Stakeholder Council Member Bios
Cindy Duch is the Director of Parent Advising for the PEAL Center, Pennsylvania’s Parent Training and Information Center. Ms. Duch is active in the Allegheny County (AIU3) Local Task Force (LTF) and was a previous Chairperson for that LTF. Cindy graduated from Robert Morris University with a BSBA in Economics. Cindy lives in Hampton Township in Allegheny County with her husband and two sons.
Gifted Education and Enrichment Coordinator for Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13. A primary focus of her role at the IU is to coordinate Student Enrichment Experiences (SEE Seminars) for gifted students in public and nonpublic schools. SEE Seminars offer a wide variety of topics and in-depth learning opportunities that are not readily available in the classroom. The interactive nature of the seminars allows students to become acquainted and exchange ideas with their peers from other schools as well as local experts. In addition to serving gifted students, IU 13 supports educators of the gifted through the Gifted Network. Janice facilitates collaborative experiences and professional development for teachers in the Lancaster and Lebanon area and works to provide live video streaming of these experiences across the state of Pennsylvania. A member of PAGE and the PAIU Gifted Liaisons, Janice works to strengthen an understanding of Chapter 16 and the special needs of gifted learners in the classroom.
Nancy Geist Giacomini, Ed.D.
Dr. Giacomini is a mediator, educator and advocate for integrated conflict management systems. She has mediated for the PA Office for Dispute Resolution for 8+ years. Before that she mediated special education disputes for the Conflict Resolution Program at the University of Delaware while earning her doctorate in educational leadership, with research building IEP collaboration. Nancy is a subject matter expert, policy consultant and thought leader advancing socially just, restorative conflict resolution initiatives in education. She teaches graduate online courses with Sullivan and St. Bonaventure Universities in conflict, diversity, HR and restorative justice.
Dr. Giacomini is an expert practitioner certified across a spectrum of options as a mediator, victim-offender conference facilitator, conflict coach and due process administrator. She provided national leadership in the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) creating professional development opportunities as conference chair, summer institute chair and faculty member. She championed conflict resolution across adjudication tracks, introduced restorative justice, and incorporated inclusive excellence into mediation curriculum. Nancy was an elected association president, founded the Community of Practice for Women, and served on the Foundation Board and Diversity Task Force. She is also a member of the International Ombudsperson Association, PA Council of Mediators, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) and ACPA-College Student Educators International. Nancy is a published author and Journal of Conflict Management (JOCM) editorial board member. Her 2009 co-edited publication Reframing Campus Conflict: Student Conduct Practice Through a Social Justice Lens is under revision for a ten year anniversary release.
Mary Beth Gustafson, Ed.D.
Dr. Mary Beth (Betsy) Gustafson is the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education in the Pocono Mountain School District in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gustafson has worked in the Pocono Mountain School District for 22 years as an IST teacher, Educational Consultant, Assistant Principal, and Assistant Superintendent for Special Education. She is an Adjunct Professor for Wilkes University and East Stroudsburg University teaching graduate courses in special education. Dr. Gustafson has presented at numerous state and local conferences on a variety of topics in the field of special education. In addition to her job responsibilities and teaching responsibilities, Dr. Gustafson serves as member on the local Special Education Task Force and the Educational Resources for Children with Hearing Loss (ERCHL) advisory committees. Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Special Education, Master of Education Degree, Reading Specialist Certification, Special Education Supervisory Certification, Principal Certification, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. Dr. Gustafson lives with her husband, Ken, in East Stroudsburg, PA and has a daughter, Jamie, who lives and works in Washington, DC.
Mrs. Luz Hernandez is the founding Executive Director of HUNE located in Philadelphia, PA since 1998. HUNE assists families of children with disabilities and youth with disabilities in obtaining an appropriate public education and achieving their life-long educational and career goals. Mrs. Hernandez has been a member of SEAP (State Education Advisory Panel) since 2008. She received her MCGA with a concentration in Translation Studies from University of Denver, BBM from the University of Phoenix and her AS in Management from CCP. She has received several awards, including Delaware Valley’s Most Influential Latinos, Hispanics In Philanthropy and OSEP. Mrs. Hernandez lives with her husband, adult son with disabilities and two daughters in Bucks County, PA.
Jill Hrinda-Patten lives with her husband, Kirk, and her eight year old son, Rudy, in Erie, Pennsylvania. In 1991, she obtained a BA in psychology from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She is the Executive Director of a grassroots nonprofit organization, Mission Empower that she founded in 2007. Mission Empower strives to integrate all children and youth with disabilities into their schools and communities, through education, advocacy and promoting inclusion. She was honored to be a member of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education Director’s Advisory Panel for the Least Restrictive Environment(Gaskin Panel), from 2008 – 2010.
Jill has been a lifelong advocate for individuals with disabilities, including for her son and herself. She believes one of the main reasons for her success in life was due to her parents having high expectations for her and that she was included in her neighborhood school.
Christa is a mother of children with IEPs and a parent in recovery from addiction in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. She is an advocate and trainer for families raising children with special education, behavioral health, and mental health challenges. In her professional capacity, Christa is the Administrative Supervisor and Parent Advisory Board Coordinator at Allegheny Family Network (AFN) in Pittsburgh. Her life mission is to educate and advise child-serving systems about how to serve families while respecting Family Voice and Family Choice
Christa is a resident of Tarentum, PA with her children, Robert, 21, Anthony, 18, and Ruth, 15. She is a sitting member of the Local Task Force for Special Education at the AIU3, the Allegheny Valley Hospital Patient and Family Advisory Council, the Tarentum Environmental Advisory Committee, and the Highlands Partnership Network Steering Committee. Christa received her associate degree in Business Management and is a Certified Parent Peer Support Provider by FREDLA. She is also credentialed as a Strengths-Based Family Worker Supervisor from Temple University.
Christa presents at local, regional, and national mental health conferences about parent peer support. She advocates for students with special education services and parent accessibility strategies. Christa is actively involved in her own children’s educational obstacles and understands the implications.
The Office of Dispute Resolution Stakeholder Council offers Christa the opportunity to draw on her lived experience. Christa labors to facilitate and advocate for families raising children with mental health needs or disabilities within education systems. Her purpose and goal as a mother of impacted children is to solve problems in a more progressive and family friendly way while bringing all perspectives to the table of discussion.
Heidi B. Konkler-Goldsmith
Heidi B. Konkler-Goldsmith joined McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. in 1999. She became a Shareholder of the firm and Managing Shareholder of the Reading Office in 2006 and was named Supervising Partner of Special Education in 2010.
Ms. Konkler-Goldsmith is a frequent lecturer to the Pennsylvania Bar Association and parent groups in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Prior to joining McAndrews Law Offices, P.C., she amassed extensive experience in both litigation and legal writing.
Ms. Konkler-Goldsmith offers substantial expertise in the area of Special Education Law and handles a wide variety of special education matters, civil litigation cases and criminal justice issues. She has gained the respect of professionals throughout the administrative processes and the courts in the course of her comprehensive and capable handling of cases in her frequent appearances before the courts and administrative law judges.
Dr. Gina R. Scala
Dr. Gina R. Scala is Chair and a Full Professor in the Special Education/Rehabilitation Department at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Scala teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs. She is a faculty member in the Professional Development Schools program assigned to schools within the collaborative training model. She supervises student teachers and coordinates administrative opportunities for the Special Education Supervisory candidates. Dr. Scala is a member of the Special Education State Advisory Panel (SEAP), Interim President of PA Council for Administrators for Special Education (PaCASE), a board member of Pa Council for Exceptional Children (PaCEC), a PaCEC Region Co-Director, and coordinates the awards for the organization. Dr. Scala is a compliance monitor for PDE and is active in the Creating Agreement initiative in PDE. She is a member of the Leadership Initiative for Administrators in conjunction with PDE and PaTTAN. Dr. Scala has been appointed as the Research Liaison for international CASE and an Executive Board member. She presents frequently at state and national conferences. She is a consultant to many school districts in various states. Dr. Scala received her Bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg University, her M.Ed., Ed.S., and Ed.D. from Lehigh University as well as numerous certifications. She worked at Centennial School for 13 years before her employment at ESU. She is very active in her local community and is married and the mother of two daughters.
Edward Titterton has been practicing law since 1975, entering special education law almost at its inception and now serving as counsel to ODR. Mr. Titterton represented parents/students at due process hearings in those early days, and then served on the Special Education Appeals Panel from 1989 to 2005. He is a graduate of LaSalle University and Villanova Law School, and also works for Resolute Management, Inc., part of Berkshire Hathaway, handling environmental pollution and asbestos claims.
Ms. Williams is a partner in the education law firm of Sweet Stevens Katz & Williams, LLP, and chairs the special education department of the firm. For over twenty-five years, she has provided assistance to public school entities in proactive preventative strategies as well as litigation defense. She has served as a hearing officer and advisor to school boards in student expulsion matters, and provided in-service programs to school boards and administrative teams in all areas of special education and student issues. Ms. Williams has served on numerous committees and advisory panels as well as leadership roles within the Pennsylvania School Boards Solicitors Association, including that of President. Ms. Williams received her J.D. from the Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, Georgia, and her B.A. from Northwestern University, Illinois.