I was born and raised in Illinois, then Missouri, living in rural mining and farm areas, as well as city areas. I have taught music in all types of school venues, leading organized school and church music programs in Michigan, Ontario, and Tennessee. I maintained a solo law practice for many years, handling special education and other civil cases, and worked a substantial territory as a membership advocate for an educator professional organization for over a decade.
My grandparents’ were variously farmers, homemakers, and coal miners. My father managed corporate real estate acquisitions and new construction projects. (He could do anything, you know.) My mother, a premier household manager, was probably the most judicious person on earth, making fairness and sharing a pillar of life. In the foreground there are now adorable (!) grandchildren, sprung from two wonderful children and their delightfully interesting life partners.
In personal moments, I explore my surroundings, read about them, photograph them, and write my own thoughts. Some day, the weather will be just right to use all the fishing tackle I’ve collected to reel in The Big One. Other favorite times are spent either outdoors or experiencing a movie, professional theatre, visual art, dance, or concert music event. As a happy secret-non-secret, I host Smooth Sensual Jazz on KLEK-lp, 102.5 FM, “Your Community Radio Station,” as we say on air. I LOVE jokes, except for degrading jokes. As my Mother of Fairness would say, “If it’s not funny for everyone, then it’s not funny.” Alas, this axiom led to my woefully incomprehensible sense of humor.
My professional experience centers on education and law, intersecting at special needs advocacy. During my advocacy career, I have successfully advocated for improving educational opportunities for special needs students, their parents, as well as protecting some of their most hard-working Arkansas teachers and guidance counselors. My current advocacy practice is limited to school district and state-level administrative jurisdictions, and I have ample experience in the mediation setting and the courtroom, too. In every case, my goal is to make life better for a child and a family, both now and in the future.
I work hard to keep myself current. In the last year, I have attended many hours of pertinent continuing education workshops and seminars produced by bar associations in Tennessee and Missouri, by MPACT , S.T.E.P., Wrightslaw, and COPAA. These wide-ranging activities prepare me to bring the latest legal strategies and advantages home to my clients. Before entering the University of Tennessee College of Law, I held teaching licenses in Illinois, Michigan, and Tennessee. I earned the Juris Doctor at UT and licensed to practice law in that state since 1998. In 2017, I added Missouri law licensure, by examination. I am not licensed to practice law in Arkansas. Both IDEA and Section 504 permit me to represent and counsel disabled and learning-disabled students in meetings with school districts and at due process hearings before state hearing officers and mediators.
I completed training as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”) in Craighead County, Arkansas, and appeared in court for foster children in appointed cases on several occasions. The Arkansas Governor’s and Jonesboro Mayor’s awards for volunteer community service were awarded to me several times. I received the Advocate’s Prize from the University of Tennessee College of Law while a student, as well as awards for legal writing and advanced legal research. Recently, I worked as a pro bono attorney at a Knox County, Tennessee expungement clinic sponsored by UT Legal Clinic, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Community Step-Up, and Vet to Vet. I am a member and officer of the Craighead County unit of the NAACP, and a member of Kiwanis Club of Jonesboro.
My area of practice at the present time is limited to lay advocacy for special needs children and their parents living in Arkansas. The goal, from the introductory conversation until my services end, is to improve educational prospects for the child being served. I work hard to discover available and necessary school services, and then work hard to get them delivered to my client and the family. My greatest satisfaction comes when I can help people who were unaware of their own potential achieve goals they did not know were possible.
From the first phone call and onward, I take time to listen to what you and your child want to accomplish. From experience with others and with my own child’s engagement in special needs situations, it seems that this first step can be the trickiest of all. I explore all angles with you. Through the next steps, I try to help figure out what you need from the school, and then help connect you with that. These next steps may be online or face-to-face meetings, file collection or reviews, online or group training, or meetings with school personnel. I notice that parents can often find exactly what they need on their own, too, and with guidance gain confidence to be connective, successful advocates for their children. Those are my aims for you, regardless of how few or how many steps it takes.
My clients can learn how to save time, stay calm, and get more effective educational experiences for their special needs children. Family days can become more predictable. Time spent working with schools and educators can become more individually productive for their children.
Our mutual goal for disabled children (those who have impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities) is to maintain access to education equal to that of nondisabled students, and without discrimination due to disability. 29 U.S.C. § 794(a) (popularly known as “Section 504”).
And for children with learning disabilities, we are further guided by the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). That purpose, straight from Congress, is, “…to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living” and “to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected…” 20 U.S.C. § 1400(d)(1) (emphasis supplied).
I invite you to join me and prepare your child for a better future. Call or e-mail me today!