Meet the Board

NSBA Council of School Attorneys Board of Directors 2019–2020

Harben, Hartley & Hawkins LLP
Gainesville, GA


Vice Chair
Adams & Reese Law Firm
Ridgeland, MS


Texas Association of School Boards
Austin, TX



Frost Brown Todd LLC
West Chester, OH


COSA Chair 2018-2019
Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP
Sacramento, CA


COSA Chair 2017-2018
New York State School Boards Association
Latham NY


COSA Chair 2016-2017
Cuddy McCarthy, LLP
Albuquerque, NM



First Terms Expire 2021

Antelope Valley Union High School District
Lancaster, CA 



Guercio & Guercio, LLP
Latham, NY 



Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet, LLC
Waukesha, WI 



Alabama Association of School Boards
Montgomery, AL 



Second Terms Expire 2021

Willamette ESD
Salem, OR


South Carolina School Boards Association
Columbia, SC


Mirick O’Connell
Worcester, MA


Second Terms Expire 2019


Second Terms Expire 2020

Boulder Valley School District RE2
Boulder, CO


Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim
Noblesville, IN


Montana School Boards Association
Helena, MT


Thomeczek and Brink LLC
Saint Louis, MO


First Terms Expire 2020

Thompson & Horton LLP
Houston, TX


Thrun Law Firm, P.C.
East Lansing, MI


Steckel and Stopp
Slatington, PA


Franczek Radelet P.C.
Chicago IL


Ex-Officio Members

NSBA President



NSBA Executive Director



Melissa Barber is District Legal Counsel for the Boulder Valley School District.  She is responsible for administering the overall legal functions of the School District, including providing legal advice to the Superintendent, Cabinet and District Leadership Team. She represents the School District in court hearings and administrative proceedings and provides day to day advice and counsel to central administration, principals and assistant principals.  Ms. Barber also coordinates the development and revision of Board of Education policies and provides training on education law topics to school administrators and the District's new educators. Prior to coming to the Boulder Valley School District, Ms. Barber practiced law for 13 years, most recently at a private law firm representing Colorado school districts in education and employment law matters in state and federal courts. She is a past chair (2015) of the Colorado Council of School Board Attorneys. Her volunteer activities include judging high school mock trial competitions and Constitution Day presentations to high school students. Ms. Barber obtained her law degree at Cornell University Law School.

Joy Baskin is the Director of Legal Services of the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), where she oversees the division’s activities and informs TASB’s other service areas about legal developments. Joy has been an active member of the school law section of the State Bar of Texas, including serving on its executive council as Chair of the section, and serves as a member of the Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families’ Education Committee. Joy is a frequent presenter on school law topics, including open government, student issues, and religion in schools. Joy received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and her law degree with honors from The University of Texas School of Law.

Christopher P. Borreca is a founding partner of Thompson & Horton LLP, in Houston, Texas.  He was the education director of a private program serving individuals with developmental disabilities before becoming an attorney.  He has experience in special education, contract, employment, and other school law matters.  A registered lobbyist, he also is active at the state and federal legislative level working on behalf of school districts and educational organizations. Chris graduated with a B.S. from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, received an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin, and a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center.

Bridget Cook is General Counsel for the Antelope Valley Union High School District in Lancaster, California.  She is a trained mediator and Section 504 Hearing Officer with experience in student/employee investigations, student discipline, special education due process, and public employee relations board hearings. She conducts staff training and has presented on school law topics to attorneys and board members for the California School Boards Association. She is a past president of the California Council of School Attorneys and former high school teacher.  Bridget graduated with a B.A. from UCLA and earned her J.D. from Whittier Law School.

Michele Eaddy is a partner at Thrun Law Firm in East Lansing, Michigan.  She was employed by the Lansing and Grand Rapids Public schools before joining Thrun to specialize in representing Michigan public school districts in special education and Section 504 matters. She frequently presents on school law topics to school leaders attorneys. She has served as the president of the Michigan Council of School Attorneys. Michele received her B.A. degree from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the University of Illinois.

Erin D. Gilsbach is an attorney at Steckel and Stopp, and she is Executive Director of EdLaw Interactive, a legal professional development organization for educators and school leaders.  An experienced speaker and writer at the state and national levels on current trends and important issues in school law, Erin frequently speaks legal seminars and webinars, as well as professional trainings for educators.  She currently serves as president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) Solicitor’s Association. Erin received a B.A. in English from grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  She received her J.D. from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law.

Jayne Harrell Williams is General Counsel and Director of Legal Advocacy with the Alabama Association of School Boards, managing the Association’s Bylaws Committee and serving on the Board Governance Task Force.  She is an experienced presenter on a wide variety of topics affecting schools and school boards.  Jayne is the past president of the Alabama Council of School Board Attorneys, member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and was named a Rising Star in the area of education law by the 2014 edition of Alabama Super Lawyers.  She is a graduate of Florida A&M University and Georgetown University Law Center. 

Phillip L. Hartley is managing partner of 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. After practicing school law for over 34 years, his firm now represents at least 75 percent of the school districts in Georgia. He received his J.D. degree from the University of Georgia Law School where he was a member of the Georgia Law Review, Order of the Coif and Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Hartley is a frequent author in school law and educational journals and an active advocate in the Georgia courts and the federal courts, including the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

James A. Keith is a partner with the Jackson, Mississippi office of Adams and Reese, where he serves as the attorney for the Mississippi School Boards Association, the Mississippi High School Activities Association, and the board attorney for eight school districts. He provides legal services to roughly 100 of the 150 school districts in the state. Since 2011, Mr. Keith has led COSA’s IDEA Reauthorization Working Group and is a frequent speaker at COSA programs. He received his law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he was the Business Manager for the Law Journal.

Andrew Manna is a partner with Church, Church, Hittle and Antrim in the Noblesville, Indiana office. Mr. Manna represents clients in matters associated with labor and employment law, defends school corporations against claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), First Amendment and other constitutional and civil rights law matters, and represents schools with respect to general school policy review.  Mr. Manna graduated from Eastern Illinois University. Prior to becoming an attorney, he taught social studies in both rural and urban districts. While at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, he participated in Moot Court and worked as an intern in the Office of the Governor on education policy.  Mr. Manna is a frequent speaker on both the state and national level. Outside of the practice of law, Mr. Manna enjoys spending time with his family, running and watching football.

Diane Marshall-Freeman is a partner in the Sacramento, California office of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP and has over 20 years of experience and an extensive background in all areas of general and special education law. She serves as general counsel to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). An experienced litigator, Ms. Marshall-Freeman has successfully argued cases at the federal and state levels. She has served on the board for the Omega Boys Club of San Francisco and is the past president of the California Council of School Attorneys. Ms. Marshall-Freeman received her law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Erin O’Grady-Parent is a partner at Guercio & Guercio in Latham, New York, where she provides general and labor counsel to multiple school districts. She served as counsel with the New York State Education Department before joining Guercio & Guercio, advising the New York State Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education and senior Department staff on complex and priority matters.  Erin earned her B.S. degree from Cornell University and graduated cum laude with her J.D. from Albany Law School of Union University.

Gary Ruesch is a co-chair and shareholder with Buelow Vetter Buikema Olson & Vliet in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  He is an experienced speaker and writer on subjects related to special education, general school law and labor and employment law.  Gary has taught Education Law at Marquette University Law School and legal aspects of administration in the Department of Education at Alverno College. He is past president of the Wisconsin School Attorneys Association and former member of the Greenfield, Wisconsin School Board.  Gary graduated with a B.A. from Marquette University and earned his J.D. from Marquette University Law School.

Debra A. Silk is Associate Executive Director /General Counsel for the Montana School Boards Association, where she previously served as Staff Attorney and Director of Policy Services. Ms. Silk assists MTSBA’s member school districts, oversees staff, programs and services, and assists the Executive Director with Board and Association matters. She is a registered lobbyist and advocate for public education before the Montana Legislature. Before joining MTSBA, Ms. Silk practiced law in Idaho, where her firm served as General Counsel to the Idaho School Boards Association and represented many Idaho districts.  She obtained her law degree from the University of Idaho. She has a strong passion for public education and enjoys advocating on behalf of MTSBA’s member school districts and public education generally.

Jennifer Smith is a partner at the Chicago firm Franczek Radelet P.C. She represents education clients on a wide range of issues, including student rights, athletics, special education, contracts, labor and employment, policy development, TIF, and litigation. She presents regularly at the state and national level on issues such as student rights and litigation. Jennifer graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa.  She earned her J.D. with distinction from the University of Iowa.

James Thomeczek is a partner with Thomeczek and Brink in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been practicing school law in Missouri for over thirty years.  A former high school English teacher, Jim graduated from St. Louis University School of Law with honors and was named to the Order of the Woolsack.  He began his practice with a large St. Louis law firm, originally focusing on labor and general school matters.   He soon shifted the focus of his practice to special education.  In the mid-1990’s, Jim started a boutique law firm that concentrates its practice on issues arising under the IDEA and Section 504.  He has argued several special education cases to the Eighth Circuit, including Light v. Parkway. Jim and his wife have five children and a two grandsons.

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