Meet the Board

NSBA Council of School Attorneys Board of Directors 2017–2018


Pilar Sokol
New York State School Boards Association
Latham, NY

Chair Elect

Diane Marshall-Freeman
Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP
Sacramento, CA

Vice Chair

Phillip L. Hartley 
Harben, Hartley & Hawkins LLP
Gainesville, GA 


Jim Keith
Adams and Reese LLP
Jackson, MS


Melissa Barber
Boulder Valley School District
Boulder, CO

Joy Baskin
Texas Association of School Boards
Austin, TX

Randall G. Bennett
Tennessee School Boards Association
Nashville, TN

Lisa Freiley
Salem, OR

Michael J. Julka
Boardman & Clark, LLP
Madison, WI

James A. Keith
Adams & Reese Law Firm
Ridgeland, MS

Andrew Manna
Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim
Noblesville, IN

Kathleen S. Mehfoud
Reed Smith L.L.P.
Richmond, VA

Tiffany N. Richardson
South Carolina School Boards Assocation
Columbia, SC

W. Joseph Scholler
Frost Brown Todd LLC
West Chester, OH

Debra Silk
Montana School Boards Association
Helena, MT

Michael E. Smith
Lozano Smith
Fresno, CA

Marc Terry
Mirick O'Connell
Westborough, MA

James Thomeczek
Thomeczek and Brink
St. Louis, MO

Patrcia J. Whitten
Franczek Radelet P.C.
Chicago, IL

Ex-Officio Members

NSBA President
Kevin E. Ciak

NSBA Executive Director
Thomas J. Gentzel

Council Chair 2016-2017
Andrew M. Sanchez
Cuddy McCarthy, LLP
Albuquerque, NM

Council Chair 2015-2016
Justino D. Petrarca
Scariano, Himes & Petrarca
Chicago, IL

Council Chair 2014-2015
Gregory J. Guercio
Law Offices of Guercio & Guercio, LLP
Farmingdale, NY

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 an officer with 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. She is 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. Ms. Baskin currently serves as a member of the Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families Education Committee. She is an active member of COSA’s State Outreach Committee. Ms. Baskin received her law degree, with honors, from The University of Texas School of Law.

Randall G. Bennett is the Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel of the Tennessee School Boards Association where he provides general legal opinions to local boards of education, superintendents and TSBA staff on school governanace issues, organizes and presents at seminars and training events, prepares and files amicus briefs in appellate cases affecting public schools, monitors current litigation and changes in state and federal law, and supervises the Association's Policy Department,  A former school board member and police officer, Mr. Bennett obtained his law degree from Nashville School of Law.

Gregory J. Guercio is founder of the Farmingdale, New York law firm of Guercio & Guercio, LLP, where he concentrates in school related matters both as general and labor counsel to school districts in Nassau and Suffolk Counties as well as various other municipal corporations. He is past president of the New York State Association of School Attorneys and fellow of the New York State Bar Association Foundation. Mr. Guercio has lectured on behalf of the National, State and Nassau/Suffolk School Boards Associations, as well as the Nassau/Suffolk Academy of Law, and the American Arbitration Association on school law issues. He received his law degree from St. John’s University, School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review

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. His firm now represents at least 75 percent of the school districts in Georgia. 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. He received his law 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.

Michael J. Julka is a partner in the Madison, Wisconsin firm of Boardman & Clark, LLP where he practices almost exclusively in the areas of school law and public sector/labor employment law.  He serves as lead counsel for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and many school district and Cooperative Education Service Agency clients throughout Wisconsin. He is the primary author of WASB's publication A Guide to Nonrenewing Teacher Contracts, and was a contributing author to a multi-volume treatise, Education Law.  Before his legal career, Mr. Julka taught mathematics in a public high school.  He obtained his law degree, cum laude, from the University of Wisonsin, Madison.

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. 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 and Fresno, California offices of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP and has over 25 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 a past president of the California Council of School Attorneys. Ms. Marshall-Freeman received her law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Kathleen Mehfoud is a partner in the Richmond, Virginia office of Reed Smith, where she focuses her practice on education law, including the representation of school boards in special education matters such as issues relating to eligibility, placement, IEP, discipline and due process hearings. She lectures extensively on a national basis on special education issues and has published on the subject. Ms. Mehfoud is an active participant in COSA’s IDEA Reauthorization Working Group, and a frequent contributor and presenter for COSA webinars and seminars. She received her law degree from University of Richmond School of Law.

Justino D. Petrarca is a partner with the Chicago, Illinois, law firm of Scariano, Himes & Petrarca, Chtd. He is a nationally recognized expert in representing school districts in collective bargaining and has made presentations throughout the country on all aspects of both the bargaining process and the arbitration and litigation of school district collective bargaining agreements. He was a founding director of the Illinois Council of School Attorneys. He received his Master’s degree, magna cum laude, in education administration from National College of Education, and his law degree from the John Marshall Law School.

Dr. Tiffany Richardson is the General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legal Services at the South Carolina School Boards Association. She clerked for Hon. L. Casey Manning in South Carolina’s Fifth Judicial Circuit before joining the private bar, practicing labor and employment law. She also worked as a staff attorney for the South Carolina Supreme Court. Following her love for education, she obtained her doctoral degree in Education Leadership and Policies. She currently serves on the education law committee and the law related education committees of the South Carolina Bar, and on the Board of Advisors for the University of South Carolina’s Trio Programs. She received her JD, MBA and PhD from the University of South Carolina.

Andrew M. Sanchez is a partner in the Albuquerque, New Mexico office of Cuddy & McCarthy, LLP. His practice focuses on school law and litigation defense of local school districts in New Mexico. He served on the staff of the Office of General Counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency, working primarily on employment and federal law enforcement and armed protection issues. Mr. Sanchez received his law degree from George Washington University Law School and is currently an adjunct professor at New Mexico State University.

W. Joseph Scholler is an attorney in the West Chester, Ohio office of Frost Brown Todd, LLC, where he spends the majority of his time as general counsel, litigation counsel and labor and employment counsel. He serves clients in both private and public sectors of varying sizes and budgets. Mr. Scholler is a member of the executive committee of the Ohio Council of school Board Attorneys. He received his law degree from University of Dayton School of Law.

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.

Michael E. Smith is a founding partner of the California firm of Lozano Smith.  A school law attorney, educator and speaker, he has represented school districts for over 30 years. In addition to his experience as general counsel in all aspects of education law, Mr. Smith has specific expertise in collective bargaining, labor and personnel, superintendent and administrator contracts, student discipline matters, and constitutional questions involving religion, speech and search and seizure.  Mr. Smith obtained his law degree from the University of California at Davis.

Pilar Sokol is deputy general counsel to the New York State School Boards Association in Latham, New York where she lectures for the Association and other organizations on legal issues affecting public education.  Ms. Sokol is an active member of COSA’s IDEA Reauthorization Working Group, and has contributed articles for Inquiry & Analysis, presented at COSA seminars, and served on the 2014 School Law Seminar Committee. Before attending law school, Ms. Sokol worked on Wall Street for over 12 years, primarily in the area of investor relations.  Ms. Sokol received her law degree from Albany Law School, where she was a member of the Albany Law Review.

Marc Terry is a partner in the Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Group at Mirick O’Connell in Westborough, Massachusetts. He concentrates his practice in the representation of public school districts, municipalities, and other public entities, as well as private employers in labor and employment matters. In his public school practice, Mr. Terry advises districts regarding school policy, student discipline, student rights, the budget process, professional licensing requirements, the non-renewal of professional staff and other education-related issues. He received his law degree, cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School.

James Thomeczek is a partner with Thomeczek and Brink in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been practicing school law in Missouri for nearly 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 new grandson.

James R. Walsh is a founding partner of Walsh, Gallegos, Trevino, Russo & Kyle, P.C.  He is a frequent speaker and author on school law topics. He is the co-author of The Educator's Guide to Texas School Law and the author of The Common Sense Guide to Special Education Law.  Mr. Walsh has long served as publisher and managing editor of the Texas School Administrators' Legal Digest.  He has taught school law at the graduate level, and conducted inservice training sessions at every education service center in the state and at hundreds of school districts.  Mr. Walsh received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

Patricia J. Whitten is a partner in the Education Law Practice Group at Franczek  Radelet P.C. in Chicago, Illinois. Her practice involves all aspects of education law, including litigation at all levels of state and federal courts and administrative agencies. She has an in-depth background in constitutional and civil rights, including educational equity and desegregation issues, labor and employment, vendor contracts, tax and finance, board policy and administrative matters, and legislative drafting and interpretation. She is an active participant in COSA’s IDEA Reauthorization Working Group. Ms. Whitten served as general counsel for the Chicago Board of Education for more than 11 years, and prior to that she spent most of her legal career in the Chicago Board’s Law Department. She received her law degree, with honors, from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

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