2020 OSEP Summit - Retaining Panel Biographies

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2020 OSEP Summit - Retaining Panel Biographies

Event Host and Moderator

Laurie VanderPloeg – Director, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education

Laurie VanderPloeg is the director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), at the U.S. Department of Education. VanderPloeg ensures the effective implementation of OSEP's legislative mission, advises the assistant secretary on Federal education policy related to individuals with disabilities, and provides leadership in addressing issues of American education for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities through OSEP activities and within the context of the policies of OSERS, the Department, and Congress.

Prior to joining the department, VanderPloeg served as director of special education at Kent Intermediate School District (Kent ISD) in Michigan. Also at Kent ISD, she served as assistant director for monitoring, compliance, and parent support. Prior to Kent ISD, she served as a local supervisor of special education, and as a special education teacher in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. VanderPloeg also served as an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University in the special education administration program. She is a parent of an adult with disabilities.

VanderPloeg graduated from Grand Valley State University with a master’s degree in special education administration and earned a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State College. She holds administrative approvals as both supervisor and director of special education, and has certification in learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, emotional impairment, and K–8 regular education.

Panel on Retaining

Peter Banerjea – Co-Founder and CEO, StartUp Voyager

Peter Banerjea is Co-founder and CEO at Startup Voyager, a content and SEO agency helping startups across North America and Europe scale up organic website traffic. Startup Voyager is 100% remote and has 21 employees distributed across 6 countries. Peter was earlier a leadership trainer and coach and has delivered programs for companies across several industries including British Telecom, AXA, Kuoni, IHS Markit, JCB, GKN, Calibrated Healthcare, etc. Startup Voyager has an extremely rigorous talent acquisition process and only around 5% of interviewed candidates get hired. Therefore, the founders are highly passionate about continually learning about the best practices in recruitment and retention. Peter's work has appeared in top blogs like Entrepreneur, Inc. HuffPost, Fast Company, Lifehacker and more. He has an MBA in marketing and finance.


Jeffrey DeWitt – Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the District of Columbia

Jeffrey S. DeWitt, the independent chief financial officer (CFO) for the District of Columbia, is responsible for the management of the District’s finances, including its approximately $16.7 billion operating budget, of which $12.6 billion is generated from local and dedicated revenue sources. He also manages the city’s $8.2 billion capital improvements plan budget. DeWitt was appointed to this position by Mayor Vincent C. Gray and confirmed by the District Council to complete Natwar M. Gandhi’s 5-year term through June 2017, and was reappointed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and confirmed by the District Council for a full term through June 2022.


As the independent CFO, Mr. DeWitt manages the District’s financial operations, which include more than 1,700 staff members in the tax and revenue administration; the treasury, comptroller, and budget offices; the DC Office of Gaming, economic/fiscal analysis and revenue estimation functions, and all District agencies. This includes management of the financial operations of United Medical Center, the University of the District of Columbia, and the Washington Convention and Sports Authority (Events DC). He is also responsible for coordinating with congressional committees and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget staff that oversee District affairs. He regularly interacts with the financial community, including bond rating agencies, regarding the District’s financial matters. Previously, DeWitt served as CFO for the city of Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States, with a $3.4 billion annual budget and nearly 15,000 employees. There, he managed a $7 billion debt portfolio and more than $2 billion in investments. He was a member of the City of Phoenix Employees Retirement Board, the Phoenix Community Development Investment Corporation, the Phoenix Downtown Hotel Corporation and Arena Development Board. As CFO for the District of Columbia, DeWitt sits on the boards of Events DC, Destination DC, the Green Finance Authority Board (DC Green Bank), Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation, DC Retirement Board, and the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation. DeWitt is a member of the Government Financial Officers Association (GFOA), the American Accounting Association (AAA), Association of Government Accountants (AGA), and the American Water Works Association (AWWA). He holds a master's degree from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University.

Rebecca Hines – Associate Professor and Academic Program Coordinator, University of Central Florida

Dr. Rebecca Hines is an Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the College of Community Innovation and Education and coordinates the undergraduate program in Exceptional Student Education. She received her doctorate degree from the University of South Florida (USF) in Curriculum and Instruction, and a master’s in Emotional/Behavioral Disorders from USF. Dr. Hines is currently the principal investigator on the personnel preparation grant project, Preparing Scholars to Lead Inclusion and Transition. She is also the principal investigator on a new personnel preparation project, Preparation through Residencies and Enhanced Partnerships, which places doctoral students in residencies in high-need schools to conduct research, provide support to teachers, and coordinate community-based experiences for undergraduate education students. Dr. Hines was instrumental in the development and implementation of a fully immersive post-secondary college experience, Inclusive Education Services, for students with intellectual development disorder (IDD) at UCF. She has most recently focused on recruiting and retaining special education teachers and is part of the AACTE Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Networked Improvement Community.


Mansa Joseph – Assistant Principal of Instruction, Irmo Middle School, Lexington and Richland School District 5 (SC)

Mansa Joseph, M.Ed., is Assistant Principal of Instruction at Irmo Middle School. Joseph was the Lexington and Richland School District 5 Teacher of the Year in the 2016–2017 school year. Before entering the classroom, he was a student at Clemson University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Multi-Categorical Special Education. He later received his master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from Southern Wesleyan University. He is currently enrolled at the University of South Carolina taking courses to attain an Educational Specialist Degree. He is a member of the Call Me MISTER program for male educators. As a former Clemson football player, Joseph is a member of the 2011 ACC championship team.


Troy Smith – Consulting Manager, Public Impact

Troy Smith is a consulting manager with Public Impact, focusing on helping districts and schools implement Opportunity Culture. Opportunity Culture restructures preK–12 schools to extend the reach of excellent teachers, principals, and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring school budgets. In his work, Smith helps district leaders create highly paid advanced roles and career pathways, aimed at recruiting and retaining excellent educators. Smith has worked in a variety of urban and rural sites, most recently leading Opportunity Culture design for a cohort of Arkansas districts through the Arkansas Department of Education and a cohort of charter operators in the Memphis area. Prior to joining Public Impact, Smith taught high school English in Memphis. Smith holds bachelor’s degrees in public policy and Arabic from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in public policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He currently resides in Durham, North Carolina, with his fiancée and their three-legged dog.


Mary Morningstar – Professor, Department of Special Education, Portland State University (OR) and Co-Director, ThinkCollege Inclusion Oregon

Dr. Mary E. Morningstar is a Professor in Special Education at Portland State University and Co-Director of the Career and Community Studies program, a fully inclusive postsecondary education program for youth with intellectual disability. She is Director of the Transition Coalition, a national center offering online, hybrid, and in-person professional development and resources for secondary special educators and transition practitioners. Dr. Morningstar’s research encompasses three inter-related areas: (a) college and career readiness for youth with disabilities, (b) teacher education and professional development, and (c) secondary inclusive school reform. She has recently authored a practitioner-friendly book, Your Complete Guide to Transition Planning and Services (2018), and has published over 55 peer-reviewed journal articles. Her digital and web-based professional development has extended for almost 15 years, through the Transition Coalition, www.transitioncoalition.org.

To learn more about the other panelists for the 2020 OSEP Summit please check out:

2020 OSEP Summit - Attracting Panel Biographies

2020 OSEP Summit - Preparing Panel Biographies