Advisory Council Bios
Dr. Cyndee R. Blount is currently the Chief Academic Officer for Petersburg City Public Schools and has 20 years of public educational experience while serving the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Petersburg. She has served the special education population through her numerous roles as an elementary director, principal, assistant principal, and teacher. She has experience in dual diagnosis of gifted and special education and she has a strong belief in meeting all students at their readiness level and building a personal pathway that is best suited for each student.
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.
Maurice Burton earned his bachelor's degree in Biology and master's degree in Special Education from Old Dominion University. Later, he obtained a post-master's certificate in Educational Leadership and Administration from George Washington University. Maurice has been in the field of education for over 10 years. He began his educational career teaching high school science (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc.) in a residential treatment center for adolescents with at-risk behaviors in Hampton Roads, VA. While there, his philosophy that educators must not only understand and address academic needs but social, developmental, and functional needs as well (whole-child approach) began to take hold and develop. After returning to his hometown of Richmond, VA, Maurice obtained a special education position at Thompson Middle School. The following year, he was offered and accepted the position of Compliance Coordinator at Thompson Middle. Following several years in a neighboring division at the central office level, Maurice returned to Richmond Public Schools as an Instructional Specialist.
Carolyn Cage is a native of Richmond, VA, graduate of George Wythe High School, attended Virginia Commonwealth University and completed her undergraduate work at Old Dominion University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education with a concentration in Mental Retardation. She also earned her Masters’ degree at ODU in Educational Administration, with an endorsement in Administration and Supervision PreK-12. Carolyn is a 33-year veteran of Norfolk Public Schools where she served as a special education teacher and department chair; and for 16 years she served as the district’s transition specialist. She is credited with developing innovative programs and services to facilitate and implement transition planning for students with disabilities. Carolyn has written and or served as project coordinator for several grants, has served on several local and state committees focused on curriculum development, transition services, and advocacy for students with disabilities. She has presented on various topics at the local, state and national conferences and most recently completed the fifth cohort of the Aspiring Special Education Leaders’ Academy.
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.
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.
Program Specialist, Child & Family Services, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
Malcolm King has over 30 years of experience in the development and implementation of substance abuse and mental health programs for adolescents and adults. Presently he serves as the Child and Adolescent Family Program Specialist with the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. He has also served as the Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Coordinator with DBHDS. Prior to these positions at DBHDS, he served as the Statewide Community Substance Abuse Program Supervisor and as a Treatment Program Specialist with the Department of Juvenile Justice. He received his BS and MS degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University and he is a VA state Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. He is an adjunct faculty at Virginia Union University in the School of Theology and at the University of Phoenix Richmond/VA Beach ground campus.
Bob Lancaster is a Director in Treasury and Payments Services for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Bob began his career at the Federal Reserve in 1996, and has held leadership positions in Internal Audit, Federal Reserve Information Technology and Information Security. Throughout his career, Bob has been a passionate community advocate, serving on the board of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond (DSAGR) for eight years, as well as actively engaged in numerous community service activities. In 2011, Bob established and chaired the Ability Beyond the Label (ABLe) employee resource network at the Federal Reserve, which works to support the Bank by recognizing the value that individuals with disabilities bring to the organization and promoting a diverse and inclusive work environment where employees can achieve success while feeling valued, engaged and appreciated for who they are. Bob received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems from James Madison University in 1981. He and his wife, Terri, have two daughters, Sarah and Grace. Sarah, who has Down syndrome, is a senior at Douglas Freeman High School, a self-advocate, and actively involved in the DSAGR and the community.
As Coordinator for Academic Initiatives at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Ms. Lockhart engages representatives from Virginia colleges and universities, government officials, and special interest groups to develop mutually agreeable academic policy initiatives for the Commonwealth’s higher education system. Some of her portfolio of issues includes sexual violence, disabilities access to higher education, military students, and workforce shortages. Ms. Lockhart holds a master’s degree in Political Management from The George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Virginia Tech.
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.
Irene Meier is currently the director of Special Education Instruction for Fairfax County Public Schools where she oversees all special education instruction, transition and related services for over 25,000 students with disabilities. Dr. Meier has been a special education administrator for over twenty years in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. She has also been a high school special education teacher and speech-language pathologist. Dr. Meier received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte specializing in special education law and the education of students with severe disabilities. Her areas of publication include book chapters focused on special education leadership and the education of students with severe disabilities. Dr. Meier serves as an adjunct professor at George Mason University where she has taught courses in special education leadership, law and current trends in the field of special education.
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.
Program Manager, CTI and Secondary Transition Specialist, 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.
A'Shauntae Nious graduated from Armstrong High School in 2016 with a special diploma. She learned about the VCU ACE-IT in College program through her school and started at VCU in 2017. In addition to taking classes at VCU, she has worked at the VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities and the Center for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. Some of her goals are to become a social worker and to serve as an advocate and mentor for other individuals with disabilities. A'Shauntae will graduate from VCU with a certificate of completion from the VCU School of Education in May 2019.
Director of 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.
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, NBC 12 News, Teach.com, ADD.org and Understood.org. For more information please visit www.creative-medicine.com.
Jessica Stehle, MA, CRC, is the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services’ (DARS) Pre-Employment Program Coordinator. Jessica provides statewide programmatic and administrative coordination to ensure effective service delivery of pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) to students with disabilities. Jessica works with the 30 DARS field offices to enhance and expand DARS’ Pre-ETS program. Jessica partners with students with disabilities, their families, Virginia school systems, community service providers and local, state, national and federal organizations and agencies to further opportunities for students with disabilities and promote informed decision making and successful participation in postsecondary education, training, employment and adult life. Jessica previously served as a DD Employment Resource Specialist and Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with DARS. Jessica’s experience includes coordinating and providing evidence-based services to support individuals with most significant disabilities with achieving employment and increased independence. Jessica has presented on effective vocational rehabilitation practices at the local, state and national level and is trained in person-centered thinking and planning and positive behavior supports.
Belinda White is the aunt of Troy, a graduate of VCU ACE-IT in College. After finishing his studies at VCU, Troy went on to work for Richmond Region Tourism. Belinda became his advocate during high school to locate career and college programs to accommodate his nontraditional learning skills. Belinda has attended Virginia State University with a major in geology and worked as a mineral resources geologist with Anaconda. She has been employed for the last 11 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the department of neurology as a polysomnogram technologist. Belinda is currently completing her Bachelor of Science degree in IT Management and Information Security at the University of Richmond.
Parent Representative and Director of Family Supports, VCU Partnership for People 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.