The Wall Street Journal calls Chad Hymas “one of the 10 most inspirational people in the world!” Chad inspires, motivates, and moves audiences, creating an experience that touches hearts for a lifetime. He is one of the youngest ever to receive the Council Of Peers Award For Excellence (CPAE) and to be inducted into the prestigious National Speaker Hall Of Fame. In 2001, at the age of 27, Chad’s life changed in an instant when a 2,000-pound bale of hay shattered his neck leaving him a quadriplegic. But Chad’s dreams were not paralyzed that day – he became an example of what is possible.Chad is a bestselling author, president of his own Communications Company, Chad Hymas Communications, Inc., and is a recognized world-class wheelchair athlete. In 2003, Chad set a world record by wheeling his chair from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas (513 miles). Chad’s speaking career in the areas of leadership, team building, customer service, and mastering change has brought him multiple honors. He is the past president of the National Speakers Association Utah chapter and a member of the exclusive elite Speakers Roundtable (one of twenty of the world’s top speakers). As a member of the National Speakers Association, Chad travels as many as 300,000 miles a year captivating and entertaining audiences around the world
Rick Guidotti, an award winning photographer, worked in NYC, Milan, Paris and London for a variety of high profile clients including Yves St Laurent, Revlon and L’Oreal. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines and journals as diverse as GQ, People, the American Journal of Medical Genetics, The Lancet, Spirituality and Health, the Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly and LIFE Magazine.
Rick founded POSITIVE EXPOSURE after a chance encounter in 1997 with a young lady living with albinism at a bus stop in New York City. As an artist, Rick was taken by her extraordinary beauty. In a quest for a better understanding of albinism, Rick sought out medical textbooks, where he was affronted by the dehumanizing images depicting disease, lacking all humanity. It was this experience which forced Rick to turn his lens from the more traditional ideas of beauty, to the beauty and richness of human diversity.
Tom D'Eri is the Co-Founder and COO of Rising Tide Car Wash a social enterprise that employs over 80 individuals with autism in a successful car wash business. He is also the Co-Founder of Rising Tide U an organization dedicated to teaching others how to create better organizational systems by designing for extreme users. Tom is a Forbes 30Under30 social entrepreneur, an Uncharted Fellow and a Startingbloc Fellow.
David B. Rubin, Esq., is an attorney in private practice in Metuchen, NJ, and of counsel to The Busch Law Group. David represents public school districts and private schools throughout New Jersey, as well as numerous NAPSEC-affiliated private schools. He is a graduate of Duke University and Rutgers Law School, and has argued numerous precedent-setting cases generating over 50 published opinions from the state and federal courts. He is a former Chair of the National School Boards Association’s 3000-member Council of School Attorneys, a former President of the New Jersey Association of School Attorneys and a frequent author and lecturer in the field of education law. Further information available at www.rubinlaw.net.
Dr. Danielle Taylor, Psy.D is a licensed psychologist and a certified school psychologist who has worked in public and private schools and clinical settings across the Northeast. Before serving as the Assistant Executive Director at Spectrum360, Dr. Taylor led Clinical Services at The Y.A.L.E. School and Pineland Learning Center. Her person-centered, outcomes-based approach has laid the framework for these and various other programs to improve in meaningful ways. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Hartwick College and an M.S. in Educational Psychology and Statistics, a doctorate in School Psychology from the University at Albany, and NJDOE Supervisor certification through Montclair State University.
Ken Berger is a seasoned executive with decades of leadership and direct service experience. He has recently focused on leading special needs agencies and has also worked in positions focused on positively transforming the entire social sector. He's an active speaker, teacher, and writer on a wide range of issues of concern to the social sector. He also works on behalf of the social sector as a Leap Ambassador, a community of thought leaders who believe that mission and performance are inextricably linked.
Jen McNally is a director of mental health and wellness, psychotherapist, and a national speaker who has dedicated her career to helping empower others. Her work emphasizes the importance of maintaining productive mental health in a holistic fashion, inside and out of the workplace. She consults nationally on helping private and public institutions implement effective strategies to promote engagement in the workplace and minimize professional burnout. Jen's a dynamic and relatable presenter who empowers everyone in the audience with her stories and personable demeanor.
Rory is the Chief Operating Officer for a nonprofit school who’s mission is solving critical problems in education and human services. Rory has been in the field of special education for 17 years first as a paraprofessional, then a special education teacher, principal, and now serving in his current role. He recently completed his Doctorate in Educational Leadership and completed his dissertation on how funding allocations impact staff retention in low-income areas. He sits on multiple Illinois state commissions and is involved at the state level in both Illinois and Arizona. He has taken on initiatives within the organization which focus on hiring and staff retention best practices.
Joelle Rossi has been in the field of special education for 27 years; twenty-five in the classroom and the last two as a lead teacher at Archbishop Damiano In Westville, NJ. She is currently in her principal internship and slated to complete her Masters in Administration this spring. She is a site-reviewer and a member of the Process and Standards Committees for NCASES. She is very actively involved in her school on many committees, leads in planning many school events, active in her community and volunteers with her town’s basketball program. She loves spending family time camping, travelling, playing games and going to the beach with her husband of 23 years, 21 year old daughter, 18 and 17 year old sons, and rescue dog.
Kim Kuruzovich is the co-founder and board vice-chair of Learning Independence for Tomorrow, better known as LiFT, located in Florida. LiFT serves neurodiverse learners from ages 5 and beyond with a K-12 program, a transition program, an adult day program and 3 micro-businesses. Kim has spent the last 40 years working within special education. She has two adult children, Matt age 28 and Gina age 26. Gina has Autism and Developmental Delays and is one of the driving forces behind starting LiFT.
Sue McLendon has been in the educational field for 22 years, serving Maryland children with special needs in the classroom, as a school administrator, and now as an Associate Vice-President of Arrow Child & Family Ministries. She holds degrees in Psychology and Special Education, and further endorsement in Instructional Leadership. Sue lives with her husband Mark in Maryland, and enjoys her time with family and curling up with a good book. The passion that drives her each day is knowing that all students are worthy of the very best of services, and she loves being continually surprised at her students’ resilience and gifts.
Thomas K. Hyatt is a partner in Dentons’ Washington, DC office and serves as co-chair of the US Nonprofit Entities practice. He focuses on corporate, nonprofit regulatory, and tax-exempt organization issues for nonprofit organizations.
Tom is widely known for his work on behalf of health care organizations and nonprofit public and private universities and colleges and institutionally related foundations.
A substantial portion of Tom's practice involves counselling nonprofit organizations on governance and transactional matters. He frequently works with nonprofit governing boards and board committees to address such issues as regulatory compliance, fiduciary duty, conflicts of interest, bylaws development and revision, senior management compensation and benefits, CEO transition, succession planning, fundraising, lobbying and political campaign activity, board development, membership matters, policy development, corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. He also makes educational presentations and serves as an advisor to boards of directors on current issues, conducts in-service training and facilitates board discussions and retreats.
Harry Schaeffer is mostly retired but still open to doing some consulting work. Prior to retirement Harry spent over 35 years in senior leadership at an organization that provides services to individuals with significant developmental disabilities and medically complex. Programs offered include Early Intervention, School, Adult Day, and Group Homes for children and adults. Harry’s responsibilities included operational oversight of all programs and services, budget development, strategic planning, quality assurance and quality improvement. He is an NCASES site reviewer.
Danielle Johnson has served as Executive Director and CEO of NAPSEC since 2018. She leads the organization’s advocacy efforts in shaping public policy to positively impact individuals served in member programs while supporting the growth of a collaborative membership network of nonpublic special education and adult service programs. Danielle is a government relations professional and former congressional staffer with a decade of experience working with elected officials and private sector clients in Washington, DC. She has counseled heads of state and cabinet-level officials and has played a leadership role in directing influential advocacy campaigns for education, human rights, and global health issues. She holds a master’s degree in diplomacy from Norwich University, a graduate certificate in intelligence studies from American Military University, and a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina.
David Stone, Ed.D. is the Assistant Vice President of Operations for Special Education at the Kennedy Krieger Schools. Dr. Stone has 32 years of experience in the field of special education, both as a teacher and an administrator, for students ranging from Pre-K to grade 12. He holds Doctorate in Education from Johns Hopkins University, with a focus on special education finance. He has Maryland teacher certification in special education grades 1-8 and 6-12, as well as school administration, including a superintendent endorsement. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Stone worked with his State organization (MANSEF) and the Maryland Department of Education (MSDE) by designing a Compensation Survey administered every four years to all MANSEF schools since 2012 and by serving on MSDE workgroups examining Salary Parity with public school teachers over the past year. Previously, Dr. Stone was Director of Charter Schools for Baltimore City Schools. In addition, he served as Vice Chairman of the Baltimore City School Board for nine years. He lives in downtown Baltimore with his wife and three sons.
Brooke Kafonek is the Director of School Business Operations for the School Programs at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been with Kennedy Krieger Institute for 26 years and with their School programs for the last 15 of those 26 years. Ms. Kafonek has a MBA with a concentration in Finance from Loyola University Maryland.
Melissa (she/her/hers) is a biracial Black mother, wife, educator, and proud native of Pittsburgh. She has worked across DC and Maryland in the field of special education for 17+ years mostly within nonpublic/specialized K-12 schools and spent 8 of those years as a principal. She is currently Melissa is an educational consultant and co-founder for her non-profit Mindworks Collaborative. She also serves as adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University while she is ABD in her Doctorate program. Melissa’s research interest includes Restraint and Seclusion Practices, Teacher & Administrator Wellbeing, and Education Policy.
Melissa earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was a member of the women’s basketball team. She obtained her Master’s degree in Special Education, with a specialty in teaching students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and transition services, from George Washington University. Melissa holds professional certifications in Special Education and Leadership in Maryland, participated in the MASEF Leadership Academy, travelled abroad to Anger, France as a missionary, and serves on the Board of Directors for several charter schools and non-profit organizations. She resides in Maryland with her husband and children and loves to connect with others doing this work.