2024 WCASS Spring Conference
Growing Together: Learning, Listening & Leading 

For speaker bios click here. For conference handouts click here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Pre-Conference Registration

1:00-4:00 Pre-Conference Learning

Writing Compliant and Implementable IEPs
Mary Gerbig and Aleah Loll, Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet and 
Sara Totten and Michael Hickey, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Writing IEPs that reflect student needs, are compliant and implementable can feel daunting. Attorneys Mary Gerbig and Aleah Loll from Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet are partnering with Sara Totten and Mike Hickey, School Administration Consultants on the Special Education Team at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to provide a robust learning experience that will demystify this work. Participants will gain insights into how to develop IEPs that reflect student needs, are compliant, and can be implemented as written. Procedural Compliance Self Assessment (PCSA) considerations will be incorporated as well.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

7:00-4:30 Registration

8:00-9:45 Welcome & Keynote Learning

Percy Brown

Empowering Student Voice: The Role of Qualitative Data in School Improvement Cycles

Students can provide a unique perspective on how school-based decisions impact their
daily experiences within the system and contribute to the school's overall culture. Unfortunately, most schools often overlook the importance of listening to the students they serve. Some schools use student surveys, and while these surveys can inform school-based decisions, a deeper, more comprehensive approach is needed. Empowering and leveraging student voices is an untapped approach that can provide schools with practical changes to improve all students' social and emotional well-being. More importantly, when students are engaged authentically as leaders, problem-solvers, and decision-makers, they will feel more connected and engaged in school.

Percy Brown, Jr. has over 20 years of combined experience in K-12 education as a counselor for students of color, instructional resource teacher for culturally responsive classroom practices, dean of students, central office administrator, and adjunct instructor in higher education. He provides school districts with district and building-level coaching and strategic planning, professional development for district staff, and ongoing support for students and families.

Madison365 recognized Percy Brown, Jr. as one of Wisconsin’s most influential African Americans. Percy has received the Urban League of Greater Madison President’s Rising Star Award and was acknowledged as the Educator of the Year by the 100 Black Men of Madison, Wisconsin. He is serving his second term on Governor Evers Council on Equity and Inclusion for Wisconsin.

Percy Brown Jr. comes from a family of civil rights activists who fought for equal rights in the Jim Crow South during the 1950s and 60s in Bolivar County, Mississippi. Percy’s family activism is part of the lineage he carries into his work as an educational leader.

9:45-10:15 Break & Visit Exhibitors

10:15-11:30 Concurrent Sessions

1. The Power of Words: A Systems Approach to Addressing Hate Speech and Other Forms of Derogatory Language
Percy Brown

Hate speech and other forms of derogatory language is on the rise in schools and does your school district have a response? In this interactive breakout session, Percy Brown will walk you through a process to develop an incident response framework to address hate speech and other
forms of derogatory language in schools. Participants will also learn about the Power of Words Seminar for students, staff, community members and the positive impact it is having on school communities. Learning outcomes include:

  • Participants will receive an incident response framework for hate speech and derogatory language.
  • Participants will have a deepened awareness of culture and climate issues in schools.
  • Participants will leave with strategies to disrupt hate speech and other forms of derogatory language.

2. Effective Strategies for Managing Expectations Around 504 and IEP Referrals from the Medical Community including for Mental Health Support
Tess O'Brien- Heinzen and Chad Wade, Renning, Lewis & Lacy, Tiffany Loken, Waunakee School District, Christa Foster, Monona Grove School District and Melissa Gessert, School District of Ashland

This session will provide information about how to navigate referrals from the medical community for Section 504 plans. Better understanding the requirements of Section 504 and effective communication and outreach strategies can help. Both legal and practice considerations will be shared during this session.


3. Panel Discussion: Thrive, don't just survive. “Other duties as assigned” How do I do all this?
Facilitated by Kelly Kapitz, Marathon County Special Education

As a director of special education, you face a myriad of responsibilities, from overseeing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and ensuring compliance with regulations to managing budgets, coordinating services, and collaborating with various stakeholders. The sheer volume of tasks can be overwhelming, often leaving little room for personal well-being and professional growth.

In this session, our expert panelists will share practical tips and proven approaches to help you navigate the complexities of your role with confidence and resilience. Learn how to streamline workflows, delegate responsibilities, and leverage resources to optimize efficiency without sacrificing quality. Moreover, we'll explore the importance of self-care and stress management in sustaining long-term success in your position. 

Whether you're a seasoned director looking to refine your skills or a newcomer seeking guidance, this sectional promises to equip you with actionable strategies and empowering perspectives for effective time management, prioritization techniques, and the crucial aspect of self-care.

 4. District Application of Inclusive Practices
Lisa Misco, WCASS President, CESA 8 and Jennifer Garceau, Howard-Suamico School District

The Howard-Suamico School District has a longstanding
commitment to integrating students with disabilities through co-teaching and adaptable instructional practices. This session features firsthand accounts from educators who bring inclusive practices to life, aligning classroom expectations with individualized education program (IEP) goals.


11:30-12:45 Lunch | Awards | Membership Meeting | Visit Exhibitors

1:00-2:15 Concurrent Sessions 

1. Updated Mandated Reporter Training and Guidance
Julie Incitti, WDPI, Jerry Nicholson, Unified School District of DePere and Caroline Mihalski, Wrightstown Community School District

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recently released updated mandated reporter training and guidance. This session will provide an overview of the updates and get teams ready to implement the training and guidance in their districts. You will learn from student services leaders who informed the revisions and are leading this work in their districts.

2. Understanding Student Needs to Determine LRE Using the Continuum from Full Inclusion to Alternate Placements or Shortened Days
Renae Aldana & Emily Turzinski, Buelow Vetter,  Anne Ignatowski, Nicolet Union High School, and Kaari Olson, CESA 1
Determining the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for a student is a critical decision for IEP teams. This session will focus on understanding student needs to determine LRE using the continuum from full inclusion to alternate placements/shortened days.
3. Student-Led IEPs
Jenny Jacobs, Transition Improvement Grant, Elizabeth (Lisa) Bochinski, Oshkosh Area School District and Melissa Volz, DeForest Area School District

Student involvement in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) is crucial for developing self-advocacy skills, understanding their disability and IEP, requesting accommodations, and participating in their transition planning.  It empowers students and fosters self-determination.  Students can participate in a variety of ways that are comfortable to them, from completing introductions, sharing work, to sharing their goals, and facilitating the IEP meeting.  You will hear from people in the field who are using student led IEP meetings with their students.

4. Implementing Explicit Instruction at the Universal Level to Boost Collective Responsibility
CCR IEP Cohort

In 2022-23, 5 school districts took part in an IEP Cohort with the RSN focusing on explicit instructional practices at the universal level.  Come to this session to learn about what these district teams did across elementary grade levels to share responsibility for instructional reading strategies to improve outcomes for all students.  Representatives from districts will share their stories and highlight some key lessons learned through the cohort process.

Group Bio:

The presenter group consists of the RSN workgroup that designed the cohort on explicit instruction, as well as representation from the districts who participated in the project over the past two years.


2:15-2:45 Visit Exhibitors

2:45-4:15  General Session

Act 20 Considerations for Student Services Leaders
Laura Adams and Patti Williams, WDPI

Understanding the implications of Act 20 for IDEA compliance is critical for student services and special education staff and leaders. Wisconsin's State Director of Special Education Patti Williams and Policy Initiatives Advisor Laura Adams will provide an overview of Act 20 requirements, with a specific focus on special education considerations and applications.  Updated information and timelines for release of resources and additional guidance will also be shared.

4:30-6:30 Legal Hot Topics & Networking Reception Sponsored by:





Friday, May 3, 2024

7:00-8:00 Breakfast

8:10-9:30 Keynote Speaker

Joe Sanfelippo

Changing the Narrative: Lead From Where You Are

When is the last time something amazing happened in your school? How many people knew about it? The work done in schools all across the globe is spectacular.  Kids gather…learn…leave…and make the world we live in a better place. So…amazing things happen all the time. School perception is often based on the narrative of those who attended years ago. Telling the real story of schools helps create a narrative that builds culture and gives everyone in your community an identity. Utilizing social media and empowering those around you to be the storytellers of your district is a great way to celebrate the success of students with parents and the community. FIND YOUR AUDIENCE...BUILD YOUR BRAND...CELEBRATE KIDS!!

Dr. Joe Sanfelippo recently retired after spending the last 26 years in the building and the final 12 as the Superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Fall Creek, WI. The Fall Creek School District was named an Innovative District twice during that time by the International Center for Leadership in Education. Joe is the author of multiple books, including the best-selling Hacking Leadership and Lead From Where You Are. His 1-Minute Walk to Work video series has over 1 Million views. He was selected as 1 of 117 Future Ready Superintendents and 1 of 50 Superintendents as a Personalized Learning Leader by the US Department of Education. Education Dive named Joe their National Superintendent of the Year in 2019.

9:30-10:30 & 10:45-11:30 WCASS Conversations (repeated)

    • Lead from where you are
    • Working with Residential Care Centers
    • Staffing: Grow your own
    • Using AI to Boost Productivity
    • Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System
    • BYO Topic: Practice and Legal Considerations
    • Section 504 Considerations
    • LRE and Shortened School Days
    • Getting Ready for Title IX updates
    • Mental Health and Modified Grading Implications for Students with Act 95: Direct Admission
    • Coaching Up or Coaching Out?
    • Restorative Circles

Conference Fees:

Member: $375*
Non-Member: $450
Pre-Conference Session: $90 (in addition to conference fee; pre-registration is required)
*Must be logged in to see member pricing*

Sending a team?
Members bringing a team of 3 or more from the same organization? Please use the code TEAM when registering each team member to receive the team member discount registration!

Overnight Information:

Hilton Paper Valley- SOLD OUT as of 4/12/24
333 West College Ave.
Appleton, WI 54911
Special room rate of $98/single or $119/double occupancy per night.
Call 800-774-1500 

Nearby Hotels:

  • Courtyard Appleton Riverfront (located on the east side past Lawrence University)
    101 S Riverheath Way 920.903.9256 
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites (located on the west side of town, by the Fox River Mall)
    130 S Nicolet Rd 920.939.8181 

*Full refund of fees will be made on cancellations received 10 days prior to the start of the convention. Following that date, a 40% administrative fee will be retained. There will be no refund for no-shows or cancellations during the event.

Conference Sponsors:

Platinum Sponsors



Gold Sponsor