Skip to main content

21st Annual School Law Institute

Speaker(s): Carol Lieb Himes, Cathryn Tisenchek, Deusdedi Merced, Jesse Cole Cutler, Joanne LaCrosse, Katrina Feldkamp, Lyn Beekman, Maria E. Blaeuer, Michele Kule-Korgood, Randy Glasser, Rasheedah Harris, Selene A. Almazan, Susan J. Horwitz, William M. Meyer
Recorded on: Apr. 28, 2021
PLI Program #: 306025

Carol Lieb Himes is the Senior Manager of Family Programs at New York Peace Institute, the Community Dispute Resolution Center which provides mediation and restorative justice services for Brooklyn and Manhattan residents as well as trainings.  In that capacity, Carol is responsible for New York Peace Institute’s Special Education, Early Intervention, Surrogate’s Court, Co-parenting, Family Care (interpersonal disputes between individuals in the foster care system), and ACCES-VR Mediation Programs. Carol also enjoys mentoring new program mediators. In the past, Carol practiced law in several areas, including securities law, and she is very happy to have found her work in mediation. Carol is a member of the New York State bar.

Cathryn Tisenchek is the Supervisor of the Due Process Unit in the New York State Education Department’s Office of Special Education.  This Unit is responsible for certifying special education due process impartial hearing officers (IHOs) who administer due process impartial hearings across New York State as well as monitoring those impartial hearings for adherence to regulatory timelines.  In addition, the Due Process Unit manages contracts for the provision of training and professional development for both IHOs and special education mediators and data collection and reporting in these areas.

Ms. Tisenchek holds master’s degrees in Communication Disorders and Educational Administration. Within the Office of Special Education, Ms. Tisenchek assists in the development of special education regulation, policy and guidance material to ensure compliant implementation of federal and State laws and regulations relating to the education of students with disabilities.  Prior to her work with the State Education Department, Ms. Tisenchek served as an Early Intervention Specialist with the New York State Department of Health Early Intervention Program.  This followed employment as a Speech Language Pathologist in a private residential school serving students with autism.

Deusdedi Merced is the Managing Member of Special Education Solutions, LLC (SES). Since 1997, Deusdedi’s legal career has been dedicated to special education. After a period as an attorney with the Office of Legal Services with the New York Board of Education, he spent several years representing parents of children with disabilities and their children before serving as an IDEA hearing officer, mediator, and facilitator in hundreds of matters. He was appointed to serve as Chief Hearing Officer for the District of Columbia for approximately three years and played a key role in assisting the District in being released from court supervision.

Deusdedi has presented training programs for hearing officers/Administrative Law Judges at LRP’s National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, LRP’s School Attorneys Conference, the Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers, as well as the Lehigh Special Education Law Symposium: ALJ/IHO Institute. He has also presented numerous individualized training programs for various state educational agencies and is currently under contract on a long-term basis with the states of New York, Illinois, and Hawaii.

As a result of his broad experience in special education litigation, training, and oversight, Mr. Merced has a deep appreciation for the unique perspectives of school districts, parents, and hearing officers. Mr. Merced has first-hand knowledge of the challenges hearing officers face in presiding over due process hearings. His extensive knowledge and experience have made Mr. Merced a sought-after speaker at nationally recognized conferences on special education. He has been a featured speaker at LRP’s National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, LRP’s School Attorneys Conference, as well the Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers at Duke Law School and Seattle University School of Law.

Jesse Cole Cutler’s practice focuses on advocating, mediating and litigating on behalf of children with special education needs. He has significant experience litigating every aspect of administrative hearings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Jesse also has extensive appellate experience in federal appellate courts. He currently supervises and manages the litigation and resolution of tuition reimbursement claims and heads his firm’s appellate division.

Jesse is a member of the American Bar Association; the New York State Bar Association; the Association of The Bar Of The City Of New York; the American Trial Lawyers Association; the Education Law Association; the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates, and the Federal Bar Council.

Jesse received his JD from Brooklyn Law School and graduated cum laude from the University of Albany, SUNY. 

Jesse regularly lectures on special education policies, procedures and litigation strategies to parent and attorney groups.  He has published decisions on the federal and state level.

Jesse lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife, an editor and author of children’s books, and his two sons.

Joanne LaCrosse has worked in the Office of Special Education (OSE) at the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in several different capacities since 2001. As NYSED’s Director of Special Education Services, she is responsible for oversight of the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for New York State’s (NYS’s) approximately 465,000 school-age students with disabilities and 80,000 preschool students with disabilities. These students are served in approximately 732 public school districts, 351 charter schools, 115 schools operated by private agencies that provide day and/or residential programs for students with disabilities, 11 State-supported schools, and 400 preschool special education programs throughout NYS.

Joanne oversees the work of the Statewide management team responsible for policy development and implementation; dispute resolution processes; implementation of NYS’s IDEA accountability plan; approval and oversight of NYSED’s private day and residential schools and preschool special education programs and services; and compliance monitoring, school improvement activities and provision of professional development and technical assistance in districts and approved school-age and preschool programs serving students with disabilities ages 3-21. She previously served as Chief of Special Education Services, Coordinator of Special Education Policy and Professional Development, Special Education Policy Supervisor, and Associate in the Program Development and Support Services Unit. In these roles, Joanne was responsible for ensuring regulations, policies and guidance specific to the education of students with disabilities ages 3-21 were developed consistent with State and federal legislation; facilitating the redesign of NYSED’s technical assistance network; managing preschool special education program approvals; overseeing dispute resolution processes; and implementing accountability requirements under IDEA. Joanne is a former director of special education and special education teacher.

Maria Blaeuer is Director of Programs and Outreach at Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. (AJE),  the District of Columbia’s federally designated Parent Training and Information Center. 

Prior to joining AJE in 2016, Maria spent most of her legal career in private practice focusing on special education law and the needs of students with disabilities in low-to-moderate income communities.  As part of that practice, she has provided professional development and continuing education about special education to attorneys, teachers and other service providers in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Pennsylvania. In her current role, Maria works with families, schools and other child-service organizations to ensure that all students have access to an equitable and appropriate education.  This work includes direct representation of families and students in school related matters. 

She brings a unique perspective to this role, having participated in the IEP and special education process as a student with an IEP herself, as a teacher of students with disabilities, as a parent, and now at AJE, as an attorney for students and families.  Maria obtained her Bachelor’s degree with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University, earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law.  She is a native of the Washington D.C. region, and has served as an appointed member of the Montgomery County, MD Commission on Juvenile Justice, and the Lawyer Assistance Committee of the D.C. Bar. She is also on the board of a small charter school serving at-risk, and over-age and under-credited students. 

Maria lives near Montgomery County, MD’s agricultural reserve with her husband, three children, and the family’s cats, dogs, and chickens.

Rasheedah Harris is an active Parent Leader, heavily involved in the PTA (Parent Teacher Association), SLT (School Leadership Team), CEC (Community Education Council), DLT (District Leadership Team), School Equity Teams, District Equity Teams and The Bronx Borough Equity Team.  She is a PTA Executive board member for the past 4 years to date, at her daughter’s school.  She is the President for District 4 (East Harlem) Presidents’ Council and the 2nd Vice President for CPAC (Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council).  She is a parent participant of NYC DOE + NYU Metro Center’s CCER (Critically Conscious Educators Rising) program and DOE’s Office of Equity and Access Implicit Bias workshop training to help dismantle racism in NYC public schools. She also works with organizations such as (RAPPA) Race and Privilege Parent Alliance, CEJ (Coalition for Educational Justice), AQE (Alliance for Quality Education), Parent Volunteers NYC, PAC (New Settlement Parent Action Committee) and The Bronx Healing-Centered Schools Working Group.  Rasheedah is an advocate for equity in education and a community organizer.

Selene Almazan has represented students and families for over thirty years. Almazan is a former supervising attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland representing children in the foster care system, including in special education matters. For nearly twenty-three years, Almazan represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment (LRE) issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Since September 2014, Almazan has been the legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, where Almazan supports the work of the amicus committee and works on federal and local policy issues. In this position, Almazan writes appellate amicus briefs for appellate courts as well as the US Supreme Court. She was counsel of record for COPAA as an amicus in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools and counsel on COPAA’s amicus brief in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. Since May 2015, Almazan maintains a private practice that focuses on parent and student representation in special education matters, including LRE. Almazan represents families at IEP team meetings, state complaint proceedings, mediations, due process hearings, suspension/expulsion proceedings, and federal court proceedings, including matters involving violations of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Almazan has extensive experience training families, teachers, school administrators, attorneys, and advocates on legal issues related to special education law, as well as disability discrimination issues. Almazan obtained a BA from University of Maryland, College Park, and a JD from Antioch School of Law.

William Meyer is a special education attorney and partner at the Law Offices of Regina Skyer and Associates, L.L.P., a premier special education law firm in New York City.

Will has advocated for students with disabilities in educational matters since 2004. He has represented New York families for the past fourteen years, first as a staff attorney at Advocates for Children of New York and since 2012 at Skyer Law. He practices in administrative and appellate arenas on behalf of parents. He leads trainings and speaks at legal education seminars for parents, attorneys, educators, and clinical professionals.

Will is a member of the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates. He holds a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University and a Bachelors of Science from Emerson College.

Attended Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.  Graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering with honors in 1965.  Member of Chi Epsilon, Civil Engineering Honorary.

Attended University of Michigan Law School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Graduated with J.D., 1968. Passed Michigan Bar examination December 1968. 


Foster, Swift, Collins & Coey, P.C., Lansing, Michigan.  Named shareholder in 1974.  Served as President (Managing Partner) from 1979 to 1987. Member of Labor Department. Over the last decade with the firm managed the firm’s major client the Michigan Education Association (MEA) and handled all matters related to special education. Handled union labor matters in the public sector and management labor matters in the private sector.  Also, handled matters relating to special education for both parents and then school districts and served as a special education hearing officer and mediator.


White, Beekman, Przybylowicz, Schneider & Baird, P.C., Okemos, MI. Served as its President (Managing Partner) from 1990 to 1995. As a member of this labor-management firm, I continued to manage the MEA account and handled both union and management legal matters. I also continued all my work in the field of special education.


Beekman & LaPointe, P.C., Okemos, MI. Served as its President (Managing Partner). Repre¬sented of over 250 school districts regarding matters involving special education and Section 504.  I continued to serve as a special education hearing officer and mediator.


Special Education Solutions (SES), LLC, Okemos, MI. SES does not represent any clients. From 1998 to 2015 I was the sole member of the firm. I served as a hearing officer, state review officer, mediator, complaint investigator and arbitrator in special education disputes. In addition, I served as a trainer of special education hearing officers and mediators.

In 2015, I desired to substantially reduce my workload and responsibilities in partial retirement and commenced transferring ownership of the firm. Deusdedi Merced, who had worked for SES for several years, was added to the firm and became the managing member. While I continue to serve on occasion as a hearing officer and mediator, and assist in presenting trainings, I relinquished major training responsibilities and management of the firm to Merced in 2015.

Michele Kule-Korgood is the founder and managing attorney of Kule-Korgood & Associates, P.C. Michele has devoted more than twenty-seven years, in private practice, to representing parents of children with disabilities in order to secure an effective education for their children.  While studying psychology as an undergraduate, Michele became a personal care assistant for a classmate with cerebral palsy.  Her classmate’s refusal to be defined by his disability inspired Michele to pursue a career in teaching special education.  Years later, as a special education teacher, Michele’s efforts to help a student obtain assistive technology, so he could have a voice in the world, again changed the course of her life.  In order to effect change for a greater number of people, she decided to attend law school and become a legal advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.  Today, Michele is one of the most well-known, respected attorneys in the field and has successfully handled thousands of matters in special education, ensuring that every child receives equal access to the high quality education to which he or she is entitled.  As a former special educator, Michele brings unique insight into the complex issues related to obtaining effective opportunities for children.

Michele is highly sought after as a speaker on special education law and policy. She has chaired many conferences, and presented on various topics in special education law at numerous conferences, including those held by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the New York State Bar Association, the Practising Law Institute, Lehigh University, and at various agencies which provide education and advocacy services.  Michele is a Past Chair of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and serves on its Board, and on the board of the Center for Learning Differences. Michele has argued and presented cases involving novel issues in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Eastern and Southern District Courts, the Appellate Division and state Supreme Court (including as lead counsel, along with Greenberg, Traurig, in the landmark decision of Mr. and Mrs. A v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Educ. (S.D.N.Y. 2011), holding that the exercise of rights under IDEA cannot be made to depend on the financial means of a disabled child’s parents, and extending the right for direct tuition payment to schools for parents without economic means, pursuant to the Burlington/Carter analysis).  She has a number of published decisions in various courts in special education and additional education-related areas of law. Michele earned her Juris Doctor Degree from Hofstra University School of Law and prior to that obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Boston University.

Currently Ms. Glasser serves as an Impartial Hearing Officer, for special education impartial due process hearings, concerning students with disabilities, for the New York City region.  

In December 2019, Ms. Glasser retired from Guercio & Guercio, LLP where she was a managing partner.  Guercio & Guercio, LLP serves as both general and labor counsel for approximately sixty (60) school districts, and other municipalities, on Long Island and in the Capitol Region. Before joining the firm, she held the position of Staff Attorney at Long Island Advocacy and Long Island Advocates, Inc. Ms. Glasser also served as an Associate Professor at Adelphi University and an Adjunct Professor at Hofstra University and Long Island University. In addition, she was appointed as the Arbitrator on various matters before the American Arbitration Association, New York Stock Exchange, and National Association of Securities Dealers.

Ms. Glasser is admitted to the New York State Bar, the Colorado Bar, and Bar of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She served as the Chairperson of the Education Law Committee at the Nassau County Bar Association from 2008 to 2011 and in October 2011 served a two-year term as a Board Trustee for the Nassau County Supreme Court Library. She has lectured on special education issues and bullying at the Annual School Law Conference held by the Suffolk & Nassau Academies of Law, and at Legal Clinics held at Hofstra University, the Practicing Law Institute, the National Business Institute, and trained arbitrators for the American Arbitration Association. Ms. Glasser graduated magna cum laude from the University of Maryland in 1977 and is a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law, Class of 1981.

Katrina Feldkamp is a Staff Attorney at Bronx Legal Services, where she fights for racial and economic equity in education. She partners with clients, families, and educators to build more supportive schools for youth impacted by childhood trauma, systemic poverty, and racially-disparate school discipline practices. She also helps lead the Bronx Healing-Centered Schools Working Group, a community group that advocates for trauma-sensitive education practices in NYC Department of Education schools. Katrina graduated from NYU School of Law and began her time at Bronx Legal Services as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. She is a proud Clevelander who loves cooking, basketball, and astronomy.

Susan Horwitz, Esq is the Supervising Attorney of the Education Law Project at The Legal Aid Society. She graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in June, 1990, and is admitted in the First Department of New York State as well as the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. Susan first joined the Legal Aid Society as a staff attorney in the Criminal Appeals Bureau and spent a year as a staff attorney in the Criminal Defense Practice before moving to the Civil Practice in January, 2003. Since that time she has represented hundreds of individuals and families who need assistance obtaining and preserving public benefits and social security disability benefits.

Since 2006, Susan has primarily focused on educational rights of students with disabilities who are living in poverty. She represents families at school meetings, mediations, and impartial hearings. Ms. Horwitz provides trainings for parents, pro bono attorneys, case handlers in other practices within The Legal Aid Society, school staff, and mental health providers on navigating the special education system, legal rules and remedies, and self-advocacy skills. In 2017, she developed, the LAS/Mt Sinai-St. Luke’s Child and Family Institute Medical-Legal Partnership. 

Susan is a long time member of COPAA and is the 2018 recipient of the American Bar Association’s Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights.