National Urban Special Education Leadership Initiative

An education Doctoral Program for Urban Leadership in Special Education

Advisory Board

2015 | 2012 | 2006

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Dr. James Carter

Dr. James Carter became Superintendent of Greene County Schools in June 2015. His career in education spans over 40 years.

A native of Courtland, Alabama, Dr. Carter received his Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, AA Certification, Ed.S., and Ed.D. in education. He was selected as one of the top 25 educators that graduated from Alabama State University. Chose three times as district Superintendent of the year and elected President as School Superintendent of Alabama.

Dr. Carter served on the SSA Board for over 17 years and CLAS Board of Directors for over 20 years. He was chosen as the US Congressional Black Caucus National Leadership Award recipient for three consecutive years. Additionally, Dr. Carter has served on College for Every Student Board of Directors, and as the Vice-Chairman of the Board; National Consultant related to effective leadership in the public schools, and Superintendent of Schools in Selma City.


Dr. Johni Cruse Craig

Dr. Johni Cruse Craig, Ed.D., is the national Project Director of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign (DTEC), a national initiative which aims to enhance student achievement by focusing on improving teacher effectiveness. She is leading the national effort to conduct teacher effectiveness training throughout the nation and coordinating "Call to Action" Town Hall Advocacy Sessions in 40 communities, where teachers, parents, administrators, community residents, the business community and other key stakeholder will join forces to determine actions needed to ensure teacher effectiveness and student achievement. She has extensive experience in leadership development, particularly in teacher efficacy. Throughout her 19-year career as an educator, she has held various key roles: classroom teacher, teacher effectiveness facilitator, curriculum and instruction specialist, assessment and data analysis leader, and process improvement and performance management leader. She has also performed duties related to professional learning and development, relationship development and organizational development. (-)

Dr. Anna Diaz

Since June of 2004 year Dr. Diaz has served as the Associate Superintendent of Exceptional Education and Multilingual Services for Orange County Public Schools. She oversees programs for over 64,000 students. Prior to that, she was the Executive Area Director for the West Learning Community for Orange County Public Schools. She was born Anna Angelica Delgado in Brooklyn, New York, on October 2, 1959. Her grandfather, from Yauco, Puerto Rico moved to New Jersey where he was a tomato picker. He later brought his wife and seven children to settle in New York. Dr. Diaz was the first of her family to graduate from college. Since 2013, Dr. Diaz serves as one of five area superintendents in Orange County Public Schools. (-)

Dr. Bill East

Bill East, Ed.D. is the Executive Director for the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), a membership organization representing states and federal jurisdictions responsible for implementing the IDEA. Dr. East provides leadership for the Alexandria, Virginia based organization that focuses on partnerships for assisting states to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Dr. East career includes work as a high school teacher/coach, administrator in a state mental health facility, adjunct professor in higher education, and several roles within the Alabama Department of Education. He has worked on special education policy issues for years as Alabama's state director of special education and in his current role at NASDSE. Dr. East is the principal investigator for the IDEA Partnership and co-principal investigator for the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities, two OSEP-funded centers. Additionally, he has key roles in the National Center for Systemic Improvement. He has a strong interest and commitment for promoting communities of practice, response to intervention, teacher/administrator quality and programs in transition and low incidence disabilities. (-)

Dr. Jillian Gourwitz

Jillian Gourwitz, Ph.D., is the Director of Special Education for Global Psychological Services and an adjunct professor for the Project ASD graduate and certificate program at UCF. Dr. Gourwitz has worked as an exceptional student education teacher in K-12 settings, served as the Project Coordinator of the National Urban Special Education Leadership Initiative, and has served as the director of special education for an urban school district in Michigan. She completed her Bachelor’s of Arts degree at Michigan State University in the areas of Special Education, with a focus on Learning Disabilities, and Elementary Education. She completed her Master's in Education degree and Doctorate in Philosophy degree at the University of Central Florida (UCF), both with a concentration in the area Autism. Additionally, Dr. Gourwitz has co-authored articles on preparing urban special education leaders, mentoring doctoral scholars, and quality indicators for classrooms serving students with Autism. She has conducted numerous national, state, and local presentations concerning preparation of urban Special Education leaders and implementing evidence-based practices for students with Autism. (-)

Dr. H. William (Bill) Heller

Dr. H. William (Bill) Heller is currently Dean and Professor of the College Education and Director of the Bishop Center for Ethical Leadership and Civic Engagement at the University of South Florida St Petersburg (USFSP). Prior to these appointments, Dr. Heller served as CEO and Dean of the USFSP from 1992 - 2002 and as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2006 - 2010 representing House District 52. He holds a doctorate in Special Education and School Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. In addition to his extensive University experience, Dr. Heller also served at the federal level as a Branch Chief and Division Director for the Division of Personnel Preparation for the Handicapped within the US Office of Education (now the U.S. Department of Education). Dr. Heller currently serves as a Board Member for Family Resources, Suncoast Hospice Institute, St. Petersburg Preservation, the Advisory Board for Tampa Bay Watch, Chair the Pinellas Cultural Foundation, Inc. and is Treasurer of the St. Petersburg College's Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. He is an Honorary Life Member of the Great Exploration's Board and is a Board member Emeritus of the Mahaffey Theater Foundation. Dr. Heller is a veteran of the U. S. Army serving as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division. He and Jeanne have been married for 60 years; have one son and two daughters and three grandchildren. (-)

Dr. Bambi J. Lockman

Dr. Bambi J. Lockman currently serves as an Educational Policy Consultant for the Office of Early Learning, Florida Department of Education. She is also the President and CEO of Mag7 Consulting, LLC. From 2011- 2014 she was the Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services for Volusia County School District, Florida. Within her scope of work, she was responsible for the planning and coordination of PreK-12 curriculum and school improvement programs; federal and state grant funded programs, assessment and accountability, professional development, career technical education, online learning, alternative education, athletics and safety as well as exceptional student education and student support services. (-)

Dr. Joyce Little

Dr. Joyce Little began her special education career as a speech/language pathologist teaching students with language disabilities. For over seven years, she also worked as a diagnostic expert, identifying students' disabilities and defining the programs necessary to serve their individual needs. She also worked on special education program audits in multiple school districts in California.

The scope of Dr. Little's forty plus years experience in education is extensive and includes administering local special education programs in Northern and Southern California school districts. For over ten years, she applied her analytical talents and facilitation skills to promote organizational change within these districts. The results of her work positively affected special education programs through dramatically improved communication and coordinated decision-making at the program director and coordinating agency levels.

Her commitment led to improved delivery of service to students through the initiation of Special Education Leadership Teams. The Teams were comprised of teachers, principals, and aides who continuously reviewed and revised processes and procedures within districts for special education programs.

To foster positive patent involvement and participation, she established and improved thriving Community Advisory Committees (CACs) to focus on the development and implementation of dynamic parent information and training opportunities.

In addition to teaching at all levels, from preschool programs to high school, as well as graduate level courses for a National University, she has worked for districts as a fund-raiser and grant writer, and developed award winning school business partnerships.

Together with her husband and partner, Doug Little, Joyce developed the Facilitated IEP Meeting process. Since 1998, she has trained over 14,000 people through her companies JDL Associates, and now Key2Ed. Key2Ed also provides training in educational leadership, and provides to districts and state education agencies, studies and audits in the area of special education. In 2010, Key2Ed founded the Upper Cumberland Education Leadership Academy and Joyce designed and provided training in education leadership through the Academy to rural districts in Tennessee.

She also serves as the External Evaluator for the National Urban Special Education Leadership Initiative (NUSELI) at University of Central Florida, and is part of the National Faculty. She also serves as the External Evaluator for the Urban Special Education Leadership Training (USELT) for Drexel University.

A native Californian, Dr. Little holds the following degrees from the University of Southern California: Ed.D in Education Policy and Administration; M.A. in Communicative Disorders; and B.A. in Political Science. She also holds multiple teaching certificates and educational administration certificates. (-)

Jennifer Porter-Smith

Coming soon. (-)

Dr. Deborah Ziegler

Deborah A. Ziegler is the Director for Policy and Advocacy and Professional Standards at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), one of the world's premier education organizations.

She has broad public policy experience at the international, national, state, and local levels.Dr. Ziegler works to further the overall goals of CEC through improving policies affecting exceptional children and youth and the professionals who work with them, at all levels of government. In her position, she is responsible for providing leadership and direction for the association's public policy agenda, including policy development, implementation, and analysis; information collection and dissemination; and maintaining a grassroots network of Children and Youth Action Network (CAN ) Coordinators. She works closely with the White House, the United States Congress, and the Federal Agencies including the U.S. Department of Education to advocate for policies that guarantee a free appropriate public education for children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents.

Dr. Ziegler serves on the board of and works with several international disability organizations, whose focus is the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is the recent editor of Inclusion for ALL: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a publication of the IDEA program of the Open Society Institute. Dr. Ziegler has worked since 1994 in providing technical assistance and training on behalf of the Open Society Institute and other nongovernmental/governmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East to assist programs in implementing policies and practices in early childhood education and inclusive education for children with disabilities.

Dr. Ziegler has worked as a special education teacher, special education administrator and faculty at the university level. She has consulted widely and written extensively in the policy arena. (-)

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