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Advisory Commissioners and Members

Advisory Commission on Special Education Directory.
Commissioners Role Term Appointment
Sara Jocham
Parent 01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board
Maureen Burness
School Administrator 07/01/11-12/31/15 State Board
Kristi Hagans
Institution of Higher Education 01/16/13-12/31/15 State Board
Nancy Portillo
Parent/Charter Schools 01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board
Somer Harding
Parent 01/16/13-12/31/16 State Board
Diane Fazzi, Chair
Institution of Higher Education 01/01/06-12/31/13 Governor

Naomi Rainey

Public Member 01/01/10-12/31/13 Governor

Gina Plate

Parent/Charter Schools



Mariano Sanz



Vacancy Parent

term ending 12/31/13


Betty Karnette




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

Kristin Wright




Feda Amaliti




Morena de Grimaldi
Parent 08/11/06-12/31/15 Senate

Student Members Term
Hyla Rachwal
Timothy Higgins

In accordance with the ACSE By Laws, 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
Joan Buchanan
Diana B. Glick, Consultant

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

State Board Liaison:

Carl A. Cohn
State Board of Education
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
Maureen O’Leary Burness

Maureen Burness is a special education consultant and currently serves as the northern California representative to the International Council for Exceptional Children. A recent retiree, she administered special education programs in California for over 20 years. Ms. Burness has a bachelor’s degree in Applied Behavioral Sciences, a master’s degree in Counselor Education, and several education credentials.

Ms. Burness was appointed to the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism and also served on the regional Sacramento Autism Team. Her many honors for her work for students with disabilities include Special Education Administrator of the Year from the Association of California School Administrators, and from the Council for Exceptional Children, as well as the Outstanding Community Service Support award from Alta California Regional Center.

Ms. Burness is passionate about programs and services for all ranges of students with disabilities, especially in the areas of mental health, autism, and disproportionality.

Morena de Grimaldi

Morena de Grimaldi has been working as a Special Education Assistant in a K-5 classroom for the past year and a half. Prior to that, she worked 20 years in retail customer service followed by 12 years in online banking customer service.

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

Diane Fazzi

Diane Fazzi is the Associate Chair for the Division of Special Education and Counseling at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). She is a professor and coordinator of the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist Training Program for the blind and visually impaired. Ms. Fazzi earned her doctorate at the joint program of University of California Los Angeles and CSULA in the fields of special education and educational psychology. She is the author of numerous books, publications, and scholarly presentations on topics related to teaching O&M to students with visual impairments, including very young children and children with additional disabilities. In 2008, she received the Distinguished Woman Award from CSULA.

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.

Naomi Rainey

Naomi Rainey is an award-winning educator, philanthropist, speaker, entrepreneur and civil rights advocate. She has a Bachelor’s Degree, two Masters Degrees, and seven teaching credentials and has been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally.

Ms. Rainey is a distinguished alumna of the California State University at Long Beach. Here many honors include teacher and administrator of the year, the Los Angeles County Human Relations Award, League of Women Voters “2009 Woman of the Year”, the Community Coalition for Environmental Justice’s Human Relations Award, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemakers Award.

Ms. Rainey currently serves as President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Long Beach Branch. Under her leadership, the Long Beach NAACP received eleven National Thalheimer Awards. She serves on the Long Beach City College Foundation Board of Governors, St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, and is the Vice President of the Long Beach Cancer League, as well as other community and state organizations. She is proud to be the wife of the late Paul Harold Pierson, Jr.

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.

Kristin Wright

Kristin Wright as Chair of the California Advisory Commission on Special Education (ACSE), brings multiple perspectives to the important role that the ACSE plays in the lives of students with disabilities. She is the parent of a daughter born with significant disabilities and has a passion for helping traditionally disadvantaged populations. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University at Sacramento and will receive her Special Education Teaching Credential and master’s degree in 2010.

Ms. Wright's history of public service includes two consecutive terms as Chair of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education in Sacramento City Unified School District, and currently, a two-year elected term on her neighborhood association board.

Questions: Venetia Davis | | 916-323-9773 
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