President – Michelle Cades
Michelle Cades is honored to serve as President for SEPTA after serving as SEPTA’s first liaison to the Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (ACSD). Michelle earned her MA in learning disabilities and taught students in Alexandria City Schools and at the Katherine Thomas School. She then earned her MSW and focused her social work practice on this population, working at KTS, Congregation Beth Emeth, Capital Camps, Matan, and USY. She has dedicated her adult life to working with children with disabilities and their families.
With three children who are all twice exceptional (2E) and have various chronic health diagnoses, Michelle’s professional life merged with her personal life as she now primarily spends her time case managing her kids who are completing 6th grade at Oak Hill ES and 10th & 12th grades at Chantilly HS. When on a “brain break” from special ed, Michelle enjoys reading, creating with her hands (crochet, baking, mosaics), playing mahjong, and cheering on the Washington Capitals with her husband, Andy, and her licensed therapy dog, Gretzky.
Vice President – Laura Allen
Laura Allen received her Bachelor’s of Science degree from Ball State University in Journalism in the Advertising Sequence. For over 20 years, she has been involved in the communications career field, fundraising, and volunteer work. Her relationship began with the disabilities community as Communications Director of the Michigan Dyslexia Institute/Dyslexia Association of America, She oversaw a communications program that reached millions of individuals. She helped dispel the myths surrounding dyslexia by creating a number of communication products, media and special events, and fundraisers. Additionally, she created and directed a one-week summer camp for children with dyslexia that still exists today.
From there, she became the Technical Communications Manager of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, she oversaw a team responsible for public affairs, marketing, protocol, and history recording. For the five years I worked at as a government employee and two years as a contractor, She provided a “communications makeover” for the organization by leading a team of military, reservist, civilian and contractor personnel dedicated to creating communication products and special events to promote the benefits and proud history of Air Force basic research.
She left the workforce in 2005 to support her family and has stayed an active volunteer with PTAs and the Girls Scouts as a leader for six years. In 2017, she became a Northern Virginia District PTA Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist (1 of 3) Nominated by Camelot Elementary School PTA to compete against volunteers of Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax City, Fairfax County and Falls Church City PTAs and PTSAs. She also received an Outstanding Leader Award, from Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital.
Her experience of working with individuals with disabilities is personal as her son started in Child Find in Fairfax County when he was three. He was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder in 2008 and autism/ADD in 2010, and dyslexia in 2012. One of the hardest things for her was knowing how difficult it is for him to make friends. All she wanted was for him to have friends. She went to his classroom in second grade and read the students a book about autism and talked to them about her son’s strengths. The children were so accepting and from that day forward, things changed at Camelot Elementary School in Annandale, VA. She wrote the principal and asked if they could do something more to create awareness about those with disabilities.
First, she became a Special Education Liaison for her school. Laura also was a founding member of The Camelot Elementary School Acceptance Team in 2012, a group made up of administrators, teachers, staff, and PTA parents. The team was created to promote the acceptance of all students at Camelot, teach and give students the tools and knowledge they need to fully accept one another, and to encourage and show students how to be a friend to anyone and everyone, in all walks of life, both in and out of school. Funded by the PTA, she is in her sixth year helping lead the Acceptance Team meetings several times during the year and accomplishes the three main parts of the Acceptance Team’s mission: The Camelot Buddy Program (With over 132 students this year), Acceptance Awareness Activities including Acceptance Celebration Month, and a Special Education Parents Support Group. She also has been a committee member and co-chairman of International Night at Camelot for the past six years.
The last two years, she was also an active PTA member at Frost Middle School as a Special Education Liaison. She helped start a parent support group and provided assistance with the Frost Unified Special Olympics team when needed. This year, she also became the Frost MS PBIS PTA Liaison, (Positive Behavior Interventions & Support). Working with a Frost Counselor, she helps with PBIS, the restructured student recognition system, and coordinates PTA support at the “Frost Zone Store.” The store “sells” goodies and involves taking student zone cards for items students want to “purchase.” All incentives are labeled with a “price” and they will line up to purchase items set up on the stage. Staff members issue “zone cards” to
students who demonstrate the four Frost principals (respect, honesty, responsibility, and good citizenship).
In February, she began temporary part-time employment in the Marketing Department at Fairfax Radiological Consultants, PC. In April, she will begin to work full time with this company in a full time position supporting the marketing and compliance offices.
Treasurer – Rich Hem
Rich Hem is a graduate of Michigan State University and the father of two twice-exceptional (2E) boys, currently enrolled in middle school and high school in FCPS. Rich has over 20 years of senior management experience working in the non-profit/association industry, responsible for multi-million dollar annual capital and operational budgets. He has experience implementing accounting and financial reporting systems and has led multiple business intelligence projects.
Prior to his involvement with SEPTA, Rich served four years as President and two years as Treasurer of the Michigan State University Alumni Club of Washington DC.
Secretary – Jennifer Kruzynski
Jennifer Kruzynski is a teacher in FCPS with experience in both general education and special education classrooms. She moved to FCPS after teaching in Pennsylvania and abroad in St. Maarten in order to learn more about special education. She holds a master’s in special education with a specialty in autism and is currently pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership with an administration and superintendent eligibility.
Jennifer is currently working on developing special education programs abroad where she previously taught. Along with special education, Jennifer has a passion for dance and the performing arts. Jennifer also coaches Special Olympics and runs an inclusive class and after school program at her school.
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Advocacy – Norm Hall & Diane Cooper Gould
Awards & Mini-Grants – Hillary Press
Communications – Amanda Campbell
Educator Committee* – Kaila Wise
Events & Programming –vacant
Fundraising – Barbara Burgess
Membership & Outreach – Kate Volpe
Reflections – vacant
SpEd Liaisons – Laura Allen
Twice Exceptional (2E) Committee – Laura Baker
Underserved Populations – Tina Baldera
Volunteers – Cathy Greulich
*formerly known as Teacher Liaison
Delegates to Other Organizations
Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities
Fairfax County Council of PTAs (FCCPTA)
Primary Delegate – Jenn Benecke