Creating Recommendations for the Special Education Industry

The primary role of action teams is to develop very specific recommendations within a relatively narrow focus as determined by the core planning team. The action teams are accountable to the core planning team.

Varies and will largely be determined by the topic, the urgency as determined by the core planning team, and the action team members themselves.

Action teams are fluid and the number of action teams is determined by the work. 

  • Duration will vary depending on the complexity of the topic.
  • Action teams are not time sensitive, but are generally short term.
  • Action teams are disbanded when recommendations are finalized.

Accountable to the Core Team, Action Teams are small teams focused on a specific aspect of the larger issue, yielding recommendations to the Core Team. Responsibilities in developing recommendations include but are not limited to:

  • Literature Reviews
  • Research
  • Data
  • State & Local Efforts (Michigan & Beyond)

Barriers & Influence Mapping

Approximately 36 participants representing diverse perspectives from across the state and levels of the educational arena responded to the following triggering question:

“What are barriers (local & systemic) to attracting, preparing, and retaining special educators?”


  • 127 barriers generated and clarified.
  • Categorized according to significant similarity (yielding 14 categories).
  • Prioritized – each participant selected her/his top 5 barriers. Core team members also prioritized.

The core team then engaged in a process of “influence mapping” a subset of the barriers (informed by the prioritization results), whereby they assessed the influence relationship of two ideas at a time. 

LeKisha Franklin-Shorter | Detroit Public Schools Community District
Jodie Fowler | Ingham Intermediate School District
Sarah Winslow | Ingham Intermediate School District
Anthony Strevett | Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association
Emily Brewer | Ingham Intermediate School District
Sean Kottke | Michigan Department of Education
Melinda Carroll | Avondale School District
Rebecca McIntyre | Michigan Department of Education
Heather Eckner | Autism Alliance of Michigan
Joseph Fisher | Grand Valley State University
Tom  McKee | Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District
Derek Cooley | Godwin Public Schools
Mary Bradley | Muskegon Area Intermediate School District
Brooke Lund | Berrien Regional Education Service Area
Susan Koceski | Oakland Intermediate School District
John Jaquith | Michigan Department of Education
Toni Glasscoe | Lansing Community College
Michael Yocum | Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators
Rebecca Reed | Allegan Area Educational Service Area
Mindy Miller | Kalamazoo Regional Education Service Area
Jennifer Zienert | Michigan Education Association
Victoria Martinez | Michigan Alliance for Families
John Severson | Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators
Abby Cameron-Standerford | Northern Michigan University
Angie McArthur | Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District
Kathy Weaver | Michigan Association of School Social Workers
Jim  French | Portage Public Schools
Evan Kussner | student, GVSU
Tammy Jackson | Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals
Heather Rutledge| Lake Orion Community Schools
Chandra Madafferi | Michigan Education Association
Dana Billings | Michigan Department of Education
Michelle Kussner | Oxford Community Schools
Chris  Frank | Macomb Intermediate School District
Adam Zemke | Launch Michigan

School Psychologists

The focus of this action group is to increase the number of school psychologists in Michigan and to remove the barriers for individuals entering the field.

Michele Millhouse | Clare Gladwin RESD
Tracy Hobbs | NorthWest Education Services
Dr. Cheryl Somers | Wayne State University
Dr. Amanda Unger | West Shore ESD
Renee Thelen | Clinton RESA
Dr. Jana Aupperlee | Michigan State University
Dr. Lauren Mangus | Beaumont/Corewell Health
Dr. Vincent Hodge | St Joseph County ISD
Dr. Sarah Rowe | University of Detroit Mercy
Syriah Dobis | Lake Orion Community Schools

Special Education Administration Credentials

A workgroup embarked to reveal the challenges underlying the shortage of special education administrators. With many decades of collective experience in the field, the workgroup set out to identify the key factors contributing to the shortage.

Derek Cooley | MAASE
Abby Cypher | MAASE
Brian Davis |  MASA
Gina Garner | MDE
Eric Hoppstock | Berrien RESA
Scott Koenigsknecht | Clinton RESA
Kanika Littleton | Michigan Alliance for Families
Steve Polega | SVSU and Genesee ISD
Michelle Proulx | Lapeer ISD
Nancy Rotarius | MDE

Behavior Support

Kelly Rogers | Charlevoix-Emmet ISD Co-lead
Stephanie Dyer | Grand Valley State University Co-lead
Melissa Nantais | Michigan MTSS Co-lead
Abby Cypher | MAASE Facilitator
Renee Thelen | Facilitator Clinton County RESA Facilitator
Carolyn O’Hearn | Alt+Shift
Christine Dillon | North Country Community Mental Health
Amy Wassmann | Michigan Department of Education
Cynthia Carver | Oakland University
Stephen Seelye | Pellston Public Schools
Gina Sanderson | Lenawee ISD and START Project
Alex Keesling  | Genesee Intermediate School District 
Andrea (Angie) Jasper | Central Michigan University
Lynnette Borree | Clinton County iSD
Rebecca Hasson | University of Michigan
Lisa Grost | Parent/MDHHS State Hospitals
Jacob Daar | Northern Michigan University 
Mollie Tanner | Clinton Community Schools
Dolores Wylie | Detroit Public Schools Community District
Calvin Gage | Gage Consulting for Challenging Behavior LLC
Joe Zima | St. Clair County RESA
Sara Deyarmond | West Branch Rose City School
Craig Donahue | Michigan Health Council (MDE Contractor)
Sarah  Vander Baan | Choice Schools
Michele  Eaddy | Thrun Law Firm, P.C.
Amanda Thielen | Michigan Alliance for Families
John Shiner | Manistique Area Schools
Concetta Lewis | MAASE/Rochester Community Schools
Susan Toth | South Lyon Community Schools
Jennifeer VanTol | Tuscola ISD
Sarah VanderBaan | Choice Schools
Matt KoekKoek | Oakridge Public Schools
Leah Vagaski | Brandon School District
Jon LeFevre | Saginaw ISD
Cheryl Brown | Ann Arbor Public Schools
Terri Nekoogar | Macomb ISD
Nicole Goulet | Charlevoix -Emmet ISD
Jacob Daar | Nothern Michigan University
Christine Dillon | North Country CMH
Joe Zima | St. Clair County RESA
Sally Burton-Hoyle | Eastern Michigan University
Derek Nowka | Lincoln Park Public Schools
Lisa Grost | Michigan Department of Community Health
Nathan Konydyk | Washtenaw ISD
Kevin Robydek | Portland Public Schools
Nicole McGrath | Calhoun ISD
Shannon Shy | Livingston ESA
Stephen Gaitens | Lincoln Park Public Schools
Currine Demeuse | Clare Public Schools
Cyndi Geiger | Ionia ISD
Jaime Oppenlander | Grand Haven Area Public Schools
Amanda Theilen | Michigan Alliance for Families
Matthew Brodhead | Michigan State University
Hana Wasel | Cornerstone Charters
Amy Gjonaj | Oakland Schools
Angela Nettleton | Eastern UP ISD
Gina Sanderson | Lenawee ISD
Teresa Belote | St. Joseph County ISD
Michelle Etson | Mt. Morris Schools
Jackie Smith | Beckley School District
Trevor Warczinski | Macomb ISD
Lynette Borree Copper Country ISD
Stefanie Maiuri | Bridges Development Center
Angela Telfer | Kalamazoo RESA
Mike Esseily | Dearborn Public Schools
Heather Eckner | Autism Alliance of MIchigan
Briona McKinney | Oakland Schools
James Nuse | Ionia Public Schools
Andria Eisman | Wayne State University
Amy Wassman | MDE
Sarah Deyarmond | West Branch Rose City Schools
Mallory Bycraft | Bay-Arenac ISD
Fatima Otham | Oakland Schools

Teacher Credentialing & Standards

The charge for the Credentialing Action Team was to make recommendations for required credentials to be a special educator (EC & K-12 environments) that reduce or eliminate some of the current challenges related to attracting individuals to the profession.

The impact is likely:

  • New and/or revised MARSE rules.
  • Changes for teacher preparation institutions.

The Core Team engaged in a robust review process of the options and submitted their recommendation to the Task Force for consideration.

  • The Task force will gather additional information to assess feasibility.
    • This may include establishing several Action Teams to identify additional details necessary to implement the recommendation, informing feasibility.

Abby Cypher | Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education
Rachel Fuerer | Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators and Eastern Upper Peninsula ISD
Gina Garner | Office of Educator Excellence, Michigan Department Education
Michelle Harmala | Madonna University
Alissa Hofstee | Kent Intermediate School District
Hannah High, Speech Pathologist, Kent City Community Schools
Eric Hoppstock | Berrien Regional Education Service Area
Karen Howey | Wayne Regional Education Service Area
Mark Kuipers | Clinton County Regional Education Service Area
Paula Lancaster | Central Michigan University
Concetta Lewis | Rochester Community Schools
Kanika Littleton | Michigan Alliance for Families
Chandra Madefferi | Michigan Education Association
Cheryl-Marie Manson | VanBuren Intermediate School District
Victoria Martinez | Michigan Alliance for Families
Justin Michalek | Macomb Intermediate School District
Lohren Nzoma | Detroit Public Schools Community District
Bradley Paddock | Walled Lake Consolidated District
Teri Rink | Michigan Department of Education
Nellie  McDaniel | Waverly Community Schools

Speech and Language Pathologists

Speech language pathologists are in the process of identifying barriers (local and systemic) to attracting, preparing, and retaining school-based SLPs.

Eileen Prihoda | LSD, Executive SE Director
Megan Hanson, NCRESA | Rural, West, ISD
Diane Jandron | NMU Director of Clinical Services
Ann Marie Haan | SLP, Early On, KISD
Julie Rairigh | ELPS
Hannah High
Diane Katakowski
| Oakland ISD SLP Consultant
Kelli Pfiester | Five Lakes Therapy
Cori Dewey | TBAISD
Stacy Turke | OT, Ingham ISD

Building Leader – Inclusive Leadership

Purpose: Make recommendations to address barriers to attracting, preparing and retaining special educators that are within a building leaders sphere of influence.
Goal: Identify practical, scalable and sustainable strategies to improve conditions for teaching and learning. 

Co-leads: Colin Ripmaster (MASSP) and Kathy Barker (MAASE)
Sarah Allen | Crawford Ausable School District
Rosaleigh Johnson | Walled Lake Consolidated Schools
Brad Hale | Brown City Community Schools
Todd Jones | Kent ISD
Amy Hendry | Warren Consolidated Schools
Heyam Alcodray | Dearborn Public Schools
Sherrie Buchzeiger | Oak Park Schools
Brent Jandron | Oakridge Public Schools
Amy Peterson | Eastern Upper Peninsula ISD
Gina Schmitt | Grand Haven Area Public Schools
Nicole Carter | Novi Community School District
Jacqueline Goosen | President Macomb Intermediate Federation of Teachers
Bradley Paddock | Farmington Public Schools
Cheryl Price | Concord Community Schools
CJ Van Wieren | Whitehall District Schools
Sidney Bailey IV | Portage Public Schools
Sandra Hargraves | Harrison Community Schools
Todd Simmons | Cedar Springs Public Schools
Lance Sumpter | Beecher Community School District
Susan Toth | South Lyons Community Schools
Christina Hinds | Northview Public Schools
Louis Steigerwald | Norway Vulcan Area Schools
Tawny Hisscock |  Atlanta Community Schools
Todd Simmons | Cedar Springs High School
Carol Greilick | NorthWest Ed, Special Education Director
Kristina Tepper | Principal, Havel Elementary, UCS
Jack Dodd | Principal, Maple Lane Elementary, Macomb ISD
William Jones | Hillside MS, Northville
Sid Bailey IV | Portage West Middle School
Kimberly Hodsdon | Malow Jr HS, Principal
Nicole Carter | Novi, Principal
Vernon Burden | Lake Orion, Assistant Principal
Gina Schmitt | Grand Haven High School
Sue Toth | Special Education Director, South Lyon Schools 
Kenyatta Hill-Hall | Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy
Val Boggan | Kalamazoo Central, Principal
Rukshana IIahi | GRPS, Special Education Director
Crystal Cutler | Ingham ISD/Lansing, Special Education Director


Peggy Yates | Co-lead Alma College
Chandra Madafferi | Co-lead MEA
Pam George | Cornerstone University
Michele Harmala | Madonna University
Tricia Bailey | Alma College

Paperwork Reduction

Build, support, and sustain a NEW education system that can enthusiastically attract, prepare, and retain by identifying what is legally required to reduce the paperwork burden.

Melanie Harper | Troy School District
Jerrica Vanderkarr | Flushing Community Schools
Zack Diskey | Fruitport Community Schools
Michelle Wolschlager | Oakland Schools
Theresa Frakes | Lapeer County ISD
Rob Dietzel | Thrun Law Firm, East Lansing
Heather Wiley | Walled Lake Community School District
Jackie Darrough | PASEN
Greg Bodrie | Eastern Service Unit, Muskegon County
Scott Koenigsknecht | Clinton County RESA
Shawna Dippman | Monroe ISD
Alecia Ahles-Moore | Char-Em ISD
Jessica Kowalski | Macomb ISD
Samantha Salo | Michigan Alliance for Families
Britt Pionk | St. Clair County RESA
Jessica Szmoniak | COP ESD

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Including Interpreters

Roxanne Balfour | MDE
Karen Howey | Retired Wayne RESA
Celeste Johnson | Wayne RESA
John Kirsh | MDE
Rex Vernon | Michigan School for the Deaf
Camille Jeter-Lorello | Michigan School for the Deaf
Debra Burkhardt | Kent ISD
Darlene Dorsette | Detroit Public Schools Community District
Tammy Nyen | Marquette-Alger RESA
Michelle VanKleek | Northwest Education Services
Leanne Hansen | Allegan Area ESA
Dan McDougal | Madonna University
April Davidson | Lansing Community College
Janel Frost | Michigan Hands and Voices
Sarah Freitag | Copper Country ISD
Kara Mounce | Kalamazoo RESA
Anita Vereb | University of Michigan
Chris Spike | Bloomfield Hills Schools
Megan Seipke-Dame | Bloomfield Hills Schools
Erin Seipke-Brown | Bloomfield Hills Schools


Should workload determine caseloads?

Tonya Pruitt | Newaygo County RESA
Terra Dodds | Clinton County RESA
Alyssa Breen | South Lyon Community Schools.
Emily Wilson | Northwest Education Services
Mallory Frank | Macomb Intermediate School District
Dawn Makar | Macomb Intermediate School District
Doug Haseley | Livingston ESA
Sarah Park | Dowagiac Union Schools
Sara Larkin | Kentwood Public Schools
MartyAnn McGuiney | Northwest Education Services
Beth Longshore | R2 – Ingham ISD
Jessica Bluhm | Saginaw ISD
Jordan Bullinger | Clark Hill, Grand Rapids
Dave Manson | Van Buren ISD
Brian Pruett | Buchanan HS
Chelsea Reynolds | South Lyons Community Schools
Jenna Dudley | R3 – Kentwood Public Schools

“It feels as if there is true traction and steps will happen that lead to a change in special education.”
“I’m most excited about streamlining special education processes to increase the time available to support kids! Thank you so much!!”
“The OPTIMISE experience is beneficial, empowering, educational, and diverse.”
“I’m most excited about having a statewide electronic streamlined IEP system that reduces paperwork demands.”
“OPTIMISE is an organization in education that actually uses a systematic process to bring positive changes to the system to serve our students and families better to become contributing members of society.”
“The OPTIMISE work is amazing. I spent time with my peers and bouncing ideas off of one another, which was amazing and lacking at times in my current role. I’m leaving the Action Team with some amazing ideas to take home and try.”
“It’s exciting to see momentum again in special education. Very productive.”
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