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Special Education Leadership Academy

2024 Registration is Now Open!

Class Schedule for 2024
  • September (TBA)
  • October (TBA)
  • November (TBA)
  • December (TBA)
Class Schedule for 2025
  • January (TBA)
  • February (TBA)
  • March (TBA)
  • April (TBA)

Course Description

Now more than ever, there is a great need for well-trained leadership in special education to support teaching and learning.  The Special Education Leadership Academy is a comprehensive training and professional development program for administrators supporting special education programs to enhance their leadership skills and deepen their knowledge of special education. Total School Solutions has designed this academy for current and future administrators and directors who want to develop their leadership skills and broaden their understanding of special education.  Potential benefits for the participants include expanding their general skillset, learning about legal, fiscal, and programmatic aspects of special education, networking opportunities, enhancing performance at work, and leadership development.
This course includes direct instruction from experts in the field, individual and group exercises, hands-on activities, and out-of-class assignments/practical applications.

Comprehensive Curriculum

This program emphasizes specific and pragmatic skills that administrators need to know to be able to thrive as special education leaders.

Topics for this Academy Include:

  • Overview and Introduction to Leadership
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports
  • Referrals and Adaptations
  • Legal and Programmatic Overview
  • Educational Benefit and Administrative Designee
  • Special Education Student Populations
  • Redefining Autism
  • Implementation and Improvement Science
  • Authentic Parent Engagement
  • Discipline for Students with Disabilities
  • Court Cases and Discipline

State-Specific Topics:

  • State Monitoring and Data Stewardship
  • State Complaints and Due Process
  • Inter and Intra-District Relationships and Contracting
  • Fiscal Concepts
  • The Role of Regional and State-Wide Agencies


Attendance and Participation Participants are expected to attend and contribute to all sessions and must attend all classes.   If an emergency arises, one session may be made-up by writing an academic paper or completing a comprehensive exam on the missed classes’ subject matter pre-approved by the academy coordinator.
Readings Various readings will be assigned during the academy.   Students will analyze readings and participate in group discussions or writing assignments to apply concepts to real-world situations.
Other Various but limited written assignments, group activity participation, and homework assignments.


Alison Rose
The coordinator of this program is TSS Consultant Alison Rose who brings over 20 years of education industry experience and who moderates all sessions to ensure the continuity of the curriculum.  She has served as a Director of Student Services and SELPA Administrator as well as being a trained school psychologist and special education teacher.  In addition, she teaches courses at the university level.
Cathie Johnson
Cathie Johnson has worked in the field of education for over 35 years, in both general and special education, in large urban school districts. She has worked at the district level and school site level, both elementary and secondary. Cathie’s roles have included teacher, principal, Intervention-Data Coordinator, Least Restrictive Environment Administrator, Professional Development Director, Special Education Director, Administrator for Closing the Achievement Gap, Social Emotional Learning Coordinator, Restorative Justice Coach and Parent Liaison. In addition, she has taught courses at the university level.  She also currently serves as a State Performance Plan- Technical Assistance Facilitator.
Dr. Barbara Wolford
Dr. Barbara Wolford is an educator with almost 30 years of experience in the field of Special Education. Dr. Wolford has 21 years of classroom experience as a self-contained Special Day Class teacher and as a Resource Specialist. Dr. Wolford is currently the Director of Student Services and Special Education of Banning Unified School District. As Director, Barbara has worked collaboratively with a diverse stakeholder group to develop a collaborative teaching model at the secondary level, an autism specific program, and a District Mental Health program. In 2016-2017 school year, she earned the honored distinction of being the district’s certificated Administrator of the year. Dr. Wolford’s expertise in the areas of Special Education and school climate have earned the district several grant awards for the State Preschool Program, State Inclusion Program, and a grant “Learning Communities Student Support Program” which focuses on chronic absenteeism. The district has been awarded Model SARB distinction for 2016 and 2019. Additionally, the work her department has led in the area of PBIS has led to five schools being honored with bronze, silver and gold PBIS awards from the State of California PBIS Coalition.
Dr. Caryl Miller
Dr. Caryl Miller is a well-known special education leader with 40 years of experience. As a recently retired assistant superintendent for a large school district in southern California, Dr. Miller was responsible for: special education; health services; centralized student enrollment; pupil personnel; and child welfare and attendance. For 18 years, as Executive Director, Dr. Miller managed the largest multi-district SELPA in the state – with 21 local educational agencies (LEA) in Riverside County, 30,000 special education students, and a $200 million budget.  In Orange County, Dr. Miller served in different capacities over a decade as a county office special education coordinator and a SELPA program specialist. Prior to administrative work, Dr. Miller taught at both middle and high school levels in English, reading, and special education for students with mild to severe disabilities. Dr. Miller has also presented countless regional and statewide workshops on special education topics and issues.
Bridget Akers
Bridget has over 30 years of experience at both the school site and district office level.  She is currently employed as the Accountant for Riverside County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA).  She has worked in food services, accounts payable and receivable, special education accounting, budgeting, and finance.  In her current position, she is the fiscal support for the SELPA and 25 SELPA member-LEAs, overseeing a budget of over $200 million.  She conducts fiscal trainings and workshops and provides CALPADS and SEIS support for the SELPA and member-LEAs, working to ensure both fiscal and program compliance.  As a consultant, Bridget works collaboratively with other education leaders on special education studies, providing fiscal and data analysis.  She also works with local education agencies (LEAs) providing technical assistance in special education data review.  Bridget also presents at workshops and trainings throughout the state in the areas of special education funding, program compliance, and data review.

Course Currilcum

      • MTSS Overview 00:00:00
      • 3 Tiers of Curriculum and Instruction 00:00:00
      • 3 Tiers of Social Emotional/ Mental Health and Behavioral 00:00:00
      • Referrals for Assessment 00:00:00
      • 504s 00:00:00
      • Accommodations and Modifications 00:00:00
      • Building Effective Programming in Schools 00:00:00
      • Special Education Compliance and Laws 00:00:00
      • Grades and Graduation for Students with Disabilities 00:00:00
      • Promotion and Retention Policies 00:00:00
      • Policies and Structures 00:00:00
      • The IEP Process 00:00:00
      • Related Services 00:00:00
      • Being an Administrative Designee at an IEP 00:00:00
      • Dyslexia 00:00:00
      • English Learners with Disabilities 00:00:00
      • Transition Age students 00:00:00
      • Other populations 00:00:00
      • Redefining Autism 00:00:00
      • Language Arts 00:00:00
      • Math 00:00:00
        • Behavior 00:00:00
        • Discipline 00:00:00
        • Related court cases 00:00:00
          • Credentialing 00:00:00
          • Staff Training, and Evaluation 00:00:00
          • Inter and Intra-District Relationships, SELPAs 00:00:00
          • Contracting 00:00:00
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