Who We Are
WSEMS is managed by a unique partnership that represents a collaborative team: A special education director, a parent, and a mediator. The WSEMS team conducts outreach activities (training, WSEMS booths, etc.) to promote the WSEMS and the importance of resolving conflict at the earliest possible stage. The team also assists with development of system materials and models collaboration statewide. The partners have been active nationally on the topic of special education mediation. Each brings a unique expertise to the system.
Director of Special Education, Cooperative Educational Service Agency # 7 (CESA 7)
Heidi Siebert comes to the WSMES leadership team with 28 years of experience in pre-K-12 Special Education. After 4 years as a cross-categorical teacher in Colorado, Heidi and her family moved to Wisconsin and spent 13 years as an EBD and cross categorical teacher in the Rhinelander and Lakeland Union School Districts. Heidi earned her director license in Pupil Services in 2012, and served as a teaching principal in the Merrill Area School District, a Special Education Coordinator for the Milwaukee Public Schools, and most recently served as the Pupil Services and Special Education Director for the Antigo School District for the past 7 years.
Heidi first earned her special education teaching degree from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, with an emphasis in what is now Intellectual Disabilities and Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities. She received her Master’s Degree in Special Education, Moderate Needs, from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, in 2000. She received her administrative licensure in 2012 from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and is currently working on her PHD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.
Heidi has dedicated her entire career to supporting students with disabilities. She believes that each and every student with disabilities has the right to be educated with their peers in the least restrictive environment and has a strong background in making sure high quality education is accessible to all. Through a deep understanding of the law as well as best practice, Heidi has grown staff and parent capacity to work together in the best interest of the child. She believes in the work of the WSMES and is dedicated to continuing the work to support the partnerships between schools and parents in meeting the needs of children with disabilities throughout the State of Wisconsin.
Executive Director, Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support, Inc. (WI FACETS)
Courtney Salzer is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training, and Support, Inc. She serves as Co-Director of the OSEP-funded Wisconsin Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) and the Director of the Region 4 Parent TA Center (RPTAC). Courtney also serves as the Parent Partner on the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System.
Courtney received her Law Degree and Bachelor’s Degree from Marquette University. She earned her Professional Certificate in Non Profit Management from UW-Milwaukee.
Prior to her work with WI FACETS, Courtney was an attorney in private practice, where she did a variety of civil litigation including school and special education law. Courtney is currently an Instructor in the UW-Milwaukee Nonprofit Management Program. Courtney has served on several nonprofit Boards of Directors, including currently as a founding member of the National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE). Courtney also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) for Courtney and her husband are the parents of two amazing school-aged children.
Gia Pionek Valle
Gia graduated from Marquette University Law School with a focus on dispute resolution. She also holds a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Currently, she is earning a coach practitioner certification.
Gia practiced for many years in the area of labor law, juvenile law, and immigration law. Prior to law school, she worked in community development and planning, allowing her to collaborate with a diverse array of organizations and people from a variety of backgrounds. She taught English in both Taiwan and Argentina. Gia also coordinated a Spanish School in Guatemala.
Gia currently serves on the alumni board of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is the past Vice President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association and a former board member of Centro Hispano Milwaukee.
Gia speaks both Spanish and English. In her downtime, Gia is attempting to learn the Ukulele and take advantage of the Wisconsin State Park system.
Gia Pionek Valle is also the System Administrator and Intake Coordinator
Nelsinia Ramos, Multicultural Outreach Coordinator
Nelsinia Ramos is the Multicultural Outreach Coordinator for the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System (WSEMS). She is responsible for language translations of participant forms and the WSEMS website in Spanish. In addition, she is responsible for the coordination and dissemination of information at events throughout the state. Nelsinia also serves as Associate Director of the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support, Inc. (WI FACETS) and Senior Specialist for the Region C Parent Technical Assistance Center; both projects funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Education to serve families with children with disabilities and to provide technical assistance to parent centers in 16 other states.
Nelsinia received a Bachelor of Business and Management from Alverno College; an Associate Degree in Social Work from the Milwaukee Area Technical School, and a professional nonprofit Administration certification from the UW-Milwaukee. She is the mother of a young adult with special needs. She is a member of the Special Education Council of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Advisory Board of the National Center for Military Parents, and former board member of the National Association of IDEA training team for the Creation of Agreements. In his spare time Nelsinia enjoys exploring the outdoors and volunteering for Milwaukee Legal Aid Guardian Advocacy Network.
WSEMS maintains a roster of active neutrals (mediators/facilitators), all of whom are required by state law to attend a five-day introductory training and a one-day update training each year. The neutrals are located throughout Wisconsin, and also in Illinois and Minnesota. Three are bilingual in English and Spanish.