Mediators’ Biographies

Jean M. Biesecker, J.D., MSW

Jean’s family law and dispute resolution practice serves clients in the greater Philadelphia community. Her dual degree in law and social work from T.C. Williams School of Law and Virginia Commonwealth University opened the door to a family law career that spans over 30 years. The focus of her practice is non-traditional, problem-solving approaches, providing clients with support and compassion to understand legal issues and to determine solutions that will meet current needs and those of their family and children into the future. Her services include Collaborative Law, mediation and unbundled legal services.  Jean has been a Mediator and Facilitator in Special Education matters for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Office of Dispute Resolution since 2011.

Jean is passionate about her continuing work with kids and families as they adjust to the inevitable transitions of separation and divorce as well as transitions in educational settings.  Through non-court processes, she has helped hundreds of families navigate the emotional course of restructuring their parenting relationships, and countless educators and parents achieve positive results despite polarizing positions, moving from seemingly intractable positions to mutual understandings and agreements.

In addition to her private practice and as a Mediator/Facilitator in Special Education matters, she is a member of the Mainline Outreach Task Force to improve domestic violence outreach; former Leader of Second Saturday Divorce Workshop for Women and Men; a Parent Coordinator; past Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Collaborative Law Committee and past Co-Chair of the Montgomery County Bar Association Collaborative Law Committee; member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Association for Conflict Resolution, Pennsylvania Council of Mediators and Association of Family and Conciliation Courts; former Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Mediation Clinic and James Beasley School of Law’s Clinical Custody Mediation Program.

Ellen J. DeBenedetti, M.Ed.

Ellen has been a mediator since 1990. She began her career in mediation at a community mediation center and is now a mediator in private practice. She also has mediated for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, United States Postal Service, PA Department of Education (special education mediations), Key Bridge Foundation (Department of Justice ADA mediations), Transportation Security Administration and U.S. District Court Western Division and the UPMC Intermediation Program. From 1997-2010, she was the training coordinator/senior mediator at Dialogue and Resolution Center of CVVC (formerly Pittsburgh Mediation Center), where her primary responsibilities included training in conflict management, mediation, team building and diversity issues, conflict coaching, and mediating some of the more complex and multi-party mediations.

Ellen has been training mediators since 1992. Ellen has taught mediation courses at Duquesne University and California University of PA. She designed and taught the original “Methods of Resolving Conflict Course” for the Duquesne University sociology department’s certificate program in conflict resolution and peacemaking. She participated in the Pittsburgh Public Schools mediation training, co-authored the “Keys to Peaceful Conflict Resolution” curriculum and taught that curriculum as a volunteer at East Hills Elementary School. Ellen has been on the boards of the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators, The Mediation Council of Western PA and Just Meditation Pittsburgh. She is certified by the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation to be a mediator.

In addition to her career in mediation, Ellen was a special education teacher for 20 years. She views mediation as an opportunity for the people involved to have a constructive conversation and to make decisions about the issues that they face.

Barry P. Fell

Barry’s career in special education spans more than 35 years and has been primarily focused upon educational services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, infants through adults, and to students who are blind with other severe disabilities. Barry began his career at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where he first worked as a dormitory supervisor and later as a vocational counselor, parent/infant administrator, and assistant superintendent.  At the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, he served in administrative capacities involving personnel, operations, and supervision of student transportation and other related services.  From the University of Pittsburgh, Barry holds a bachelor’s degree, certification in deaf education, and a master’s degree in public administration with a certificate in personnel and labor relations. From Cornell University, Barry holds a certificate in collective bargaining.  Barry received his mediation training from the Good Shepard Mediation Center in Philadelphia.

Barbara Foxman, M.S.W.

Barbara Foxman is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and mediator. She specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents with special needs including learning differences, issues of bereavement and loss, and the impact of divorce on children and adults. She has worked with schools for educational planning of the children that she sees. Ms. Foxman has also worked as a therapist with children and their families at Southern Home for Children in Philadelphia, the Devereux Foundation, Bryn Mawr Hospital (youth and family psychotherapy program), and in private practice. Ms. Foxman mediates in school settings for special education, elder mediation, family, divorce, EEOC matters including ADA issues, and community mediation. Ms. Foxman has presented workshops on values and ethics for social workers, ethics in health care, and ethical standards for mediators.  She has been a trainer for elder mediation, conflict resolution in various settings including hospitals, peer mediation in schools, and in community settings.  She has also made presentations on areas of loss, bereavement, and health care issues for court-mandated custody programs, and in other health care settings. Ms. Foxman has a master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University and has been a mediator and therapist for over 25 years.

Thomas Frost

Mr. Frost is a special education mediator for the Office for Dispute Resolution. He has been active in the field of special education for over 35 years.  He served as a special education mediator in the State of New Jersey for 15 years.  He is certified as a special education mediator by the Atlanta Justice Center. He has served as a director of special education in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Frost holds degrees from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Southern Connecticut University and Rowan University.  Mr. Frost recently retired from an intermediate unit where he served as a professional development specialist working with parents and school staff.  Mr. Frost facilitated a local task force on the right to education for four years.  He also served as a county interagency coordinator bringing together mental health agencies and school districts to support individual student’s education as appropriate and necessary.

Nancy Geist Giacomini, Ed.D.

Dr. Giacomini is a private mediator, educator, consultant and author with an international practice based out of Chester County, PA. Longtime advocacy for integrated conflict management options in education culminated in her co-edited publication Reframing Campus Conflict: Student Conduct Practice through a Social Justice Lens (Stylus 2009). She has enjoyed featured national speaking engagements, multi-day mediation training and webinar series development, and systems-level consultation based on the ideas collaboratively advanced in this groundbreaking publication. In addition, she is a conflict management faculty member, subject matter expert and dissertation chair for Sullivan University (KY) and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Conflict Management.

Dr. Giacomini’s interest in campus justice and conflict resolution began at the University of Delaware while assistant dean of students responsible for student conduct administration. Over a decade of campus leadership included multi-year roles chairing and advising the inaugural student mediation committee, appellate judicial board, council for student judicial affairs and sexual assault awareness weeks. She was also responsible for providing direct support to students, families and faculty related to conflict, crisis, and disability. Nancy’s leadership extended beyond campus to include nearly three decades of service in the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA). She enjoyed roles as elected president, conference and training institute chair, foundation board member, conflict resolution task force and diversity task force strategic planning member, and community of practice for women founder/chair. Nancy was awarded the prestigious institutional award for women’s equity for campus advocacy related to diversity, access and inclusion and the ASCA Gehring award for sustained leadership.

After leaving her role as assistant dean, Nancy completed her doctor of education degree at the University of Delaware (2001) while serving as a Conflict Resolution Program (CRP) Associate in the institute for public administration. She taught in the master’s degree program, mediated special education disputes for the Delaware Department of Education, and facilitated statewide dialogue related to dispute resolution in special education. Doctoral research, “Enhancing the Collaborative Capacity of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in Delaware Schools”, helped shape sustained state-wide IEP facilitation and training. Nancy completed additional degrees in counseling and psychology and holds basic and advanced certificates across a spectrum of dispute resolution processes including IEP and group facilitation, conflict coaching, mediation, restorative victim/offender conferences and higher education due process hearings. She is certified to administer the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) and teach Becoming Conflict Competent curriculum developed by Eckerd College.

Dr. Giacomini’s practice is rooted in educational, restorative and social justice values and informed by a thorough working knowledge of the legal mandates and case precedents that shape due process rights in special and higher education.

Lou Ann Gray

Lou Ann has a number of years of experience as a mental health counselor and supervisor and 13 years’ experience as a mediator. She has served as a faculty member/ counselor in higher education and motivational speaker and is a certified guidance counselor K-12 with 18 years of public education experience concentrating in special and alternative education services. In addition to her private counselor and mediation practice, Lou Ann is a mediator and IEP facilitator for the Office for Dispute Resolution in Harrisburg, U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania, a neutral third-party mediator for UPMC’s intermediation program, a mediator and coparenting counselor/ expert witness in several commonwealth jurisdictions and is a nationally certified parenting coordinator. Ms. Gray is a member of The Pennsylvania Council of Mediators, and The Professional Academy of Custody Evaluators. In addition, Ms. Gray is certified in Restorative Practices. As the former coordinator of crisis intervention services at The Open Door in Indiana, PA for Armstrong and Indiana Counties, Ms. Gray applied for and received a competitive grant through The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to coordinate a program instructing students and faculty members grade K-8 in alternative dispute resolution skills. This program, The Positive Presence Program, is currently being offered in the Apollo Ridge School District. Ms. Gray received a copyright for this program.

Jean Lupariello, Esquire

Jean M. Lupariello is an Attorney/Mediator with a private practice in mediation and collaborative law.  She has been a court –appointed mediator in the custody department of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas for the past 19 years and has been appointed as a Parenting  Coordinator and a Guardian Ad Litem by the Family Court judges on many cases.  She is also a contract mediator for the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.  Attorney Lupariello has spent many years representing families in Juvenile Court where she is involved with the agencies and resources ordered for children with special needs. She also attends and provides input at IEP meetings as an Educational Guardian for dependent children.  As a Special Education Mediator with the Office for Dispute Resolution, Attorney Lupariello participates in ongoing training to expand her knowledge about special education and the regulations that ensure a child’s right to a free and appropriate public education.  She has been a special education mediator with the Office for Dispute Resolution since 2007.

Dr. Constance Lyttle, Esquire


Since 1976, Constance has been actively involved in all areas of special education dispute resolution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, serving as a tenured associate professor of special education (10 years) at Duquesne University; a school district attorney, as an associate in the law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart; a collaborative special education parent attorney and school district attorney, mediator, facilitator and resolution coach in private practice; a PA special education hearing officer (seven years); and, a PA special education appeals panel hearing officer (13 years).

Dr. Lyttle is currently an associate clinical professor at Drexel University, having created the collaborative special education law and process master’s and doctoral special education leadership concentration, including, but not limited to special education advocacy and early special education dispute resolution skills training; while serving as a PA special education mediator, IEP/IFSP facilitator and resolution meeting facilitator.

Dr. Vicki McGinley

Dr. McGinley was trained in the early 1990s in Conflict Resolution, specifically Mediation through the Atlanta Justice Center and as a Due Process Hearing Officer through the Office for Dispute Resolution in Pennsylvania. She has practiced in both capacities since, specifically Mediation in Pennsylvania and Due Process in the State of Delaware. Added to that work is her ongoing past work as a Due Process Hearing officer for both special education and gifted cases, a University Fact Finder for discrimination and harassment cases brought forth at the university level, and her more recent present work as an IEP Facilitator through the Office for Dispute Resolution and Ombudsperson and Mediator for West Chester University.

She received her BA from the University of Pittsburgh in Secondary Education/English, and her M.Ed. and Ph.D. from Temple University in Special Education. She has added much professional development for her work, such as in legal issues in special education, restorative justice, technology, and communication disorders to name a few. Past professional work includes teaching in the K-12 classroom, in-home, and school therapeutic work and supervision. When not involved in Conflict Resolution, Dr. McGinley can be found training future teachers at West Chester University. She teaches courses in Legal Issues in Special Education, Family Systems, and Behavior Management among others.

Volunteer work has included Mediation, as well as serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the PA Council of Mediators.

She is passionate about supporting settlement agreements in Mediation as she believes this is the best outcome for Dispute Resolution.

Gerald Powers, Ed., D., Professor Emeritus

Dr. Powers has over 55 years’ experience in special education (1964 to present). This experience included elementary and secondary classroom teaching, program supervision, administration, undergraduate and graduate teaching, grant reviews, LEA program evaluations, grant mentorships, mediations, IEP facilitations, and resolution conferences.  Dr. Powers served two terms on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Speech and Hearing Licensure Board (chairman twice) and 13 years on the Bloomsburg Area District School Board (president twice).

Dr. Powers served as the primary advisor/mentor of over 200 graduate degree research projects in special education. He has reviewed over 400  personnel preparation grants for OSEP funding and he has mentored over 60 OSEP grant applications for the Monarch Project.  Dr. Powers has also performed compliance reviews/ monitoring of over 170  LEA programs in special education for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education.

Dr. Powers was trained in mediation by the Justice Center of Atlanta.  Following this training, Dr. Powers conducted over 300 special education mediations, 35  IEP facilitations, and five resolution meeting facilitations.

Dr. Powers has an undergraduate degree in history/pre-law from the University of Massachusetts (1962), a master’s degree in special education from the University of New Hampshire (1965), and an earned doctorate in special education administration from the University of Northern Colorado (1971).

Dr. Powers completed over 28 years as a professor in special education at Bloomsburg University. Dr. Powers was awarded professor emeritus status from Bloomsburg University in 1999.

Jane Rigler, Esquire

Jane Rigler was a law school faculty member, for 27 years, with a professional interest in labor negotiation, mediation, and civil rights. She has been an arbitrator, mediator, facilitator, and fact-finder, in a wide variety of cases, for more than 35 years and joined the ODR’s roster of mediators early in 2015.  Her residence is in Carlisle.​


Janice G. Seidenfeld

Janice G. Seidenfeld has been a mediator since 1993.  Janice has contracted with the Office for Dispute Resolution since 2000, for whom she is a special education mediator and facilitator.  In her private practice, she mediates family, divorce, custody, elder, business, community, and victim offender (adult and juvenile) issues. Janice serves as a mediator for the Key Bridge Foundation (Department of Justice ADA mediations), U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the Office of Victim Advocates for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Janice is on the board of the Mediation Council of Western PA and volunteers at the Center for Victims.  She received a master’s degree in special education from Teacher’s College, Columbia University in New York after which she taught neurologically and emotionally-impaired elementary students in New York City.

Marty Thomas-Brumme

Marty Thomas-Brummé has a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Mansfield University, a Master’s of Education in Counseling from Millersville University, and has completed the coursework for a Ph.D. in Psychoeducational Processes at Temple University. He has extensive mediation training through the Justice Center of Atlanta (Special Education Mediation Training, IEP Facilitation), Good Shepherd Mediation Center (Basic Mediation Training), U.S. Postal Service (USPS REDRESS Mediation Training), the Municipal Court of Philadelphia (Landlord/Tenant Mediation Training), Zena Zumeta (Divorce and Custody Mediation Training) and the Mennonite Central Committee (Victim Offender Mediation Training).  He continues his education through participation in ongoing trainings in Special Education Mediation and IEP facilitation.   He also started and directed a community mediation center and has taught training sessions on basic mediation and conflict resolution skills throughout the state. Mr. Thomas-Brumme has a variety of life experiences including managing a homeless shelter, running a training center for a national school dropout prevention organization, working in higher education, and living and traveling in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. He has been a mediator with the Pennsylvania Office for Dispute Resolution since1987.

Judy Tobe, M.A.

Judy Tobe is a mediator, facilitator, conflict coach and speech pathologist. Judy became a mediator in 2000 and has since mediated over 1,000 cases involving educational, employment, workplace, and discrimination disputes. In addition to mediating and facilitating cases for the Office for Dispute Resolution since 2008, she has served as a mediator for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. In addition to her career as a mediator, Judy holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Judy has attended and participated in numerous advanced mediation trainings in the past 16 years including all special education training offered by the Office for Dispute Resolution.

Max Wald, Ed.D.

Max Wald, Ed.D. has served as a teacher, school principal at both the elementary and secondary school level, director of special education, college professor, hearing officer, and mediator.  Dr. Wald earned all of his degrees at Temple University where he also taught and supervised student teachers.  He served as a principal in the School District of Philadelphia, Colonial School District and the Cherry Hill School District.  He was a director at the Woods Schools and the Pathway School.  He has taught at Temple University, Arcadia University, and at the University of Leicester in England.  Dr. Wald received a research fellowship in rehabilitation psychology at the Moss Rehabilitation Hospital and is certified as a teacher and supervisor of special education.  He served as a hearing officer with the Office for Dispute Resolution for nine years and is currently a trained mediator. He is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a family mediator.

Okima Williams Amaya, Ph.D.

Dr. Okima Williams Amaya, Ph.D. has practice conflict resolution and crisis management for over 25 years. Dr. Amaya’s dissertation was conducted in conjunction with the Office for Dispute Resolution which investigated Participant Satisfaction in Mediation in the realm of Special Education. Dr. Amaya was been trained by the Atlanta School of Conflict Resolution in mediation and has participated and conducted trainings in conflict resolution and Crisis Intervention for Behavioral Health Agencies. Dr. Amaya has been a Special Education Mediator under contract with ODR since 1998, and has participated in diverse seminars on IDEA regulations, international and cultural competency in mediation, and crisis management in mediation.  Dr. Amaya has conducted over 200 mediations for the PA Office of Dispute Resolution.

Dr. Amaya also has been trained in IEP and IFSP facilitation.  In addition, Dr. Amaya has a Master’s degree in Psychology from West Chester, University and has over 30 years of experience working with consumers and their families from diverse backgrounds and settings.  Dr. Amaya‘s background includes working in the following facilities: Community Mental Health Center as a counselor/therapist; Wrap Around Services Agencies as a Behavior Health Consultant and Mobile Therapist working with children who have Special Needs. Dr. Amaya worked in conjunction with the PA Department of Public Welfare providing Medical Case management Services to children and adults through the Michael Dallas Waiver program for 6 years.

Dr. Amaya has a strong background in working scenarios that involve children and families who possess complicated medical, behavioral, and educational components, as well as addressing the needs of all parties, and has an overall agreement rate of 90 percent.