Dave PhillipsDirector, WestEd
Dave Phillips, a project director at WestEd, leads CIFR. This role builds on his years of experience developing processes, creating cross-organizational partnerships, and organizing teams to provide effective technical assistance to state agencies. He has previously held leadership roles in a number of federally funded regional and national data and TA centers, including serving as co-director of the prior iteration of CIFR, convener of the Fiscal Improvement Team in the Regional Resource Center Program, co-lead of the Urban School Improvement Alliance for the Regional Education Lab-Northeast and Islands, and TA Team Lead for the IDEA Data Center.
Prior to joining WestEd, Phillips served as the IDEA Part B Data Manager for the state of Vermont.
Jenifer Harr-RobinsDeputy Director
Jenifer J. Harr-Robins, PhD, is the Deputy Director of CIFR. Formerly a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research, she has over 20 years of special education research and evaluation experience with expertise in special education finance. As a co-director of the first CIFR (2014 – 2020), she focused on CIFR’s quality assurance and provided input on the external evaluation activities.
Over the years, she has supported states with their state special education funding systems, including California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Dr. Harr-Robins was also the associate director of the Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF) and its national Special Education Expenditure Project (SEEP) and was co-author of two book chapters on special education finance.
Other special education research includes an Institute of Education Sciences study of school accountability systems, evaluations of special education programs, and examinations of special education service delivery.
Nancy O'HaraTechnical Assistance Lead, WestEd
Nancy O’Hara, Senior Program Associate at WestEd, is an expert in planning and providing technical assistance on special education in the areas of policy and procedures development, high-quality data, fiscal data and policies, and general supervision and monitoring. She is experienced in coordinating projects, resource and tool development, and facilitating authentic stakeholder engagement in the development of resources, policies, and procedures.
O’Hara has experience at the local, state, university, and national TA levels. O’Hara served as the state director of special education in Georgia, among many other local and state educational leadership positions.
Currently, O’Hara works on multiple national technical assistance centers. She provides quality technical assistance to states with clear goals, defined processes and outcomes that support sustainability in the state. O’Hara has been providing and coordinating projects, resource development, and TA at the national level for nine years.
Anne Louise ThompsonPart B TA Coordinator, WestEd
Anne Louise Thompson, PhD, is a Senior Program Associate at WestEd, bringing expertise to CIFR in special education, fiscal management, leadership, educational systems change, policy implementation, and program evaluation. Currently, Dr. Thompson is also a state TA facilitator and content specialist with the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI). Previously, she served with CIFR as a content specialist and with NCSI’s Fiscal Support Team.
Dr. Thompson served as Connecticut’s state director of special education, working for 15 years at the state level. She was a director of special education, district coordinator of preschool services, and director of Title I services in Connecticut; special education teacher in Connecticut and Virginia; and adjunct university faculty in the US and the Netherlands. Along with national and international presentations on fiscal, leadership, and other educational topics in special education, she has multiple publications. Thompson was the 2008 LRP Publications® JoLeta Reynolds Service to Special Education Award recipient for her impact on the quality of special education services through leadership, instruction, special projects, innovation, management, program design, and/or improvement.
Pakethia HarrisPart B TA Coordinator, AIR
Pakethia Harris, PhD, is a technical assistance (TA) consultant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). She has expertise in K-12 special education curriculum and policy and school finance. She has more than 10 years of experience in the special education field. Dr. Harris currently provides technical assistance and professional development to states pertaining to fiscal policy and procedures, collecting and using high-quality data, and data reporting with the Center for IDEA Fiscal Reporting (CIFR). Harris also engages in product development and state technical assistance with the National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) and IDEA Data Center (IDC).
Prior to her position at AIR, Dr. Harris was a graduate fellow engaged in research at University of South Florida were her research agenda focused on the reciprocal relationship between education policy and the multiple dimensions of education finance and economics. Also, Dr. Harris taught university coursework. Prior to her experiences in higher education, she was an instructional coach for general and special education teachers, where she developed and provided professional development workshops for teachers and administrators related to the area of curriculum and instruction and behavioral interventions.
Ardith FergusonPart C TA Coordinator, WestEd
Ardith Ferguson, MEd, is a Senior Program Associate at WestEd contributing early intervention, Part C fiscal management, early childhood systems change, leadership, policy development and implementation, and general supervision expertise to CIFR. Ferguson has 30 years of experience providing local and state coordination of evidence-based practices, comprehensive system of personnel development, implementation of coordinated fiscal systems, general supervision and program accountability to ensure compliance, correction of noncompliance and quality improvement, and promotion of parent leadership and interagency collaboration for early childhood initiatives.
Ferguson is experienced in providing local, state, and national leadership and technical assistance to determine policy changes; developing strategic planning for new models of service delivery; and anticipating future issues that may affect early intervention systems. Prior to joining WestEd, she worked for a state Lead Agency as the Part C Coordinator and was responsible for the federal Part C grant and the state-funded early intervention program. In that position, she provided state leadership on interagency collaboration, general supervision, the statewide early intervention service delivery system, policy development, and fiscal accountability. Before joining the state’s Part C team, Ferguson directed a local metro area Part C program for eleven years. She began her early intervention career as a parent and as a family member on the first Interagency Coordinating Council in the state of Florida.
Leslie FoxPart C TA Coordinator, WestEd
Leslie Fox, PhD, is the Director for Early Childhood Intervention, Mental Health & Inclusion at WestEd. She is responsible for project development and oversight of cross-sector early childhood policies and practices intended to improve learning, health and developmental outcomes for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Dr. Fox joined WestEd after working at the US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs where she provided monitoring and technical assistance to state agencies implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Dr. Fox has over 20 years of experience as an early intervention specialist working in birth to eight IDEA programs.
Tom MunkTool and Products Lead, Westat
Tom Munk, PhD, is a senior education analyst and Senior Study Director at Westat with 37 years of experience in education, always with a focus on mathematics and equity. His experience includes product development, technical assistance, teaching, evaluation, policy research, special education, and finance. Since the inception of CIFR in 2014, he has been the Westat subcontract director and Tool Team lead.
For the IDEA Data Center and the Data Accountability Center, Dr. Munk has, since 2011, provided TA and developed tools regarding comprehensive coordinated early intervening services (CCEIS), root cause analysis, and significant disproportionality. He has co-authored 19 reports, articles, and book sections and, for CIFR, led the development of more than 30 tools and sub-tools.
Peter OrneTechnology & Communications Co-Lead
Peter Orne, MA, is an editorial and communications consultant with significant experience promoting regional and national research and TA initiatives for K–12 and federal education stakeholder groups. He is former division director of communications at Education Development Center, Inc., and for nearly a decade was dissemination director for the U.S. Department of Education’s Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands. He has brought his expertise to projects such as the Department’s Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) and the National Science Foundation’s Research + Practice Collaboratory (RPC). Orne designs and carries out wide-scale dissemination strategies using a data-driven, continuous-improvement approach across a range of publication and storytelling platforms.
Sanjay PardananiTechnology & Communications Co-Lead, WestEd
Sanjay Pardanani works for WestEd’s Communications department as a project manager and digital media producer. He supports CIFR’s technical assistance efforts through management of the center’s website, as well as other internal technology tools. He has co-lead CIFR’s Technology & Communications team since the center’s inception in 2014.
Prior to joining WestEd, Pardanani’s experience includes working with English learners and students in special education.
Courtney ClinganExternal Evaluation Lead, The Improve Group
Courtney Clingan, a senior consultant with The Improve Group, leads the evaluation for CIFR. Clingan has been a key member of CIFR’s evaluation team since the center’s inception in 2014. Since then, her work has focused on real-time analysis and reporting to support continued improvement of CIFR’s targeted technical assistance.
Clingan draws evaluation experience from projects spanning multiple disciplines. Notably, she has also supported work partnering with WestEd and the Minnesota Department of Education on a statewide evaluation of the Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services program, which aims to avoid inappropriate referrals to special education programs among Minnesota schools. She has extensive experience overseeing evaluation design, data collection, analysis, and development of practical findings.