Presenter Profiles

In January 2011, the Special Education Project of the Ministry of Education, Jamaica, hosted a conference in which stakeholders from professional and advocacy groups participated in discussions and workshops around the theme: ‘Access, Equity and Relevance: Critical considerations for children with special needs’. Five years later, we are again bringing issues as they relate to the continuum of relevant and equitable provision for children and youth to the fore.

Is our education system truly responsive to the multiple and complex needs of millennial learners in our classrooms? Are our educational efforts consistent with strategies that will truly cultivate gifts and maximize potential? Are our children being prepared for life beyond school with relevant and meaningful educational experiences? Are children and youth with exceptionalities receiving fair and appropriate educational provision? Do our existing instructional arrangements provide equitable access to educational experiences that will prepare our children and youth for life as productive citizens in an inclusive society?

Satisfying the complex educational and developmental needs of the child demands the depth and scope of targeted instruction for inclusive educational practices. This year’s conference theme: ‘Preparing productive citizens for an inclusive society: The benefits of the collaborative process’, invites policy makers, curriculum developers, public and private sector stakeholders to discussions regarding the benefits of collaboration of home, school, community, business and service sectors. The demands of the developmental continuum for cognitive, social, emotional skills must be addressed in the context of natural and meaningful learning engagements.

The Roundtable offers us the platform for all thoughts and ideas to contend in collective contribution to policy and educational reform. Here we will re-examine how we might create educational experiences which are inventive, engaging, and relevant, thus facilitating maximal development for our students.

Michele A. Meredith (PhD)
Conference Chair

Special Education Project Coordinator
Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP)
Ministry of Education, Jamaica

Dr. Alice Farling is an international consultant, educator, and trainer. She is a past president of the Board of the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES), a division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

She has been a member of the faculty for the Aspiring Special Education Leadership Academy sponsored by George Mason University and the Virginia State Board of Education for the past eight years.

Dr. Farling has presented at, and led workshops related to inclusive education in the United States and has consulted internationally including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, England, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. She participated in peace keeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-nineties with the European Office of Security and Economic Cooperation. Dr. Farling has led workshops for the Office of Overseas Schools and has consulted with Ministries of Education in Kuwait, Thailand, England, Bosnia, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, and Tobago.

As a former Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Special Services in Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools, Dr. Farling led the departments of special education, student services, and alternative school programs. She also led several major board of education initiatives external to the field of special education. She hosted a monthly public television show on Channel 21 for five years. The show, ¨Solving the Puzzle Together,” was developed to share important information with parents and the community about the supports and services provided to students by the school system and to encourage dialogue and discussion of educational issues.

As an adjunct professor at George Mason University and the University of Virginia, she has taught graduate classes in special education and in educational development and leadership. She has served on numerous boards and advisory committees dealing with special education, community involvement, youth issues, mental health and health care in DC, Virginia, and Illinois. Dr. Farling has participated on state level committees in Virginia and in Illinois and also to United States Department of Education (US DOE). Alice was an invited speaker at the first “Global Special Education Summit” in Washington, DC and presented as an invited keynote at a Special Education Summit for school administrators and leaders at Hyoto University in Osaka, Japan and at Jaen University in Granada, Spain.

She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Vanderbilt University as well as a masters degree in special education from Northern Illinois University and a MBA from the University of Chicago. She has also completed coursework at Northwestern University and the University of Florida and Harvard University

Dr. Farling is committed to living life passionately, and also leads professional wellness and leadership retreats.

Ms Barrett is a Senior Sport-for-Development Officer for the A Ganar program. Led by Partners of the Americas, A Ganar is a youth workforce development program that utilizes soccer and other team sports to help at-risk youth in Latin America and the Caribbean find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills, or re-enter the formal education system.

She holds a B.A. in geography from Dartmouth College and a M.A. in international development from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Prior to joining A Ganar, Ms. Barrett worked with other sport-for-development programs in Nicaragua and South Africa, as well as coaching soccer at Tufts.

Dr Avril Z Daley is the Head of the Special Education Department at The Mico University College. She has training in both Education and Psychology. As special educator she is charged with prepare teachers to work with students with varying exceptionalities and special learning need at the undergraduate and graduate level.

As a Clinical Psychologist, Dr Daley is the a Director with Contemporary Assessment & Counselling Services (CACS) where she does assessment, therapy and consultation for many issues such as identify/diagnosing varying exceptionalities, special learning and behavioural issues and to plan/write programmes and to offer therapy to children and adults. She is also involved in training at the graduate and Post Graduate level. She is a full member of the Jamaican Psychological Society (JPS).

Dr Daley has blended her two main area of expertise to assist in nation building, through teaching research and collaboration with many national bodies. She sits on various boards and committees that deal with developmental disorders, educational/learning challenges and psycho-social issues.

Presentation Overview
Pace University, Adjunct Assistant Professor

Dr Barry Bullis, is an adjunct assistant professor at Pace University in New York City. Barry has also spent 23 years in K-12 education as special educator and administrator, and is currently a professional developer for the NYC Department of Education.

Barry has presented at numerous national and international education conferences.

His area of specialization is Early Childhood Literacy and Special Education

Presentation Overview
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Christopher Johnstone is an Assistant Professor of Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota (USA).
His research focuses on inclusive education in global contexts, particularly focused on the participation and achievement of children with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

Dr. Johnstone is a recognized expert on inclusive education and has led or consulted on projects in 13 different countries in Europe, North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. Johnstone has published over 60 journal articles, research reports, and book chapters in outlets such as International Journal of Educational Development, International Review of Education (UNESCO’s Institute of Lifelong Education-edited journal), Exceptionality, and the International Journal of Inclusive Education.

He currently serves as co-principal investigator for a university partnership grant focused on inclusive education in Armenia (sponsored by UNICEF) and the Americans with Disabilities Act exchange program for inclusive education practitioners in four countries (sponsored by US Department of State). In addition to these projects, he has consulted on projects funded by US Agency for International Development, (USAID), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), CARE International, and MasterCard Foundation.

Chief Executive Officer
Digicel Jamaica Foundation

Development Specialist. Teacher. Advocate. Jamaican

Dane Richardson makes visions a reality through sound strategy development and people management. He continuously seeks opportunity for growth through effective engagement of stakeholders within an organisation as well as its key sector stakeholders. Dane brings together logical thinking and data-driven evidence to leverage material business advantage across areas including programme development, finance and accounting, procurement and communication.

Respected as a credible voice, Mr. Richardson earns a seat at the table wherever he serves when leveraging strategic partners, making difficult decisions and establishing/maintaining governance boundaries. He is currently serving as Chief Executive Officer for Digicel Jamaica Foundation, a limited liability, and approved non-governmental charitable organisation by the standards of the Government of Jamaica. Dane oversees Digicel Foundation’s own national programme as well as its donor-funded projects from international development partners. He is now spearheading major strategic shifts for further transformation of the Foundation to a shared value proposition for its partners and investors.

Previously serving as Director of Operations and Head of Programmes for Digicel Jamaica Foundation, Mr. Richardson supported the development and implementation of the present national programme leading to major accomplishments in the sectors of Special Needs, Education, Health and Community Development. During this time, he drove improvements in accountability measures and programme management helping to reposition Digicel Foundation as a recognizable and credible player in Jamaica’s development.

Mr. Richardson began his career teaching at the secondary and tertiary levels before transitioning to programme management in development at senior management levels. His broader experience in both government and civil society are across underserved and under-represented areas of Environmental & Earth Sciences, HIV & STI in Public Health and Advocacy & Human Rights. He has served and still makes contributions to various Boards, national committees as well as other local and international fora towards the development of Jamaica.

Dr. Brullis is the Director of Gifted Education at Paradise Valley Unified School District where she has developed a continuum of gifted education programs, preschool through high school. The programs and services Dina oversees incorporate innovative uses of technology, enfranchise underrepresented populations and provide extensive professional development opportunities. She is also the Gifted Program Coordinator at Arizona State University.

Dr. Brulles currently serves on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Board of Directors as the School District Representative. She has also served as president of the Arizona Association for the Gifted and Talented, vice president of SENG, and on leadership teams of NAGC Networks. She received the inaugural 2014 NAGC Gifted Coordinator Award and also the first NAGC Professional Development Network Award in 2013.

She co-authored the books, ‘The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How To Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement For All’; ‘Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classrooms’, and ‘Helping All Gifted Children Learn’, along with other publications and teacher training courses.

Dr. Brulles assists school districts in developing, supporting, and evaluating gifted programs with an emphasis on integrating current educational initiatives. Having implemented and supervised the School-wide Cluster Grouping Model, she has become a recognized expert in that practice.

Her areas of expertise include:

  • Gifted Programming
  • Cluster Grouping
  • Increasing diversity in gifted programming
  • Implementing and supporting gifted cluster model
  • Documenting progress in a gifted cluster model
  • Teacher in a gifted cluster model
  • Building professional development programs
  • Enfranchising and Serving Under-represented Populations in Gifted Education
  • Demystifying ability grouping
  • Using the results of a nonverbal ability test
Dr. Donna Akilah Wright is an Educational Psychologist and an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for Early Childhood Special Education at City University of New York’s Medgar Evers College.

Her areas of specialization are global education, culture based education and response to intervention and literacy interventions for all ages.

Presentation Overview
Fern McFarlane is an experienced multi-tasker who serves the Ministry of Education as Assistant Chief Education Officer, Guidance and Counselling Unit.

Prior to joining the civil service, her career spanned Educator/Development Consultant, which has been expressed in teaching, case counselling, administration, mass communication, public relations, social research, community development, participatory strategic planning and programme design.

She has served in government, non-government and private sector entities as Subject Teacher (5 secondary level schools), Assistant Administrator/Counsellor (National Commercial Bank), Development Consultant (local, regional and international entities) and Case Counseling (Adoption Board, Family Court, NGOs, church).

Mrs. McFarlane’s Academic qualifications include, interalia, a Post graduate Diploma in Public Sector Senior Management Development (Distinction), Master of Arts in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change (Distinction), Bachelor of Science in Social Work (First Class Honours). These degrees, combined with diverse seminars, conferences and training sessions, equip her with core skills that enhance her effectiveness in diverse contexts.

She is a firm believer in the team concept, which she considers essential to making any organization a vibrant, and for growing and impactful entity.

With focus on her personal motto, ‘Anchored in Christ enabling others’, and as the self-declared mother of thousands, Mrs McFarlane has committed to the best interest of every child in Jamaica.

In her private time, she enjoys swimming, dancing, cycling and excursions with her husband Wayneford, daughter JoWayne and son Gemmar.

To use my knowledge and experience as a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist, to join and help build a great team of clinicians adept at finding creative solutions to complex problems facing the youth particularly in context of scarce resources.
I want to help increase effectiveness and efficacy of child and adolescent mental health services and improve its availability and affordability.

I also believe that all members of the Health and School Teams with a sound background knowledge of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Issues and Community Based Mental Health Interventions can provide, with the technical support of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Team, the kind of leadership that can lead to better outcomes for our youth. My goal is to create an environment, with the support of my colleagues, in which each member of the team feels empowered and motivated to provide such leadership.

Sound knowledge of and twenty years of experience in evaluation and management of mental and neuro-developmental disorders of children and adolescents.

Proficient in eclectic employment of evidence based psychotherapeutic interventions EMDR, Play Therapy, Trauma Focused CBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and other creative interventions in addition to the optimal use of medications as indicated.

Ability to build and bring together teams of professionals of diverse backgrounds and agencies to find common grounds and forge synergy.

  • International Member of the Canadian Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (since 2010).
  • Co-Chair of the Steering Committee (2012-2014) and Executive Director (2014- present) of the Jamaican Academy of Child & Adolescent Mental Health (An Umbrella Organization of all child serving Professionals involved in training, advocacy and outreach).
  • Vice-President (2003-2005) of the Jamaica Psychiatric Association
  • Full member of the Medical Association of Jamaica
  • Associate Member of the Pediatric Association of Jamaica.

Academic, Clinical and Other Areas of Interest:

  • Public education about mental health issues to enhance early detection, treatment and mental health promotion.
  • Technical Oversight Committee of Reduction of Juvenile Population in State Institutions (2013-2014)
  • Steering Committee for the OVC (Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children secondary to HIV/AIDS) program of Ministry of health in 2003-2004.
  • I have provided technical assistance to the St. Andrew Care Centre, a rehabilitative program for youth living/working on the streets in 2003-2004.


  • Eli Lilly Neuroscience Award for Excellence in Psychiatry for 2002 in recognition of outstanding performance of duties & dedication in psychiatric residency, (DM-Program).
Iris Soutar is a career Special Educator and advocate dedicated to improving the quality of life for D/deaf persons in Jamaica. She has championed development of the Deaf community for over 38 years through her work with the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).

Presentation Overview
Paulette S. A. Levers (MSc, BEd) (Psycho-educational Assessment and Support)

Ms Paulette Levers has worked with the Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID) for many years. Currently, she works as the Assessment Clinician & Placement Officer for JAID Network of Schools. She has a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology and Bachelor of Education in special education.

Diane P. Franklyn (Behaviour Management)
Christine A. Rodriguez (JAID’s Framework and Support)
Marilyn P. McKoy (Transition Support)
Deborah P. Manning (Social Services Assessment and Support)
Sylvestina A. Reid (School Curriculum Support)

Presentation Overview
Executive Director
Community Partnerships Director,
Center of Access and Success
Elon University, North Carolina, USA

Her research area includes literacy development of traditionally marginalized students, and parental involvement. She presents nationally and internationally in the areas of her research interests. She has many peer reviewed publications in leading education journals.

Area of Specialization: Educational Access and Success of traditionally marginalized students

Presentation Overview
Licensed Associate School Psychologist
PhD Candidate, Walden University

Area of specialization:
School/Clinical Psychology

Wanting to combine both Psychology and Education led Miss Samms to pursue a M.Ed in School Psychology at Georgia State University. Since returning to Jamaica, Jillian has been engaged in conducting psycho-educational assessments both privately and with the Regional Assessment Team of the Ministry of Education. She is presently a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at Walden University. She is also a dance teacher and enjoys the performing arts.

Presentation Overview
J. Lepley Consulting LLC
28 years’ experience teaching Special Education.
10 years Special Education Administrator of Young Adult Programs; Transition Coordinator

Presentation Overview
Her areas of research include elementary education, mental impairments, emotional impairments, and adapted Physical Education.

Her 35 years in the field of special education includes teaching, educational administration and leadership, and Director of Special Education.
She has also led a pilot study creating a system of care for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Presentation Overview
Mrs. Marilyn Mckoy is the Development Manager of JAID. She coordinates the Transition and adult services offered by JAID.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Mico University College; Master’s Degree in Library and Information Studies from The University of the West Indies, Mona ; and a Diploma in Teaching from the Mico Teachers’ College.

The highlight of her career is the extensive work with persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for over thirty years. She is an advocate for persons with Intellectual Disability.

Presentation Overview
Associates in Arts – Mental Health/Social Work

Founder/CEO Francis Young International Consultants in School Improvement

President Elect, Division of International Special Education Services and Support (DISES), a division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)

A recognized leader in Special Education Services at both the state, national and international levels, with 23 years of administrative and consulting experience, augmented by 9 years as a public school social worker. Broad-based administrative experience includes 6 years as a Director of Special Education at the regional level, one year as a District Supervisor of high school Special Education, and 9 years as a Principal of a regional public school for Special Education students. Experience enhanced by board leadership and committee appointments on a host of international, national and State of Michigan professional associations.

Francis Young International is an international consulting firm specializing in assessing Special Education Programs and advising administrators and staff in ways to improve the quality of services provided. Dr. Francis’ expertise includes consultancies with foreign countries, the Bureau of Indian Education and school districts throughout the United States on Special Education program challenges, such as staffing issues, positive behavioural support programs and techniques, and collaborative teaching.

He also serves as the Executive Director of the Midwest Region for Futures Education of Springfield and Senior Consultant for Winsor Learning. Futures Education provides special education system analysis for districts across the country. Winsor Learning works with districts in a systematic approach to adding para-professionals, and then a step down plan when a student has achieved their goals.

Mark served as the Director of Special Education for a large urban county that included the city of Detroit. He also served as the Director of Special Education for a small rural county in southwest Michigan. In his work with Michigan’s largest county, not only did he help develop policy, he oversaw the educational needs of over 48,000 students with special needs. He has served on a variety of local, state and national boards, committees and task forces. This would include President for the State of Michigan’s Council for Exceptional Children (CEC); the Board for National CEC’s Division for Autism and Developmental Disabilities; Executive Board member for the Division of International Special Education and Services; Member of the American Indian Caucus; MAASE’s Framework for the Future which worked on developing recommendations for new state rules and many other local and state committees. He has been interviewed numerous times by Detroit area newspapers and Education Weekly on various issues in Special Education.

In 2003, Mark Francis was honoured for his career work in the field of Special Education by the Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education (MAASE). As the state of Michigan closed their state institutions, he worked with his team to develop new programs that would meet the extreme needs of Michigan’s and Oakland County’s most challenging students. He was the first Native American to receive this award in the State of Michigan.

Mark believes that all students can learn and that systems need to be established that are “Student-Centered”. He also supports the United Nations treaty that for inclusive education for all students around the world.

Professor, of Child Health, Child Development and Behaviour, UWI
Consultant Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician, UHWI
Director, Child and Family Clinic, UHWI

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan is known locally, regionally and internationally for her seminal research, clinical work and policy development in the field of child health, child development and behaviour. She is also recognised as an advocate for the well-being of all children, but particularly so for those at the early childhood level and those with developmental and learning disabilities. She works very closely with families of children with autism.

She served in a number of academic UWI positions since 1993, and was appointed UWI’s first Professor of Child Health, Child Development and Behaviour in 2006. She has been Consultant Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician at UHWI and Director of the weekly Child and Family Clinic for children with developmental and behavioural disorders since 1993. She has taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels throughout the UWI and has supervised doctoral students at the UWI and at several universities in the USA in child development research. She has Adjunct Professorial status at universities in the USA. She served as the first Chairman of Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission from 2003 to 2015, and was responsible for laying a modern foundation for ECD during that period.

Prof. Samms-Vaughan has over 70 publications, including three books, several book chapters and peer reviewed papers, on a range of child development and behaviour related topics. She has also completed numerous consultancies in the field of child development and behaviour for the IDB, the World Bank, UNICEF and PAHO. She is currently a member of the IDB’s Advisory Group on Early Childhood Development. She has received numerous research grants for child development research from UNICEF, the IDB, the World Bank and the National Institutes of Health.

She is a director of Family Life Ministries, Usain Bolt Foundation and a number of school boards. She has received a number of local and international awards, including, the Commander of the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica in 2007 for pioneering work in early childhood development and child health care.

Dr Renee Rattray is an educator with a unique combination of expertise in the areas of special education, leadership development, teaching, training and coaching, behavior change and change management, as well as project management.

In May 2016, she was appointed Senior Manager, Learning, Development and Culture, at the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), with chief responsibility for developing training programmes and initiatives that align with the organisation’s strategy and deepen the JN culture.

Before being appointed Senior Manager at JNBS, she previously served as Director of Education Programmes at the JN Foundation. In that position Dr Rattray led the successful iLead school leadership programme, a unique initiative targeted at strengthening leadership in 10 select primary and high schools in the parishes of Portland, St Thomas and St Mary and stimulate a turnaround in their performances.

Prior to the iLead programme, Dr Rattray, a licensed School Inspector with the NEI, was Programme Manager of the Centres of Excellence programme funded by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation formed by JNBS and The Victoria Mutual Building Society. The $100 million, five-year initiative also assisted to strengthen leadership and initiate transformation in six rural non-traditional high schools across the country. Dr Rattray has also successfully managed many educational projects at the national level during her tenure as Project Manager of the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, under auspices of the PALS Programme.

She is a qualified professional, holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from The University of the West Indies, Mona and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Psychology from Colombia University in the United States.  She completed her Doctoral Degree in Education at the Nova South Eastern University in Florida.

Dr Rattray is a trained teacher with a Diploma in Education from the Mico University College in Kingston; and has worked at various levels within the teaching profession, commencing her career as a Special Education Teacher at the former Priory High School, which was located in the Corporate Area, and is a former Principal of the St Andrew Preparatory School. Her broad background and scholarship positions her to speak with gumption and authority on a wide range of topics within the educational sector from both a local and international perspective.

An adroit communicator who is passionate about her discipline, Dr Rattray is able to engage a wide range of stakeholder groups. She maintains professional involvement as a member of various public and private sector boards including, the National College for Educational Leadership; the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Education Committee; Maxfield Park Children’s Home and Edufocal Company Limited.

Dr. Sheilah Paul, a graduate of Columbia University, NY in special education and psychology, is the Acting Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Medgar Evers College of CUNY.  She is a special education expert, teacher educator, program and curriculum developer, diagnostician, habilitation specialist, and international consultant.

Her areas of specialization include Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Presentation Overview
Dr. Shirley J. Miske is president and CEO of Miske Witt & Associates Inc. (MWAI) and an expert in gender equity, inclusive education, educational   quality, and teacher professional development. Established in 1997, MWAI has worked collaboratively with research universities and international       development organization partners in 40 countries to design, implement, and evaluate programs in these areas. In 2008, a nine-person MWAI team prepared the national assessment, Achieving Inclusion: Transforming the Education System of Trinidad and Tobago. Miske has written extensively on rights-based   approaches to educational quality and equity and was an author of UNESCO’s Creating Inclusive, Learning-Friendly School Environments. Miske’s M.A. is in bilingual/cross-cultural education from Stanford University; her Ph.D. is in policy, curriculum, and teacher education from Michigan State University, with an emphasis in International Development Education.
Area of Specialization: Management, Education (with focus on adult learners and students who are Deaf), Training, Psychology and Strategic Planning

Tisha Ewen-Smith is specially trained in Management, Education, Training, Psychology and Strategic Planning with degrees from the University of the West Indies and several professional certificates. She has over 14 years of professional experience in Social Services and Administration, seven of which were focused on child development initiatives and special needs. This also includes six years of experience in strategic and corporate planning at the middle management level.

Presentation Overview