Keynote

Julie A. Washington, Ph.D.

Dr. Julie Washington, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Special Education and Communication Disorders in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta. She is also Director of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program and Associate Director of the Urban Child Study Center at GSU. Dr. Washington is an affiliate faculty of Georgia State University’s Language and Literacy Initiative, a unique research initiative focused on the challenges of acquiring language and literacy in high-risk urban, and impaired populations. Currently, Dr. Washington’s research is focused on understanding the role of cultural dialect in the identification of Learning Disabilities in school-aged African American children and on disentangling the relationship between language production and comprehension on development of reading skills for children growing up in poverty. Dr. Washington’s research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development.

Mary Ann Whiteker

Mary Ann Whiteker is the Superintendent of Hudson ISD, Lufkin, Texas. She has spent the past 44 years as a professional educator with 23 of those years being spent as the Superintendent of Hudson ISD.  Before she was the Superintendent, was a first-grade teacher and has also held titles of District Curriculum Director and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction of Hudson ISD. She is a graduate of  Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas - Bachelors of Science in Education, Masters Degrees in Education, Post Graduate – Administration & Superintendent Certificate.
-Governor's Appointment to the 2010 Select Committee on Public School Finance, Weights,
Allotments and Adjustments.
-Past President of Texas Association of Midsize Schools
-Past Legislative Chair of Texas Association of Community Schools
-Past President of Texas Association of Community SchoolsPast Legislative Chair for Texas Association of School Administrators
-Board Member – Texas Association of Suburban/Mid-Urban Schools
-At-Large Member of the Commissioner's CabinetTASA Design Team for Creating a New Vision for Texas Public Schools
-Recipient of the 2012-13 Texas Association of Midsize Schools Golden Apple –Contributions to Public Education – Statewide
-2013 Region VII Superintendent of the Year
-2015 Region VII Superintendent of the Year
-2015 Texas Superintendent of the Year
-2016 TASA Texas Nominee for National Superintendent of the Year


Session Speakers

Sara Arispe, M.Ed., Fort Worth Independent School District

Sara Arispe is an Associate Superintendent in Fort Worth Independent School District; in this capacity, Sara supervises numerous departments which currently include Accountability and Data Quality, Student Assessment, Data Analysis & Reporting, Early Childhood, Parents as Teachers, Dyslexia Services, Professional Learning, New Teacher Induction, Curriculum Policy, and Academic Advisement. Sara is a graduate of Texas Christian University where she received her Masters of Education. She began her career in education as a classroom teacher with certifications in both Elementary Education and English.
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Elisa Barnes, M.Ed., CALT-QI, Neuhaus Education Center

Elisa has been involved in literacy education for over 25 years. She has extensive experience working with at-risk students. Elisa joined the staff at Neuhaus in 2000. She is a highly qualified instructor and has guided the professional learning of scores of practitioners and therapists who are providing instruction to students with dyslexia.
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Michelle Beard, Ph.D., Transcendent Student Solutions, LLC

Dr. Michelle Beard is a psychologist in private practice in Houston, Texas. She holds a doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and specializes in working with students who suffer from anixety, as well as identifying students with various learning challenges. Recently, she launched a new venture, Transcendent Student Solutions, LLC, where learning specialists will receive cutting edge training from renowned educational experts and then be deployed to the homes of struggling students to help them reclaim academic success. Dr. Beard is passionate about helping each child reach their potential and find confidence along the way.
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Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D., Valley Speech Language and Learning Center

Elsa Cárdenas-Hagan, Ed.D, is a Bilingual Speech Language Pathologist and a Certified Academic Language Therapist. She is the Director of Valley Speech Language and Learning Center in Brownsville, Texas which was established in 1993. She also works with Texas Institute for Measurement Evaluation and Statistics at the University of Houston. Dr. Cárdenas-Hagan is the author of Esperanza (HOPE), a Spanish language program designed to assist students who struggle with learning to read. Her research interests include the development of early reading assessments for Spanish-speaking students and the development of reading interventions for bilingual students. She was the co-principal investigator of a longitudinal study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute for Education Science that examined the oracy and literacy development in English and Spanish of Spanish-speaking children. She serves as the Vice President for the International Dyslexia Association and has authored curricular programs, book chapters, and journal articles related to oracy and literacy development for English language learners.
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Benilda L. Cervantes, M.Ed., Brownsville Independent School District

Benilda L. Cervantes is a graduate of Pan American University (UT of Brownsville) and holds a Master degree from Stephen F. Austin University. She also holds a Mid- Management and Elementary certifications with endorsements in  Bilingual and Kindergarten. In her 41-year career with the Brownsville Independent School District, Ms. Cervantes has been a kindergarten, bilingual teacher, elementary instructional facilitator, Bilingual Curriculum Specialist, Federal Programs Supervisor, Migrant Supervisor and Early Childhood Specialist. She has trained and supported teachers, instructional facilitators, and principals on the implementation of trainings such as the Kindergarten-Grade 4 Reading Academies, Language Enrichment, Esperanza, and TELPAS along with Federal and State compliance while at Federal Programs and Migrant Education.   As an Early Childhood Specialist, she helps support the early childhood teachers through planning, delivering and overseeing implementation of professional development and the newly acquired HB4: HQ PK Grant for all 37  elementary campuses.
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Jeremy Creed, M.Ed., Neuhaus Education Center

Jeremy has been involved in education for over ten years. He has worked with literacy programs for young learners as well as those for adults. Jeremy has led professional learning at Neuhaus Education Center since 2013. He has provided extensive implementation support and coaching for engaged in structured literacy instruction.
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Barbara Conway, Ph.D., Neuhaus Education Center

Barbara T. Conway, Ph.D. has over 20 years of experience teaching and coaching reading in grades kindergarten through adult, and in reading instruction with undergraduate and graduate university students.  She did her Ph.D. studies at Texas A&M University at College Station, Texas in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in reading. She received a master of education from University of Houston in curriculum and instruction and a bachelor of science in special education from the University of Texas at Austin, Texas. She completed her dyslexia specialist preparation at Neuhaus Education Center in 2011. Dr. Conway’s work at Neuhaus Education Center involves elearning and university partnerships.
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Mary Durheim, Educational Rights Information and Consulting Center

Mary Durheim is an educational consultant and a past national president of CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Mary was appointed by Governor’s Bush and Perry to the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. In March of 2012, former Governor Perry appointed Mary to the position of chair of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities which she continues to chair. Presenting workshops and trainings statewide, nationally and internationally on topics such as AD/HD, Section 504, and dyslexia, Mary is also a trained mediator, Section 504 hearing officer, and recently participated on the workgroup developing the Texas Dyslexia Identification Academy.
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Julie Fernandez, E.Ed., Houston Baptist University

Dr. Julie Fernandez interests lie in creating, developing, and supporting school teachers and leaders who will provide all children an education in a safe and caring environment. She served in public schools for 31 years as an elementary teacher, district teacher mentor, and campus administrator. She has been teaching in higher education for the past 5 years. She is currently the coordinator of the Education Administration program at Houston Baptist University.
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Cathie Fisher, M.Ed., Neuhaus Education Center

In her role at Neuhaus, Cathie works with schools, districts, and individuals to construct immediate and long-term professional development and implementation plans customized to address specific literacy needs, build educator knowledge, and ensure sustainability.  Her clients include Hudson ISD, Lufkin ISD, Chapel Hill ISD,  and many others.  She has recently obtained a Master of Education in Reading and Writing with Southern Methodist University and Neuhaus Education Center and completed her B.F.A. at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.  Before working in education, Cathie gained expertise in sales, marketing, management, and finance.  Her education experience includes early childhood teaching and management, tutoring with Volunteer in Public Schools, and providing dyslexia remediation therapy using Basic Language Skills instruction.
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Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP, University of Houston

Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Chair, Department of Psychology, University of Houston. For the past 35 years, Dr. Fletcher, a board certified child neuropsychologist, has conducted research and a clinical practice involving children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Dr. Fletcher directs a National Learning Disability Research Center that focuses on dyslexia, with cognitive, neurobiological, and intervention components. Dr. Fletcher has served on many national committees related to special education, including the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education. In Texas, Dr. Fletcher has served on advisory committees related to the dyslexia legislation passed in 1984, including the dyslexia handbook. He helped develop screenings for early identification of reading problems, including dyslexia, that are used across the state. Dr. Fletcher was the recipient of the Samuel T. Orton award from the International Dyslexia Association in 2003 and a co-recipient of the Albert J. Harris award from the International Reading Association in 2006. He is a Past President of the International Neuropsychological Society.
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Mary French, CALT, Neuhaus Education Center

Mary French has served as a member of the Neuhaus teaching staff for the last ten years. Previously she worked for over twenty years as a dyslexia specialist in Clear Creek ISD. After retiring from Neuhaus this last summer, she continues to assist Neuhaus when needed. Mary attended Boston College where she earned a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a Masters degree as a Reading Specialist. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) as well as a Certified Dyslexia Therapist
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Kevin A. Grevemberg, Neuhaus Education Center

Kevin A. Grevemberg resides in Houston, Texas along with his wife, three daughters and one grandson. He has been an educator for over 25 years. Currently, he is the Coordinator of Special Literacy Projects at Neuhaus Education Center. At Neuhaus Kevin develops, manages and documents district implementation plans, processes and works with district leadership to ensure positive results and the delivery of service. In his early years of teaching, Kevin was a middle school Reading teacher then later moved into a 3rd-grade position where he found his niche. His success as a classroom teacher didn’t go unnoticed as he was hired as a district Literacy Specialist then later on assumed the role of Manager of Professional Literacy Services for two international educational companies.
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Jacqueline Hawkins, Ed.D., University of Houston

Jacqueline Hawkins, Ed.D. is a tenured Associate Professor in Special Education at the College of Education who has served as department chair, Associate Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Outreach, Associate Dean for Administration and Operations. She has also served as PI or Co-PI on several grants from US Department of Education and private foundations. For example, she led the evaluation team (Co-I) of the US Department of Education C3 Coaching Grant ($2.6 M) that provided professional development for teachers and the Greater Texas Foundation iSMART project ($3.5M) which provided in-service graduate education to middle school mathematics and science teachers. She has significant experience in working with students with disabilities in both K-12 and higher education. For example, she has served as Chair of the UH Academic Accommodations Committee (AAEC) for over a decade overseeing accommodations for over 1,600 students annually and is program lead for an Ed.D. program for Professional Leadership that focuses on instructional improvement for special populations. She has extensive experience working collaboratively with school districts on issues related to students with disabilities.
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Lupita Hinojosa, Ed.D., Spring Independent School District

Dr. Lupita Hinojosa is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and holds a Masters and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Houston. She also holds certifications for Superintendent, Mid- Management, Elementary Pk-6 and Bilingual/ESL Pk-6 endorsement. In her 23-year career with the Houston Independent School District, Dr. Hinojosa has been a bilingual teacher, elementary principal, middle school principal, executive principal, assistant superintendent and school services officer. She has coached and supported teachers, principals, and emergent leaders. As the school services officer, Dr. Hinojosa supported the day-to-day operations of 282 schools in the Houston Independent School District. She oversaw the School Support Office which included the departments for External Funding, Federal and State Compliance, School Accountability, School Choice, and Parent and Community Liaison. In her current role as chief academic officer in the Spring Independent School District, she oversees the daily operations of the departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Multilingual, Special Education, Career and Technical Education, Gifted and Talented, Performing and Visual Arts, Athletics, Guidance and Counseling, Health and Medical Heath Services, Student Support Services, Research, Accountability, and Testing, Data Management and Compliance, Federal and State Compliance and the Office of School Leadership that oversees the 38 schools in Spring ISD. Dr. Hinojosa has been a visiting professor at the University of Houston, teaching courses in both the Masters and Doctoral programs of Education in Administration and Supervision. She is a past president of the Houston Area Association for Bilingual Association and the Texas Association for Bilingual Association. She has served on the board of the Association of Hispanic School Administrators and is a member of the National Association for School Administrators.
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Cena Holifield, Ph.D., CALT-QI, The 3-D School & William Carey University

Dr. Holifield has served children with dyslexia for the past fifteen years. In 2008, she co-founded Dynamic Dyslexia Design; The 3-D School located in petal, Mississippi where she currently serves as executive director. Dr. Holifield is also an Assistant Professor at William Carey University where she serves as director and instructor of the Master's Degree in Dyslexia Therapy Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Administration and Masters of Education Degrees in Dyslexia Therapy and Elementary Education. She is a nationally Certified Academic Langauge Therapist and Qualified Instructor.
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Carole Hyde, Hardin-Jefferson Independent School District

Carole Hyde graduated with a BA in English Literature with a minor in Technical Writing from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She has taught an eclectic mixture of writing, reading, and rhetoric in all grade levels ranging from 7th through 12th grade for the past ten years. She is currently a Tier III participant in the Neuhaus program and teaches Basic Language Skills and Neuhaus Academy at the secondary level in Hardin-Jefferson ISD.
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Lisa Jeffrey, Hudson Independent School District

Lisa Jeffrey has been with Hudson ISD since 2009 and has 20 years experience serving as a classroom teacher, as principal and currently serving as Director of Curriculum and Instruction. She received her BS in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1998 and her Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas in 2004.
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Dr. Beulah Johnson-Keels, SPEECH EFX

Professional Development Partner Beulah Johnson-Keels™ passion for cultural and linguistic diversity stems from her personal experiences with code switching and 14 years of expertise as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). She holds a B.A. and M.S. from the University of South Florida (USF) and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Argosy University. Dr. Johnson-Keels has always had a keen interest in African American English. She has researched teachers™ attitudes toward African American English and served as a contributor for research related to nonword spelling and phonemic awareness tasks for speakers of African American English. She has mentored and supervised numerous SLPs from USF. Before resuming private practice, she served as district supervisor for the Department of Specialized Services for students with exceptional needs in Pinellas County Schools. Dr. Johnson-Keels owns SPEECH EFX, a private practice in which she partners with individuals who desire to enhance their communication skills for public speaking.
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Julie Madden, Lufkin Independent School District

Julie Madden has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood through 4th grade and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is currently earning her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Stephen F. Austin State University. Julie spent 11 years in the classroom teaching kindergarten and 5th grade. Before moving into the role of District Literacy Specialist for Lufkin ISD, Julie worked as a Campus Curriculum Coach for two years. As a District Literacy Specialist for Lufkin ISD, Julie oversees the writing and implementation of the Language Arts Curriculum for grades 2-5. She began facilitating the implementation of Developing Metacognitive Strategies into the district’s 3-5 classrooms in August 2016.
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Lance Menster, Houston Independent School District

Mr. Menster supports, develops, and oversees PK-5 Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, and Professional Development for the Houston Independent School District as the Officer for Elementary Curriculum and Development. This includes a team of 120 staff members including elementary Teacher Development Specialists (TDS), Curriculum Specialists, Managers, and Directors. Over the past 23 years, Mr. Menster has served as a classroom teacher, program coordinator with the Houston Annenberg Challenge, and as the district’s K-5 Mathematics Curriculum Manager. Prior to leading HISD’s Elementary Curriculum and Development Office, Lance most recently served as the Assistant Superintendent for Professional Support and Development. Mr. Menster received his Bachelors Degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa, Masters Degree in educational administration from the University of St. Thomas, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate Degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
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Robert Meyer, Ventris Learning

President Robert Meyer has 18 years of territory sales, sales management, marketing, product development and general management experience in the K-12 publishing industry. Prior to co-founding Ventris in 2013, Meyer worked as Wisconsin Account Executive for the Scholastic Corporation, VP of School Sales at Failure Free Reading, Sales & Marketing Director at Knowledge Unlimited, Director of Educational Services at MetaMetrics, and Business Development Manager for Advantage Learning Systems. Earlier in his career, Meyer worked in a national business development role for Micro-Surface Finishing Products, and in regional sales positions for Air & Water Technologies. Meyer holds music education and MBA degrees from the University of Iowa.
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Alys Ray, Lufkin Independent School District

Alys Ray has a Bachelor and Master's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University. After teaching language arts in a middle school classroom, she became a Certified and Licensed Dyslexia therapist in 1987. She has taught all levels of dyslexic students for the past 30 years and is presently the Dyslexia Coordinator for Lufkin ISD. She is responsible for dyslexia assessment and implementation of the dyslexia program in Lufkin ISD. She has been able to use her experience with Neuhaus programs to help facilitate growth of literacy instruction in the district.
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Siomara Saenz-Phillips, Houston Independent School District

Mrs. Siomara Saenz-Phillips comes to Jefferson with more than 21 years of experience. This is Mrs. Saenz-Phillips' second year as principal of Jefferson Elementary. Before that, she spent six years as principal at HISD’s Southmayd Elementary School. During her tenure at Southmayd, the campus consistently earned the highest academic ranking offered by the state and became a demonstration site showcasing best educational practices. Prior to Southmayd, Mrs. Saenz-Phillips served as an assistant principal at both Neff Elementary School and Scarborough High School and a teacher at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center. She started her career as a teacher in the McAllen Independent School District and then worked for Community Education Partners as an education specialist and learning community instructional leader before joining HISD. Mrs. Saenz-Phillips earned a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas – Pan American and a master’s degree in education administration and supervision as a Title III Fellow in the Urban Principals Program at the University of Houston. In addition to her tenure and experience, Mrs. Saenz-Phillips is a dynamic and innovative educator with a true commitment to student growth and academic success and a proven track record of turning around low-performing schools with the use of strategic planning, curriculum and program development, and effective communication, all of which make her a perfect fit for Jefferson Elementary School.
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Kristi L. Santi, Ph.D., University of Houston

Kristi L. Santi, Ph.D., a tenured Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Houston. Dr. Santi is recognized for her expertise related to students with disabilities, and reading disability in particular. She is an expert in all areas related to students with disabilities, including developmental and efficacy research, the teaching of students with disabilities, the preparation of teachers for working with students with disabilities, and federal and state policy related to individuals with disabilities. She has also conducted research in the area of EL students, including leading the development of early reading assessments for EL students learning to read in English or Spanish. Her current work also focuses on secondary analysis of large-scale data sets to develop a theoretical and empirical framework for the identification of disabilities in language minority students.
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Catherine Scott, M.Ed., CALT, Neuhaus Education Center

Catherine Scott, M.Ed. has been a member of Neuhaus Education Center since 2008.  Catherine She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and a reading specialist certified by the State of Texas.  Catherine has presented at national, local and regional conferences.  For nine years, Catherine worked as a regular classroom teacher and a reading interventionist in a large urban school district.  Catherine's master Thesis, Increasing Literacy Coaching and Teacher Knowledge through Professional Development, was awarded the Thesis of Distinction by The University of St. Thomas in Houston. As a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist, Catherine also works privately with students.
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Carla J. Stevens, Houston Independent School District

Carla Stevens is the Assistant Superintendent for Research and Accountability for the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Her responsibilities include the oversight of the Department of Research and Accountability, project director of the district’s multiple federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants, and district liaison for the Houston Education Research Consortium with Rice University’s Kinder Institute. Ms. Stevens has worked in HISD since 1991 in various roles within the district’s research department, and as assistant superintendent since 2007. Ms. Stevens’ areas of expertise include state and federal accountability systems, student assessment, program evaluation, teacher performance pay models, and student performance within teacher appraisal systems.
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Kathy Thannisch, Lufkin Independent School District

Kathy Thannisch has a Bachelor and Master's degree in Elementary Education from Stephen F. Austin State University. Kathy taught 1st grade for 27 years before moving into the role of Instructional Coach at Trout Primary. After 5 years as Trout's Instructional Coach, Kathy moved into the position of District Early Childhood Specialist where she oversees the writing and implementation of PK, K and 1st grade Language Arts Curriculum. For the last 2 years, Kathy has facilitated the implementation of Reading Readiness and Language Enrichment in the district's K-2 classrooms.
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Novella Washington, Ph.D., Neuhaus Education Center

Novella Washington, Ph.D. is a Coaching Coordinator at Neuhaus Education Center. She is responsible for recruiting and supporting the work of Neuhaus reading coaches in the field. She provides professional development opportunities to educators in literacy acquisition including job-embedded support as they implement evidence-based strategies in their classrooms. She is also a graduate Reading professor at the University of St Thomas . Dr. Washington comes to Neuhaus with 22 years of experience in teaching, training, coaching, and curriculum development, and research.
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Tracy Weeden, Ed.D., Neuhaus Education Center

Dr. Weeden, Neuhaus President and CEO joined Neuhaus from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Intervention Services Group (a division recently acquired from Scholastic Achievement Partners), where she most recently served as the Executive Director of Academic Planning. In this capacity, Dr. Weeden provided executive consulting nationally on the development of systems that helped school districts improve student achievement and address barriers to rigorous, relevant learning. Prior to Scholastic Achievement Partners, she spent 5 1/2 years as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for the Houston Independent School District. A graduate from the University of Detroit, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication and a minor in English, Tracy also received her Master of Education and her Ed.D in Administration & Supervision from the University of Houston.
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Mary Yarus, M.Ed., CALT, Neuhaus Education Center

Mary H. Yarus, Vice President of Family Engagement and Adult Literacy at Neuhaus Education Center, is a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist and a Certified Academic Language Therapist. She earned her Master’s in Education Reading Specialist from the University of St. Thomas and her B.S. in Home Economics from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining Neuhaus Education Center in 2008, she was a Dyslexia Therapist in private practice for eight years. Mary is currently President-elect of the Houston Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and co-chair of the East Texas Branch of the Academic Language Therapy Association.
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