NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys Elects New Leadership for 2016-2017

April 18, 2016

Alexandria, Va. (April 18, 2016) — The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA’s) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), the national network of attorneys representing K-12 public school districts, elected new leaders and directors at its recent annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. COSA supports school attorneys and provides leadership in legal advocacy for public schools; its 22-member Board of Directors oversees its continuing legal education programming and working groups for its more than 3,000 members across the United States and Canada.

Andrew M. Sanchez became COSA Chair: A partner in the Albuquerque, New Mexico office of Cuddy & McCarthy, LLP, Sanchez served  on  the  staff  of  the  Office  of  General  Counsel  for  the  Central  Intelligence Agency and has represented school districts before the  U.S. Equal  Employment  Opportunity Commission and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission/ Human  Rights  Bureau. Sanchez received his law degree from The George Washington University Law School.

Pilar Sokol became Chair-elect: Sokol is the deputy general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) in Latham, New York, and is a graduate of Albany Law School.

Diane Marshall-Freeman became Vice-Chair: Marshall-Freeman is a partner in the Sacramento, California, office of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP and serves as general counsel to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). She received her law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Phil Hartley became Secretary: Hartley is a managing partner in the Gainesville, Georgia law firm of Harben, Hartley & Hawkins LLP, general counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association, legal advisor to the Georgia School Superintendents Association, and legal advisor to the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders. He received his law degree from the University of Georgia Law School.

“Promoting and defending public education is a prime focus for NSBA,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel and Associate Executive Director, Legal Advocacy. “COSA’s new slate of officers and directors, experienced and committed law practitioners from across the country, will play a pivotal role in both strengthening and expanding our legal advocacy efforts in the coming year.”

COSA also elected four new directors to two-year terms: Melissa Barber, District Legal Counsel for the Boulder Valley School District, Boulder, Colorado; Andrew Manna, a partner with Church, Church, Hittle and Antrim in Noblesville, Indiana; Debra Silk, Associate Executive Director/General Counsel for the Montana School Boards Association, Helena, Montana; and James Thomeczek, a partner with Thomeczek and Brink in St. Louis, Missouri.

In addition, COSA elected four directors to a second two-year term: Joy Baskin, Director of Legal Services of the Texas Association of School Boards, Austin, Texas; Kathleen Mehfoud, a partner with Reed Smith, Richmond, Virginia; W. Joseph Scholler, a member with Frost Brown Todd, LLC, West Chester, Ohio; and Patricia J. Whitten, a partner in the Education Law Practice Group at Franczek Radelet P.C., Chicago, Illinois.                                                             

Outgoing COSA Chair Justin Petrarca presided over the COSA business meeting and elections, and congratulated the new officers and directors.  “This group of school attorney leaders is made up of not only excellent, accomplished lawyers, but they are also energetic proponents of public education.”

Greg Guercio, past COSA Chair and head of this year’s nominating committee, agreed. “The Council’s new leaders bring extensive experience and dedication to COSA, and share our passion and commitment for supporting public education. I’m confident of the continued success of COSA’s efforts in supporting school attorneys and providing leadership in legal advocacy for public schools, and welcome our new officers and directors.”

For more information on COSA, visit

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The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at:

Formed in 1967, the NSBA Council of School Attorneys provides information and practical assistance to attorneys who represent public school districts. It offers legal education, specialized publications, and a forum for exchange of information, and it supports the legal advocacy efforts of the National School Boards Association.

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