Meet the Special Education Summit Participants

Panel Moderators

David DesRoches of WNPRDavid DesRoches

David DesRoches is a reporter covering education and related topics for WNPR. He also mentors high school seniors who attend the Journalism and Media Academy magnet school in Hartford, Conn., as part of Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s Learning Lab initiative. He comes to public media after a career in newspapers, where he received more than a dozen state, regional, and national awards for his work, including twice being named New England’s Reporter of the Year, in 2013 and 2014. He was also included in Connecticut Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list in 2015. DesRoches’ special education reporting in Darien, Conn., has been cited as one of the most comprehensive explorations of disability rights among children in the United States.

Diane Orson of WNPRDiane Orson

Diane Orson is WNPR’s local host for Morning Edition. She is also a reporter and managing editor for WNPR, as well as a contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories are heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Here And Now. She shared a Peabody Award with Faith Middleton for their piece of radio nostalgia about New Haven’s Shubert Theater. Her reporting has  been recognized by the Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists and the Associated Press, including the Ellen Abrams Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism and the Walt Dibble Award for Overall Excellence.


Dean Timothy Fisher HeadshotDean Timothy Fisher

Timothy Fisher is dean of the UConn School of Law, a post he accepted in 2013 after 35 years in private practice. 

After graduating from Yale University and Columbia Law School, he began his legal career in Hartford and focused his practice in the fields of ethics, alternate dispute resolution, commercial transactions, construction law, family wealth disputes, and municipal law. He served as the Office Managing Partner at McCarter & English, LLP, before becoming Dean at UConn School of Law.

Throughout his career he donated his time to work on pro bono cases relating to prison conditions, speedy criminal appeals, marriage equality and exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners. He founded the Connecticut Innocence Fund, a first-in-the-nation program that helps exonerees to re-enter society. He recently chaired the Connecticut Commission on Judicial Compensation and co-chaired the state Task Force on Access to Legal Counsel in Civil Matters. He previously served on the Governor’s Commission on Judicial Reform, as well as various commissions of the Connecticut Judicial Branch, and was recently president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation.

Dean Gladis Kersaint

Dean Kersaint UConn Neag School of EducationGladis Kersaint is dean of the UConn Neag School of Education. 

Prior to her current role, Kersaint served as the associate dean of academic affairs and research for the College of Education at the University of South Florida (USF) since 2011, where she was also a professor of mathematics since 1998. There, she previously served as director of the David C. Anchin Center and held the David C. Anchin Endowed Chair in Education Innovation; the Center promotes alliances and leverages resources to facilitate partnership efforts that support innovation and the advancement of teaching. From 2006 to 2010, she served as coordinator of USF Undergraduate Education and chair of the General Education Council, a role with university-wide reach.

Kersaint is also a well-respected scholar in mathematics education with an extensive publication and national and local service record. She has published four books and numerous refereed journal articles related to factors that influence mathematics teacher education and effective mathematics teaching, the mathematical teaching and learningof at-risk students, and the use of technology in teaching and learning mathematics. During her tenure at USF, she has served as the principal or co-principal investigator of approximately $30 million of National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and Florida Department of Education grants.

Kersaint has led a number of collaborative STEM education projects involving school district personnel as well as university faculty in Arts and Sciences and Engineering. She has also provided service at the national level, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the largest professional organization for mathematics educators, and the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. Prior to her academic post at USF, Kersaint taught high school mathematics for the Miami Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest public school district in the nation.

Howard Klebanoff headshotHoward Klebanoff

Howard Klebanoff of the Klebanoff Institute graduated from Yale University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He was elected to the Connecticut Legislature, and, as House Chairman of the Education Committee, he sponsored Connecticut’s first comprehensive special education laws. He also served on the legislative section of the regulation drafting committee for the federal special education law, 94–1 42, and sponsored a total revision of the way education was funded in the state.

After leaving elective office, he served as Counsel to the Connecticut House of Representatives and was the first chair of the Connecticut Board of Higher Education. He has practiced in the area of education law for more then 40 years.For his work in the area of education law, he has been listed in Best Lawyers in America; U.S. News & World Report; Super Lawyers, which published a cover story about him; and Connecticut Magazine’s top lawyers in Connecticut; and received a Martindale–Hubbell commendation for 25 years of the highest peer review rating in legal ability and ethical standards. He also received the Hartford County Bar Association’s President’s Award for excellence in the practice of law. The University of Connecticut established the Howard Klebanoff Institute of Special Education at its Neag School of Education in recognition of his work in the area of special education.

Joseph Madaus Headshot

Joseph Madaus

Joseph Madaus is a professor of educational psychology and the associate dean for academic affairs at UConn’s Neag School of Education. He is also director of the Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability and a past president of the Division on Career Development and Transition, a division of the Council for Exceptional Children. 

Madaus currently serves on the editorial board of nine journals, including the Journal of Postsecondary Education and DisabilityTEACHING Exceptional Children, and Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals. He was the co-editor of Preparing Students with Disabilities for College: A Practical Guide for Transition. He is the principal investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on grants through the Office for Postsecondary Education, Office for Special Education Programs, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the state of Connecticut.


Mary Beth BruderMary Beth Bruder

Dr. Mary Beth Bruder is a professor of pediatrics at the UConn School of Medicine and the director of the University of Connecticut Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

She has been working in the field of early intervention, including the design, provision, and evaluation of early intervention services within a number of states and across a variety of agencies, since 1975.


Martha DeedsMartha Deeds

Martha Deeds is a senior policy analyst for the Connecticut School Finance Project, where she has focused extensively on special education funding. Prior to joining the Connecticut School Finance Project, Deeds served as manager of special projects at Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) in Hartford, Conn., and was special assistant to the commissioner at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Deeds holds a bachelor of science degree in social work from Southern Connecticut State University and serves as the plenary guardian for a 23-year-old man with developmental disabilities.

Shaun Dougherty

Shaun Dougherty

Dr. Shaun Dougherty is an assistant professor of education policy and leadership at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education and an affiliated faculty member of the Center for Education Policy Analysis. He is also an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut.

His work focuses on applied quantitative analysis of education policies and programs, including career and technical education, with an emphasis on understanding how PreK-12 policies and programs impact student outcomes. In particular, he emphasizes how policies and practices affect educational equity related to race, class, gender, and disability. Dougherty is a former high school mathematics teacher and assistant principal.


Andrew A. Feinstein headshotAndrew A. Feinstein

Andrew A. Feinstein has represented children with disabilities and their families pursuing appropriate educational programs for the past 20 years, first in Hartford with David C. Shaw; later, as a solo practitioner in Mystic, Conn.; and since 2015, as the principal at Feinstein Education Law Group, with offices in Mystic and Manchester, Conn. He is co-chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the pre-eminent national special education advocacy organization and an adjunct professor of special education law at Central Connecticut State University. 

Attorney Feinstein graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 and the New York University School of Law in 1975.  He completed the Senior Manager in Government Program at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, in 1983.  He has served as a professional staff member of the House Committee on Armed Services and Chief Counsel of the House Civil Service Subcommittee.

Paul Freeman HeadshotPaul Freeman

Dr. Paul Freeman has been a Connecticut educator for more than 20 years. He has been the superintendent of schools in Guilford, Conn., since 2011, and he also serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.

Before coming to Guilford, Freeman served as the superintendent of Griswold Public Schools; prior to that, he worked as an assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent in the East Lyme school system. He began his career in education as a teacher of English language arts at the middle and high school levels in the Amity School district.

Freeman has served as chair of the New England League of Middle Schools and as a contributing editor for the National Middle School Association’s Journal. He has published several works in the field of education and is a frequent presenter at national and regional educational conferences. Most recently, he has taken his work to Amman, Jordan, as part of a partnership between the University of Connecticut and Queen Rania’s Teacher Academy. 

In 2015, Freeman was elected to the Governing Board of AASA, the national organization of school superintendents, and he is currently serving on the Executive Committee for the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. He has served on the Governor’s Closing the Achievement Gap Task Force since 2011.

Freeman earned his bachelor’s degree at Keene State University; completed his master’s and sixth year degrees at Southern Connecticut State University; and completed his doctoral studies at the University of Connecticut.

Marisa Halm HeadshotMarisa Mascolo Halm

Attorney Marisa Mascolo Halm is the director of the TeamChild Juvenile Justice Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy.

She represents children and youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system or at risk of involvement, and works to ensure that they receive the education they are entitled to, whether in the public schools, in alternative or therapeutic programs, in juvenile justice facilities, or in adult correctional facilities.

Halm is a passionate advocate for her clients and a staunch opponent of the school-to-prison pipeline. She strenuously opposes unfair discipline practices and policies that facilitate youth push-out from school. She identifies systemic barriers and inequities that impact her clients’ education and barriers to successful re-entry into the community, and develops strategies to eradicate those barriers and inequities. Her advocacy work includes legislative initiatives, administrative advocacy and facilitating policy change, as well as the filing of complaints against school systems violating students’ basic educational rights.

Prior to working at the Center, Halm was in private practice, where she represented children with disabilities and their parents against school districts.

She earned her JD from the UConn School of Law (’06) and her BA, with honors, from Mount Holyoke College. She was admitted to the practice of law in 2006.

Catherine Holohan HeadshotCatherine Holahan

Catherine Holahan is a senior legal and policy advisor at EducationCounsel LLC, based in Washington, D.C. EducationCounsel is a mission-based consulting group that works with key partners, including states, districts, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and associations to develop and drive policy initiatives — on the local, state, federal, and national levels — to close the achievement and opportunity gaps and to improve education outcomes for all students. Holahan provides legal, policy, and strategic planning support to organizations on education policy matters with a focus on disability-related issues, special education, school climate and discipline, social and emotional learning, and the advancement of inter- and intra-personal development strategies to improve student outcomes.  

Previously, Holahan served for more than 10 years as an attorney with Connecticut Legal Services, including as managing attorney of the Children-at-Risk unit, a statewide group of attorneys who advocate through systemic policy change and individual representation for improved access to quality education for low-income students, particularly students with disabilities. In that role, she represented individual students on general and special education matters; co-founded and led several legal initiatives focused on the intersections of the education, child protection, and juvenile justice systems; and engaged in multiple efforts resulting in changes to state and district policies related to students with disabilities, school discipline, and juvenile justice reform. Holahan served on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC), the State Advisory Council to the Department of Children and Families (DCF SAC), and the Steering Committee of the Juvenile Justice Alliance.  

She was a middle school classroom teacher for several years in Baton Rouge, La., through Teach For America. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Connecticut School of Law, a Master of Social Work in Policy and Planning from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont.

Maggie McLaughlin HeadshotMargaret J. McLaughlin

Dr. Margaret J. McLaughlin is a professor of special education in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education and the associate dean for research, innovation, and partnerships at the University of Maryland, College Park, College of Education. McLaughlin has been involved in special education for her entire professional career, beginning as a teacher of students with serious emotional and behavior disorders. She has directed a number of national projects that have studied the impacts of educational reforms, specifically related to standards, large-scale assessments, accountability, and choice on students with disabilities as well as on special education programs and policy. She has also co-chaired or served on several National Research Council committees related to students with disabilities and national educational reform policies, school finance, and disproportionate representation of minority students in special education.   

McLaughlin earned her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia and held positions at the former U.S. Office of Education and the University of Washington. 

She served as a plaintiff’s expert witness in the CCJEF v. Rell case, designated by the court as an expert in special education policy.

Nathan Quesnel HeadshotNathan Quesnel

Nathan Quesnel is superintendent of schools for East Hartford (Conn.) Public Schools, where he has served in that capacity since 2012. Quesnel came to East Hartford in 2002 as a high school English teacher and had the opportunity, since that time, to serve in the various roles of coach, high school assistant principal, and middle school principal.

Quesnel is a graduate of the University of Connecticut ’01 (CLAS), ’02 MA; Southern Connecticut State University (6th Year), and Central Connecticut State University (093 certification).

He served as a plaintiffs’ witness in CCJEF v. Rell, designated by the court as an expert in Connecticut education issues, including finance, operations, instruction and curriculum.

Fran Rabinowitz HeashotFrances M. Rabinowitz

Frances M. Rabinowitz was the interim superintendent of the Bridgeport (Conn.) Public Schools until Dec. 30, 2016. She returned to Bridgeport in 2014, having previously worked in the district for 29 years as a teacher and in several administrative positions, including as director of evaluation and research, and executive director of teaching and learning. Prior to joining Bridgeport Public Schools, Rabinowitz served as superintendent of the Hamden School District for seven years. Before becoming the superintendent in Hamden, she worked at the Connecticut State Department of Education from 2002 to 2007, where she served as associate commissioner of teaching and learning. In that role, she oversaw the implementation of curriculum standards in all subject areas, the development and implementation of state assessments, and all aspects of school improvement and turnaround.

She served as a plaintiffs’ witness in CCJEF v. Rell, designated by the court as an expert in Connecticut education issues, including finance, operations, instruction, and curriculum.

Rabinowitz received her undergraduate degree at Sacred Heart University and her master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport; and pursued Sixth Year studies at Fairfield University.

She most recently has been appointed as the new executive director of Connecticut Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), effective July 1, 2017.

Betty J. Sternberg HeadshotBetty J. Sternberg

Dr. Betty J. Sternberg is the director of the Teacher Leader Fellowship Program at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), which partners CCSU, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), and 11 school districts to create a fellowship of teacher leaders and those who support them. She previously served as a professor at CCSU, teaching doctoral, 6th year, and master’s-level courses in Leadership for Teaching and Learning and in Curriculum Development. In addition, she supervised interns preparing to receive certification as intermediate administrators and supervisors from the State Department of Education. Prior to that, Sternberg served as the superintendent of schools in Greenwich, Conn. — the first woman to serve in that role. 

In addition, Sternberg served as Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education from 2003 to 2006. She was appointed by a nine-member State Board of Education to which she served as chief executive officer. She was the chief administrator of the State Department of Education. She oversaw a $2 billion state education budget. Of the 17 individuals to serve as Commissioner since the establishment of the position in 1838, she was the first woman. Sternberg also is a 26-year veteran of the Connecticut State Department of Education, where she served as associate commissioner of teaching and learning.

Sternberg received her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the Stanford University School of Education and her master’s degree in mathematics and science education from Columbia University, Teachers College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Brandeis University. She began her career as a mathematics resource teacher in San Jose, Calif. After five years at RESCUE (currently EdAdvance), a regional educational service center in Litchfield, Conn., Sternberg joined the Connecticut State Department of Education as chief of the Bureau of Curriculum and Staff Development in 1980.

Jay Vadiveloo HeadshotJay Vadiveloo

Dr. Jay Vadiveloo is a professor at the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Janet & Mark L. Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research. Vadiveloo works on applied actuarial research projects using teams of academicians, students, and industry professionals. He has a doctorate in statistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and he is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA), a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). He has more than 25 years of experience working in senior-level management positions in the life insurance industry and more than 20 years of experience with UConn’s actuarial science program.  

In addition to publishing articles in the actuarial literature and speaking at actuarial conferences, Vadiveloo is editor and contributing author of a Society of Actuaries text on enterprise risk management for small and medium-sized enterprises. He also owns a patent on a new algorithm (Replicated Stratified Sampling or RSS) that exponentially reduces processing time at a pre-determined accuracy level for any complex modelling process. Most recently, the Goldenson Center developed a model for special education funding for school districts in Connecticut, which is being considered for implementation in 2018 by the Connecticut legislature.

Robert Villanova

Robert Villanova 

Dr. Robert Villanova serves on the faculty of the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut and as director of the Neag School’s Executive Leadership Program, a program designed to prepare school district leaders for the challenges of 21st-century educational leadership. Villanova has served on the faculty for this program for the past 13 years, teaching courses related to systemic leadership for district improvement, human resource development, school district operations, and the application of district leadership best practices through the superintendent internship. He has also taught in the Department of Educational Leadership’s Ed.D.program.

Villanova was appointed in 2013 as the director of LEAD Connecticut. LEAD Connecticut represents an unprecedented collaboration among state and national organizations with deep expertise in leadership and leadership development in partnership with the Connecticut State Department of Education.

He also serves as a district leadership consultant for the Connecticut Center for School Change. He was a charter member of the Center’s Superintendents’ Network and now works as a facilitator/consultant in support of the Superintendents’ Network and other Center leadership development initiatives.

From 1993 through 2009, he served as superintendent of the Farmington (Conn.) Public Schools. During his tenure as superintendent, the district consistently performed in the top 5 percent to 10 percent of Connecticut school districts on state and national performance measures. Each of the seven Farmington schools was recognized as an exemplary school through various state and national programs during this period. 

He continues to be involved in numerous leadership development initiatives, including organizing and presenting Advanced Leadership Development Seminars for Superintendents in Connecticut and Rhode Island; supporting the professional development partnership between the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Neag School of Education; providing leadership development institutes for district leadership teams; organizing and facilitating Instructional Rounds in school districts; completing special assignments for the Commissioner of Education related to board governance and district leadership; and working as an executive coach with early-career superintendents.

He served as a Defendants’ expert witness in the CCJEF v. Rell case, designated by this Court as an expert in the areas of education, education policy, and school reform.

The Special Education Summit has been made possible
through the generous support of the Klebanoff Institute.