the dues and donations of their members provided the financial support for the parents who volunteered.

Kay Hughes, from Columbus, a parent of a son with a learning disability, served as the first director of the organization in 1972. O.C.E.H.C. was incorporated in 1974 and became a 501 (c) 3 non profit organization. The initial trustees of the organization were Robert Carson, Sylvania, Ohio; Patricia Ann Lilac, Dayton, Ohio; and Jack Dauterman, Columbus, Ohio, all parents or consumers. Kay Hughes was followed as director by Paula Pierce, from Dayton, a parent of a son with a hearing impairment as the second director, followed by Linda Sabo, from Columbus, a parent of a daughter with learning disabilities as the third director. In December 1979, Margaret Burley, became the director after serving on the Ohio Coalition Board of Directors for 5 years.

Photo of Margaret Burley

Margaret Burley's son was born in 1962 and had been diagnosed with Congenital Rubella Syndrome which left him blind and mentally challenged. She had to fight for educational services for him when he became of school age since his severe disabilities led the school district to determine that he was inappropriate for public education. This was an administrative determination called an E-1 Exclusion in Ohio.

Margaret Burley said on November 29, 1975, Public Law 94-142 was passed and signed by President Gerald Ford. When it was announced she was at the ARC Ohio Convention in Columbus, Ohio. In July 1976, Ohio had not complied with P.L. 94-142 and a Cleveland parent filed a complaint. Ohio’s federal money was withheld because they had not complied. Rep. Mike Stinziano sponsored Amended H.B. 455 (later in the Ohio Revised Code as Chapter 3323) which brought Ohio into compliance with Federal law 94-142 and Ohio had to start educating all students with disabilities.

In 1983, the organization obtained its first grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Planning Council to establish and carry out the work of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Legislative Coalition. The Coalition worked with residential and day program service providers to represent the interests of persons with MR/DD. This activity continued until 1989. In 1984, the Ohio Department of Education, through the Division of Special Education, first funded the Parent/Educator Partnership Project, a program developed to provide a three-day training to parents and principals. The purpose of the program was not only to inform parents and educators about the requirements of P.L. 94-142, but also to establish collaborative working relationships between parents and educators. Also, in 1984 the Ohio Coalition was funded by the U.S. Department of Education to expand the Parent Education Team Training Project and to become the first statewide Parent Training and Information Center for Ohio.

In 1996, the Ohio Coalition Governing Board voted to change the name of the organization from the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Handicapped Children to Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) to use people first language.

During its history the work of the Ohio Coalition in promoting the voice of parents and consumers has facilitated many changes in public policy and in Ohio law. A few of these include:

  1. 1976, the passage of H.B. 455, Ohio's version of P.L. 94-142, was passed,

  2. 1989, supported the change of Ohio Developmental Disability definition to match the federal definition and supported the change to mandatory preschool special education and added funding for it in the state budget,

  3. 2001, supported the change for special education funding to a 6 weight per pupil formula, and

  4. 2002, led the effort to change state standards to meet federal IDEA requirements.

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OCECD has obtained and maintained a grant since 1984 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to be the Parent Training and Information Center for Ohio. Since 1987, the Ohio Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood has funded them for training of parents of young children 0-9 on the child development, finding services, transitions, and parents' rights, etc. Currently,  the Division's name is the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness. The Ohio Coalition has also received regular funding from the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Exceptional Children, for the Parent Involvement in Education Project now called Meaningful Parent Engagemen, Prevention of Juvenile Detention Project and a subcontract for Ohio's State Improvement Grant (SIG/OISM) implementation now called SPDG (State Professional Developoment Grant). The Ohio Coalition also had a subcontract with the University of Minnesota from the North Central Regional Resource Center to support parent activities for the centers in its nine state region. The Ohio Coalition still maintains state and federally funded grants today some with a different focus than in previous years. Other funders have included the Ohio Department of Health; the Columbus Foundation; The Ohio State University Research Foundation; and the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission.

Under the direction of Margaret Burley and Lee Ann Derugen, the Ohio Coalition has grown from a part-time Director

 (paid with dues from the three professional organizations) in 1979 to a fully functioning agency advocating for and support the provision of appropriate educational services for children with disabilities and advocating for parent and family support services. 

Throughout the years, the Ohio Coalition has focused on giving a voice to the parents and families of children dealing with the challenges of disability, and it has worked to promote support for the professionals who work with them. The Ohio Coalition functions with 28 staff in 15 offices across Ohio all serving families of children with any disability ages 0-26. It currently operates with a budget of over two and a half million dollars.

Upcoming Events


Family Fun Day

Sat Jun 15 2024

Info Fair

Sat Jun 15 2024

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Sat Aug 3 2024

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