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Advisory Commissioners and Members

Advisory Commission on Special Education Directory.
Commission Member Names, E-mail Address, Term, and Appointing Body

Commissioners Term Appointment
Sara Jocham
01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board
Kristi Hagans
01/16/13-12/31/15 State Board
Nancy Portillo
01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board
Somer Harding
01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board

Gina Plate



Mariano Sanz






Betty Karnette



Barbara Schulman
08/20/12-12/31/15 Assembly

Feda Amaliti



Morena de Grimaldi
08/11/06-12/31/15 Senate
Lester Pincu
01/08/13-12/31/17 Senate
Mildred Browne
01/15/14-12/31/15 State Board
Matt Navo
04/02/14-12/31/17 Governor
Steve Winlock
04/02/14-12/31/17 Governor
Student Commission Member Names, E-mail Address, and Term

Student Members Term
Jacob Miller
Vacant 07/01/13-06/30/15

In accordance with the ACSE Bylaws, Article I, Section 4, Tenure, "Every Commissioner whose term has expired may continue to discharge the duties of his/her office until his/her successor has qualified."

Legislative Members:

Senate Member
Carol Liu
916-324-7543 (fax)
Robert Oakes, Legislative Director

Assembly Member
Tony Thurmond

Executive Secretary:
Fred Balcom
916-327-3706 (fax)

State Board Liaison:

Niki Sandoval
State Board of Education Liaison
1430 N Street, Room 5111
Sacramento, CA 95814

State Special Schools Director:

Scott Kerby
916-445-4550 (fax)

Commission Staff Liaison:

Venetia Davis
916-327-3706 (fax)

Commissioner’s Biographies
Somer Harding

Somer Harding is currently an elementary school principal in the Conejo Valley. When she was a teacher, she discovered a great love of working with students with disabilities and their families. It was a joyous process to find ways to help her students access the curriculum effectively and to help them become curious and engaged learners. As she became an administrator, she worked with programs serving severely Autistic students and she took great pride in advocating for these students' services and education.

Somer believes in impacting change through educational leadership. She has served as Charter and Regional President with the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) advocating for all students in California, and is now very proud to serve as a Commissioner for the California Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE) continuing her advocacy for Students with Disabilities.

Morena de Grimaldi

Morena de Grimaldi is the parent of a child with a disability. She attended San Francisco State University and San Jose State University where she majored in Chemistry.

Ms. de Grimaldi’s work history includes 20 years in retail customer service, 12 years in online banking customer service, and 5 years working as a Special Education Assistant in a K–5 environment Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) class. Currently, she works as a Special Education Assistant at the high school level.

Betty Karnette

Betty Karnette received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University Long Beach with a focus on K-12 and adult education. She taught 31 years for the Los Angeles Unified School District and received the following credentials: Reading Specialist, Adult Education Teacher, Master Teacher, ESL Specialist, Middle School Math Coordinator, and Administration.

Ms. Karnette was elected to the California State Legislature in 1992 and served 6 years in the Assembly and 8 in the Senate where she chaired transportation, elections, arts, port/trade select committees, and served on education committees in both houses. While serving, she authored significant legislation in the areas of elections, transportation, and education that were subsequently signed into law.

In addition to an educational and political career, Ms. Karnette's community activities include, but are not limited to, California Democratic Party, Long Beach Anti-Poverty Association, Long Beach Memorial Hospital Children’s Clinic, Long Beach Playhouse, Operation Jump Start, National Women’s Political Caucus, Planned Parenthood, Long Beach Historical Society, and the Retired Teachers Associations (local, state, and national). In 1987, she was named Woman of the Year, 57th Assembly District.

Mariano Sanz

Mariano Sanz is a school counselor at Palos Verdes Intermediate School with the Palos Verdes School District. Born and raised in Spain, Mr. Sanz obtained a masters in psychology from the Universidad de Salamanca and in school psychology from the Universidad de Madrid.

For 25 years, Mr. Sanz has been a teacher and middle school counselor for various school districts in the Los Angeles area. He is involved in promoting full inclusion for students with disabilities both as an educator and as the parent of a young woman with developmental disabilities.

Mr. Sanz is a member of the Harbor Regional Center (HRC) Board of Trustees. He has served on the HRC board for more than 20 years in various capacities, including as president and state representative.

Barbara Schulman

Barbara Schulman believes she was born a teacher. She received her Bachelor of Sciences degree in special education from Southern Illinois University and currently serves as a special education teacher at the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Mission Viejo.

Ms. Schulman’s passion for special education emphasizes the benefits of full inclusion in the classroom, extra-curricular activities, and in paid employment. She strives to instill confidence and self-awareness in her students as well as a desire to be contributing members of society.

Among her many accolades, in 2011, Ms. Schulman was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Education Award from the Orange County Department of Education, a program that recognizes the contributions of individuals, groups, and organizations whose unique efforts have impacted the education of Orange County students.

Kristi Hagans

Dr. Kristi Hagans is associate professor and director of the School of Psychology program at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). She earned her Ph.D. in school psychology from the University of Oregon, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. Before her appointment at CSULB, Dr. Hagans worked as a school psychologist in public schools for five years in both Oregon and California. She currently is the external evaluator of a state funded Improving Teacher Quality grant to improve high school teachers’ algebra instruction through the provision of teacher professional development and use of student outcome data to inform instruction. Dr. Hagans has published and presented at professional conferences on a number of topics related to the implementation of multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), and the technical adequacy of progress monitoring measures. She teaches courses related to linking assessment to intervention to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for students, research methods, and practica and internship supervision. Dr. Hagans is the co-principal investigator of a U.S. Department of Education grant to train school psychologists to provide culturally-responsive, evidenced-based services in an MTSS framework.

Matt Navo

Matt Navo is the Superintendent of the Sanger Unified School District, where he has over 14 years’ experience in the District. Matt has been involved in Public Education in the Central valley for over 18 years. He began his work as a special education teacher in a four, five, six self-contained combination class. He then worked at the high school level as both a counselor and a resource teacher. Matt followed that experience as a junior high learning director overseeing many departments including special education, and arrived in Sanger Unified School District in 1999 where he worked as a high school assistant principal, elementary principal, alternative education principal, and Director of Special Education before assuming the role as Area Administrator, and now as Superintendent. Matt received his Bachelor’s Degree in Education and his Master’s Degree in Special Education from California State University at Fresno. He has an array of credentials which include: A Professional Administrative Credential, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, a Professional Specialists Credential in Special Education, and a Supplemental Credential with an Autism emphasis.

Mildred Browne

Dr. Mildred Browne has spent 30 years as an educator and psychologist assisting and advocating for students and families whose needs fall outside traditional school system offerings. Holding increasingly responsible positions as director, administrative director, and assistant superintendent at school districts in California and Georgia, she is recognized for her expertise in special education, pupil services, student discipline, and alternative education. She has developed such innovative programs as the Mental Health Collaborative Model, the Counseling Clinic/Wrap Program, and the School Coordinated Care Teams. Dr. Browne has been sharing her knowledge about serving challenged students and their families in presentations to educators, families, and agency personnel for 25 years.

Over the past five years, Dr. Browne has had an opportunity to focus on her passion of addressing disproportionality as it relates to the over-representation of specific ethnic groups in special education and in regards to suspension and expulsion.

As a Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Director, Assistant Superintendent in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, and a consultant in San Francisco Unified School District, Dr. Browne has embraced an equity agenda in developing an equity plan, facilitating a district stakeholders’ equity advisory group, and writing a Significantly Disproportionate Coordinated Early Intervention Service Plan which was well received by the District’s school board and the California Department of Education.

Questions: Venetia Davis | | 916-323-9773 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, October 29, 2015

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