Staff


Tracy Kahlo 

Director for the Branch

A passion that began as a sibling and in High School volunteering to teach swimming lessons with her peers with disabilities fostered a life-long career. Having made the Pacific Northwest her home for over 20 years, she is a transplant from New England after being raised in the USVI. Life and work came together after earning a degree from Seattle University in Not-for-Profit Leadership. This is the sector that allows the generations of military service in her family to connect with an educational background and passion for servant leadership on behalf of families and their loved ones with disabilities. She shares, “If only my family had known there were such amazing and dedicated parent center staff growing up in the Virgin Islands and later in CT!” Now they will as it it’s part of all we do at The Branch. Supporting and amplifying your great work in the US and it’s territories.


Vicki Farnsworth

Assistant Director for the Branch

She serves as the Assistant Director for The Branch (Military Parent Technical Assistance Center) and has a background in programs designed to assist military families as well as history working with STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents). Vicki Farnsworth is the wife of an Active Duty soldier and mother of two children, one of which is on the Autism Spectrum. Not just a wife, Vicki is also the daughter of a soldier who retired after 32 years of service in the Army and has a father-in-law who spent 26 years serving his country.
“I look forward to supporting and assisting Parent Centers in helping the military family because I know what it is like to be a military dependent and try to navigate the special needs world, both military and civilian, without guidance.” Vicki shares.


Barb Koumjian

Project Coordinator for the Branch

Barb has a long term-background in non-profit administration. Her recent focus is on accessible learning (universal design) and creating better inclusion for persons with disability in higher education. She would define herself as someone who loves to teach. “I enjoy getting up in front of a group and teaching through playing games and pantomime. I make a fool of myself on a regular basis to get ideas across.” She values the teamwork approach at The Branch, where “all of us bring something a bit different to the table. As a result, I learn something valuable on a daily basis”.

Barb’s interest in inclusion comes from personal and family experience of living with hidden disability. A recent immigrant from New England, she’s a fan of Pacific Northwest weather which while often damp is rarely frozen!


Andrea Bridges 

Project Coordinator for the Branch

She has extensive experience serving as an Ombudsman throughout her husband’s twenty year career in the United States Navy. She has three daughters and has worked diligently through the years guiding the two of her children with special needs through various school systems in several states. Andrea enjoys volunteering and has a background as a community activist. She is looking forward to utilizing her skills to benefit other families of children with special needs in our military community.


ADVISORS

Paul Ban is the former Director of the Special Education Services Branch in the Hawaii Department of Education. He currently serves as a leader in the Army’s Surgeon General’s Child, Adolescent and Family Behavioral Health Proponency (CAF-BHP). The program supports and sustains comprehensive, integrated behavioral health care for military children and their families at all Army installations.

Martha Blue-Banning is a qualitative researcher on the School-Wide Integrated Framework for Transformation (SWIFT) project at the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas. She is the co-director of the SWIFT Family-Community-School Engagement team. Prior to that she directed the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Benchmark Study funded by the Department of Defense. Martha has worked in the disability field for over thirty years as a teacher, administrator and researcher.

Luisa Maria Castillo is a bilingual Family Support Specialist for Team of Advocates for Special Kids in San Diego. She has been working for TASK for nearly 5 years and is passionate about sharing their mission with all families in the community, educating and empowering people with disabilities and their families.

Lisa Cowart is the Project Director for the Partners Resource Network (PRN) PATH Project, OSEP Region 1 in Texas. Prior to PRN, Lisa worked for the Texas State University System for 11 years, most recently as the Director of Continuing and Workforce Education at Lamar State College-Orange. During this time, she managed multiple Texas Workforce Commission Apprenticeship Training grants (Ch. 133), Skills Development Fund grants, and developed programs for business, industry and non-traditional students to meet business, career, and educational goals. Lisa is married with two great kids, Makenna-19 and Dalton-14.

Kelly Frisch is the Navy Region Southwest, Regional School Liaison Officer. She is a native of northern California and has worked in a variety of military support programs to include: Preschool teacher, Academic Advisor, Title 1 Resource Teacher, Fleet and Family Service Center provider, and most recently, has served as both an Installation and Regional School Liaison Officer since the inception of the program in 2009. During that time, she has helped to develop the School Liaison program as a whole.

Toni Hill is best known as a Community Advocate for children, particularly for those with disabilities. Highlights of her experience include: Voluntary Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics/Director of Parent and Family Leadership at the University of Miami, Mailman Center for Child Development; Project Director for the South Florida Military Access Portal for Supports and Services Project 360, and co-developer of strands focused on military children with disabilities for the 2013 and 2014 Council on Exceptional Children’s Annual Conferences. She’s a former board member for STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents) and MCEC (Military Child Education Coalition), and now serves on the boards of Voices for Children San Antonio (public policy organization) and Children Achieving Maximum Potential –CAMP (camp for children with disabilities). She’s a parent, and the spouse of a retired military service member.

Jeremy Hilton is a Legislative/Public Policy Advocate with expertise in developing grassroots campaigns, directly engaging policy makers, and creating an impact on various issues including military pay and benefits, healthcare, and disability policy. A military spouse, Jeremy is also the parent of a child with disabilities.

Peg Kinsell is the Institutional Policy Director at the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network. In addition, she co-directs the National RAISE (Resources for Access Independence Self-Advocacy Employment) Technical Assistance Center. As a veteran and former military spouse, Ms. Kinsell has a special expertise working with military families. She heads up the Military Family Support 360 Center at Joint Base McGuire -Dix-Lakehurst which supports military connected children and youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs. Most Importantly, she is the Mom to three young adults with a variety of abilities.

Mary LaCorte is the Project Director for the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC), NC’s federally designated Parent Training and Information Center (PTI). Mom to Mary Beth, an amazing adult with significant strengths and challenges through living her experiences with deaf-blindness and Emanuel Syndrome and to Sandy, Mary Beth’s most enthusiastic advocate and storm chasing Meteorologist. Mary is also the Assistant Director of ECAC.

Rhonda Logsdon has been with KY-SPIN for over 20 years in various capacities. She is a sibling who began as a teenager presenting for KY-SPIN. She is also a proud mom who foster/adopted her child. She is dedicated to assisting families and persons with disabilities to access needed information to be successful. She works on technology for KY-SPIN as well as presents statewide.

Nelsinia Ramos lives in Wisconsin, and is the parent of a self-advocate. She works as Parent Services Coordinator for WI FACETS, the state Parent Training and Information Center and does multicultural work for the Regional Parent Technical Assistance Center. She has a passion for supporting youth and young adults with disabilities in their growth to full potential, shown by her past leadership of WI FACETS’ Youth Information, Training & Resource Center.

Sarah Smalls is a Family Resource Coordinator at Formed Families Forward in Fairfax, VA. Sarah is a kinship caregiver to three grandchildren in the northern Virginia area. Formerly an executive administrator with the federal government, Sarah has worked part time as a parent liaison in a local Fairfax County elementary school. She is also the past Vice President of Kinship for FACES of Virginia Families (now NewFound Families). Sarah conducts intakes, coordinates resources, and supports families in their efforts to meet the special education needs of the children in their care.

Scott W. Stuart is a former Navy Developmental Pediatrician, who now owns a private practice in Austin, Texas. During his time in the Navy, he received many accolades, to include Clinician of the Year and Pediatric Staff Educator of the Year. His personal awards included Surface Warfare Medical Department Officer qualified, four Navy Commendation Medals, two Navy Achievement Medals and one Army Achievement Medal. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society for Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics.

Shirley Swope is currently a Parent Adviser and Trainer with PEAK Parent Center in Colorado. She connected with PEAK when her older son, who has significant hearing loss, needed support with his education plan. In 1989, Shirley joined the PEAK team as a Parent Advisor. Shirley has three children, two granddaughters, and many more grand dogs and she loves to travel.

Ed Tyner is the Associate Director, Office of Family Readiness (OFRP)/Office of Special Needs (OSN) with an extensive background in education. He has held positions at every level of the Department of Defense Education Agency and is now at Department of Defense. Dr. Tyner has a desire in creating sustained family programs to assist the military family who have family members with special medical and educational needs.

Eric Wade is the Executive Director of LINKS Mat Su Parent Resource Center in Wasilla, Alaska. LINKS administers a Community Parent Resource Center and an Aging and Disability Resource Center for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Before working in the non-profit world, Eric worked as a school teacher and school principal. Eric plays guitar in a rock and roll band and spends as much time as possible at a family homestead in interior Alaska.

Aimee Walsh has been with Direction Service/CADRE for eighteen years and is currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer. She previously served as the Associate Executive Director and as the program director of the Family Services program for more than ten years and launched the Wraparound Facilitation program for children and youth with significant behavioral health needs almost three years ago. Aimee received an M.S. in Special Education at the University of Oregon where she conducted research in the areas of family involvement and collaboration.

Judy Wiley serves as the full-time EPICS-NAPTAC Program Manager. Judy has been involved in parent education for over thirty years and was the Native American Outreach Coordinator for the Oregon Parent Training and Information Center for three years. In addition to her work with the Oregon PTI, Ms. Wiley was the previous Executive Director of Native Indian Parent Information Center.