Advisory Council Bios
Gayl Brunk has more than 25 years of experience working with individuals with disabilities. For the past 13 years, she has been employed by Valley Associates for Independent Living in Harrisonburg VA. This is a Center for Independent Living serving 5 counties and 5 cities in the Shenandoah Valley area. She has assisted youth with transition planning, conducted workshops and trainings both locally and on the state level in regards to transition planning, and is a current member of the Disability Commission for the Virginia General Assembly.
Mary-Frances "Frankie" Dampier is a Transition Specialist with Chesapeake Public Schools. An Army Veteran, Dr. Dampier has 29 years of experience in education working with students from a variety of backgrounds and exceptionalities. She is passionate about transition and has a keen interest in research related to emotional and behavioral disorders.
Director, Career and Workforce Development Division, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center
Mr. James Hall is the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center’s (WWRC) Director of the Career and Workforce Development Division. He is also the Superintendent Designee of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) State Operated Program (SOP) held at WWRC. The goal of WWRC is to allow individuals with disabilities to create personal independence through employment in conjunction with the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). Prior to his arrival at WWRC, Mr. Hall was a public school administrator holding Assistant Principal positions at two different schools in Augusta County at both the high school and middle school level. Prior to his administrative positions, he worked for several years in the Fairfax County, Albemarle County, and Augusta County School Systems as a Special Education teacher. Mr. Hall holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration along with endorsements from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in the following areas: Administration and Supervision, Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, and Emotional Disabilities. Finally, Mr. Hall has a passion for equal access to employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Melissa A. Hartman is a special education and transition supervisor for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. Dr. Hartman has consulted around the country providing professional development and training on Universal Design for Learning as a member of the faculty cadre at CAST. She completed her Ed.S. and doctoral degrees at The George Washington University and has worked for over 25 years with students with disabilities and their families. She has been an adjunct professor at several local universities, teaching classes on curriculum and methods, consultation, and special education. Her work has been published in Teaching Exceptional Children magazine and Technology Tools for Students with Autism . She loves to model and share new technology with her colleagues and teachers. Professional interests include transition, technology integration, professional development, and school leadership.
Dr. Benita Holland
Family Resource Consultant Manager, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
Dr. Benita Holland is a Family Resource Consultant Manager with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). She has been with DBHDS for six years. Dr. Holland’s core responsibilities include serving as the lead for Single Point of Entry. This is the state-wide screening process for admission into an Intermediate Care Facility (ICF/IID). Additionally, Dr. Holland serves as the lead for the Children’s ICF/IID Initiative. In this role, Dr. Holland completes Level of Care Reviews, develops Family Outreach Plans, and participates in discharge planning efforts.
Scott Jones has more than 25 years work experience in the Hotel Industry. Currently General Manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Richmond. Previously managed the Tobacco Company Restaurant for 10+ years. Presently serves on the Board of the Business Opportunities for the Blind. Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired LIFE program participating business sponsor. Current Business sponsor Lead for the Virginia Department of Education / Richmond Public Schools Program Start on Success Program. Business lead for the Richmond Public Schools Work Experience Program 2016. Member of the Richmond Security Group. Current participant with the VCU Medical Center Trauma Survivors Network Peer Visitors Program.
Transition and Education Services Coordinator, Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
Martin is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor with a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Psychology from Central Connecticut State University. He has worked for over 10 combined years in both Special Education and the State Vocational Rehabilitation system to support students with disabilities in their vocational development and post-school transition. In his current role, he has the pleasure of supporting transition staff and programs serving students across the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as partnering with various stakeholders who carry a similar mission of helping all students with disabilities to achieve greater opportunity through employment.
Bob Lancaster served in a number of business and IT leadership positions at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond before retiring in March 2021. Most noteworthy however, Mr. Lancaster was deeply committed to disability inclusion efforts at the Bank. He established and chaired the Ability Beyond the Label (ABLe) employee resource network in 2011, which works to support the Bank’s goal of promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment. He led the first disability employment assessment to measure and improve the Bank’s performance in key workforce inclusion categories including strategy, culture, talent sourcing, people practices, workplace tools and accessibility, and veterans employment. The Bank earned the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Capital District Champions Award in 2016 and the Virginia Business Leadership Network (VABLN) Rising Star Award in 2017 in recognition of efforts to create a more inclusive workplace. Mr. Lancaster serves on the Board of Virginia Ability, formerly VABLN, and previously served on the Board of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond (DSAGR) from 1998 to 2006. He received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems from James Madison University and is a recent graduate of the Leadership Metro Richmond Quest Class of 2020. His daughter, Sarah, who has Down syndrome, is a 2017 graduate of VCU’s ACE-IT in College program and is actively involved in the DSAGR and the community as a self-advocate.
John McNaught has been working in the field of special education for the past fifteen years. John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond and his Master of Education Degree from James Madison University. He started his career at a residential wilderness school for at-risk youth and youth with emotional disabilities. John also worked in a public high school as a special education teacher and supervised a community based work-study program for students with disabilities. He was one of the first individuals in the state of Virginia to implement student-directed IEP meetings, and he worked diligently as an educator to bring the student’s voice to the forefront. For the past nine years, John has worked at the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center at James Madison University as a coordinator, focusing on transition and positive behavior supports. John is a founding member of the Virginia Department of Education’s I’m Determined Project and has served as the State Coordinator for the past six years. Under his leadership, I’m Determined has grown from nine pilot schools to more than 60 participating school divisions in Virginia and more than 30 states across the nation. Most recently, John was promoted to co-director of the Virginia Department of Education’s Region 5 Training and Technical Assistance Center.
Amy Miller is the Director of the Division for Academic Success at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and her Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Provider. In her current position, Amy provides disability and academic support services for health sciences students. Prior to coming to VCU, Amy worked as a Lead Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for 18 years with the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
Secondary Transition Specialist, Office of Special Education Instructional Services, Virginia Department of Education
Virginia Department of Education as a Specialist, providing technical assistance in secondary transition, graduation and diploma options, and credit accommodations: pathways to the standard diploma. Marianne serves on a number of committees and councils including The Virginia Intercommunity Transition Council, Virginia’s Collaborative for College and the Community Integration Implementation Team. Marianne started the I’m Determined project as an initiative to fulfill a recommendation from Governor Warner’s Olmstead Commission. She was appointed by both Governor Warner and Governor Kaine to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council. Marianne has been a member of the Council for Exceptional Children for the past 18 years. Marianne has served on the Executive Board for both the Virginia Division on Career Development and Transition and the Virginia Association for Career and Technical Education. She was the recipient of the Donn Brolin Award for State Leadership and Services in Transition in 2011.
Director, Services for Children and Youth, Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired
Caren E. Phipps, M.S., CVE, LPC, LMFT, is the Director of Services for Children and Youth for the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI). In this position she is responsible for ensuring that vision impaired, blind, and deafblind children and students in Virginia have the services and resources they need in order to receive an appropriate education. Ms. Phipps is also responsible for assisting with the agency’s Pre-Employment Transition programming and works closely with the Education Coordinators, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, and Workforce Specialists to provide a range of career development and work experience opportunities to students and youth. Ms. Phipps has a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and is certified nationally as a Vocational Evaluator. She has an extensive background in the area of Vocational Rehabilitation, Counseling, and Career Development. She also holds licenses in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Her passion is assisting individuals in identifying their strengths and empowering them to overcome barriers and reach their personal goals.
In what Stewart Roberson calls the “first chapter” of his career, he was a long standing, highly-regarded educational leader who has fostered relationships across the nation and around the world. An educator for over 35 years, Dr. Roberson served as a public school superintendent for 21 years. When he became chairman, president, and CEO of Moseley Architects in 2011, he observed that “public service is in his DNA,” and that he wanted his “second chapter” to include opportunities to provide leadership to an entity serving the public interest. Joining Moseley Architects, with its significant presence in public sector facility design, makes that possible. “I view my second chapter as one in which I’m able to help preserve and enhance a highly successful team focused on outstanding client service and continuous improvement,” reflected Dr. Roberson.
Janai Santiago is a native of Richmond Virginia and attended public school in Chesterfield County. She graduated from the VCU ACE-IT in College program in 2020 and received a certificate in Education. Janai did her service-learning at Linwood Holton Elementary school. Her internships and work experience include: The Art Factory, VCU Child Development Center, VMFA Early Childhood Education Center, and OCPE Office on VCU campus. Janai is a self-Advocate. She is a graduate from the Youth Leadership Academy class of 2018. She is also an active Member of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond, Virginia Board with People with Disabilities, and Jacob's Chance Organization. Janai has a love of learning and believes that education is the heart of the future. Janaie's dream is to be a Preschool teacher or a Teacher's Assistant in the public school system or daycare. JanaiI would love to impact and bring change to the kids and the school system showing them that there's no limitation on learning.
Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a father, therapist, author, professional speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur. In 2015, Ronnie developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app to help young people celebrate their strengths and feel good about themselves. Ronnie, a former special education student, is the author of Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka's New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. The author-therapist published his comic book series through Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC, a company he started in 2015.
Ronnie's early academic challenges ignited a passion within him to pursue social justice and work with youth. He has spent over eight years in the mental health and academic counseling fields and currently works as an outpatient therapist at the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck Community Services Board (MP-NNCSB). Ronnie is a graduate of Old Dominion University (2006) and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work (2014). He is an active member of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers (RABSW). Ronnie has appeared on HLN, Fox and Friends Weekend, and NBC 12 News.
Stephanie is the Employment Specialist with the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services (DBHDS), providing technical assistance for Virginia's Employment First Initiative. Stephanie holds several professional certifications, including ACRE Supported Employment, IPS Practitioner, and IPS Fidelity reviewer designations. She is a scholar practitioner in the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, specializing in Employment. Ms. Subedi is also an academic in Business Psychology, Labor Studies, and Employment Relations. She has over 20 years of both professional experience of working with individuals with disabilities in an educational and workforce setting, and lived experience, including being a parent of children with disabilities. She utilizes her passion for neurodiversity and experience in the workforce to encourage social change for inclusive, competitive employment for individuals with disabilities.
Dana Yarbrough is the mother of 19 year old Brooke who has significant physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities. Dana is the Program Leader of Family & Individual Involvement and Support projects at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at VCU. In her role, Dana directs the Center for Family Involvement and transition-related projects. Dana holds a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice, a Masters degree in Non-Profit Leadership, and in May, will graduate from The George Washington University with a masters degree in special education transition.