About CPAC

Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Inc. (CPAC) is a statewide nonprofit organization that offers information and support to families of children with any disability or chronic illness, age birth through 26. The Center is committed to the idea that parents can be the most effective advocates for their children, given the confidence that knowledge and understanding of special education law and its procedures can bring.

Through outreach efforts and referrals from schools, social service agencies and other parents, the number of families that Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center serves has grown dramatically over the past 32 years. We continue to take pride in providing prompt and personal assistance to all who contact us. CPAC is staffed by parents of children with disabilities who have training in, and personal experience with, the law and disability issues.

In addition to speaking with parents on a daily basis, CPAC staff conduct workshops for parents as well as in-service presentations for schools, teachers-in-training and service providers throughout the state so that they may better understand and serve the parents with whom they work. Staff and Board members serve on numerous statewide committees and various organizations, representing issues that are of concern to parents and families in Connecticut.

CPAC Board Members

Claudia Bachmann-Bouchard, President
Grace Coombs, Secretary
Bridgette Gordon-Hickey Treasurer
Maxine Hannibal
David Goldblum
Jocelyne Braffith
Margarita Vargas-Torres
Jonathan Metcalf

Board Meeting Minutes

July 2019
March 2019
February 2018
December 2017

Executive Director, John Flanders

CPAC Executive Director, John Flanders John Flanders joined CPAC as its Executive Director in December 2015. He began his involvement in special education early in 1996 when his then three-year-old son had a profound hearing loss as a result of contracting Pneumococcal meningitis. In 1997, significantly as the result of his family's experiences in the PPT process, he enrolled in the University of Connecticut School of Law. Following graduation, he spent two years as the Children's Rights Advocate for the A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington DC. He has practiced law in Connecticut representing families with children with disabilities from 2002 until he joined CPAC.

John's goal is twofold: to ensure that any family with a question or concern about their child's education is able to reach CPAC for help. Second for educators and policy makers to know that CPAC is an important voice and resource for the understanding of special education and the families who rely on it.

John has served on many Commissions and groups working on the rights of people with disabilities, including notably the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities and the State Advisory Committee on Special Education, serving as a member of the Executive Committee of both groups.

He is currently a member of the Cromwell Board of Education and Committee to Support People with Disabilities. He formally served as a member of Cromwell's Board of Selectmen for four years, Board of Finance for five years and as First Selectmen from 2009-11.

He was raised by wolves.

Parent Consultants

Adriana Fontaine is the parent of two teenage children, one with learning disabilities. Adriana has worked at CPAC since 2007, she serves as the Child Find Coordinator, Family Connections Coordinator and our newest program Pre-K Pathfi nder Coordinator. She is also a parent consultant for Bilingual (Spanish families). Her areas of interest include Early Childhood, Child Find process, and building effective communication strategies between families and schools.

Robin Grondahl is the parent of three adults, the youngest has both physical and cognitive disabilities. She has been a parent consultant with CPAC since 2011. Robin provides support and technical assistance to families. She has served on various stakeholder groups at the state level. She previously worked as a paraprofessional in the public schools and brings a unique perspective as both a parent and a service provider.

Laura Knapp has five wonderful children, some with attentional and emotional health needs. Her youngest child had complex medical, physical and cognitive disabilities. Laura has officially worked with CPAC since 2017, although she has worked with CPAC on special projects or events in the past. She has served on several stakeholder groups at the state level. Focus of her work is providing support to parents and providing training, this is important because it is difficult to navigate the special education system and build effective communication. Laura' s area of interest includes transition, medically complex students and those with mental (emotional) health needs.

Jane Hampton-Smith is the parent of two adult sons, one who has both autism and intellectual disability. She has been a trainer and parent consultant for the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center since 2001. She has served on a variety of state level stakeholders groups during this time and is the coordinator of CPAC's Next STEPs Parent Leadership Training Series. She has participated in mediator training and IEP facilitation training as she works to help families and schools resolve their differences in an effort to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Jane's areas of interest include challenging behaviors, discipline procedures, early dispute resolution, building relationships and accessing community resources.

Jennifer Lussier is the parent of two children, with one receiving special education services. She has been a CPAC Parent Consultant since 2016, providing technical assistance, support and training to families of children and youth with disabilities. Additionally, she supports CPAC's outreach efforts to families and the community, through social media. Jennifer serves on the Commissioner's Roundtable for Parent and Community Engagement, representing parents since October of 2016. She is also a member of the Design Team for the Full, Equal and Equitable Partnership with Families: Connecticut's Definition and Framework for Family Engagement. Jennifer is a Governor-appointed member of the Connecticut State Advisory Council for Special Education and serves on the Legislative Committee of the council. At the local district level, she has served a parent member of the PBIS Team and School Climate Team, as well as a special education parent leadership group. Jennifer has personal experience and special interests in the areas of related to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), School Climate and Bullying, autism, mental health, food allergies and parent-school partnership.

Vanessa Pollock is the parent of two children with special needs. She has worked with CPAC as a multilingual parent consultant since 2017. She started her work at CPAC translating for families who speak Portuguese. Now Vanessa works directly with parents who speak Portuguese, Spanish and English related to their children's needs. She helps families to learn how to advocate for their children and it is important to her to give them accurate information to be successful. She understands how important it is for non-English speaking parents and really wants to help families that have hard time understanding the information in English by translating to Portuguese and Spanish. When she has free time, which is very rare, she likes to sit outside and relax or watch a funny movie.

Lynn Rule works out of our satellite office in Stamford. She is the parent of three children - one girl and two boys. Her middle son, a young adult with autism and an Intellectual Disability, was the reason she came to CPAC in 2011. Lynn completed Next Steps training and became a workshop facilitator that fall. In January 2017, Lynn became a Parent Consultant with an office located at St. Joseph's Parenting Center; an organization whose mission is to stop the cycle of neglect and abuse. Families who are receiving services from SJPC now have a consultant on site to help with Special Education concerns. Lynn has been active in public education since her oldest began school in 2002. She was part of the Executive Board that reorganized the citywide Special Education Parent group and is currently the co-president of the citywide PTO. Lynn has also been the director of a religion program for children with special needs and continues to teach children weekly. When not attending various sporting events at her children's schools, Lynn's passion is the New York Yankees and she tries to attend as many games as possible.

Kiomary Sotillo is the parent of 4 sons ages 23, 15, 8 and 5 years old. She has had two of her children receive services through Birth to Three. Currently, two of her children have IEP's and one is on a 504 plan. Between all of her children, she has experience with autism, ADHD, anxiety and impulsivity, mild hearing loss requiring hearing aids, specific learning disability in reading and auditory processing. She has worked with the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center as a bilingual workshop facilitator and parent consultant since 2012. She facilitates training for Birth to Three Service Coordinators and has presented to families, pre-service teachers and other professionals, on various special education in both English and Spanish. Her focus is to help families and schools work as collaborating partners and to create an extension of support between home and school for students with special needs and their families.

Transition Coordinator

Beth Reel is the parent of two young adults. Her oldest is a young man with autism who recently transitioned from public school to adult services. Beth has been with CPAC since 2002, providing technical assistance and training related to postsecondary transition to students with disabilities and families throughout the state. Beth has served on the Transition Task Force for the Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education since 2007. She is also a CORE member of the Connecticut Transition Community of Practice (CoP) and has served as a member of the CT Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) Transition Committee since 2011. She is a Governor appointed member of the Connecticut BRS State Rehabilitation Advisory Council and the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) Advisory Board. The focus of Beth's work is helping students with disabilities and their families understand the significant changes that will come about when students leave mandated services and to support students in learning leadership skills so they have a voice at the table. Beth believes that with the right preparation, students can, and do, lead successful lives after they leave school.

Communications and Training/Outreach Coordinator

Mairin Finnegan-Johnson has been with CPAC as Communications and Training/Outreach Coordinator since 2016. Mairin supports parents and professionals across the state of Connecticut organizing workshops to empower families to be their child's best advocate. Mairin is responsible for the marketing, branding and development efforts for CPAC. Mairin has worked to develop CPACs brand and all of CPACs marketing materials. When Mairin is not organizing trainings/outreach events or developing new materials, Mairin is busy maintaining CPACs records and working closely with the State and Federal Governments in the reporting process.

Administrative Assistant

Angela Erb has been CPACs Administrative Assistant since 2017. Angela is the mother of two adult daughters. In this position, Angela provides administrative assistance for the CPAC staff and families. She serves as the primary contact for all incoming calls. Angela supports all staff in the day to day operations of the office. Angela works closely with the Next Steps coordinator making sure all materials are prepared and maintained.