Focusing on Students with Disabilities
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iDEC Workgroup


Kelsey R. Ortiz

Director of iDEC 

Kelsey Ortiz is the founder and director of the Inclusive Digital Era Collaborative (iDEC). Kelsey supports state efforts to have deeper policy discussions around digital learning and equal access for all students. Her work with state education agencies includes IDEA policy development in online learning environments, IEP compliance and training in virtual schools, and advocacy for parents seeking equitable school choice options. Kelsey’s background as a special education teacher and vocational rehabilitation counselor provide her with critical insight into the needs of students with disabilities is community-based environments.


John Eisenberg - Executive Director of NASDE

John M. Eisenberg

Executive Director of NASDSE









John Eisenberg - Executive Director of NASDE

Michael F. Hock

Director of KU Center for Research on Learning

Michael Hock is the Director of the Center for Research on Learning and a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Kansas. His research involves the development and validation of adolescent reading and student motivation interventions that respond to the needs of districts or agencies as well as the needs of academically underprepared adolescents and adults. His interests include the design and validation of instructional strategies and practices for improving student outcomes for adolescents who struggle with learning. His interests also include professional development, instructional coaching, and the change process related to getting research to practice. Currently, Michael serves as the PI for the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning's contract for the Kansas Department of Education's Striving Readers grant (2017 to 2021).



Daryl MellardDaryl F. Mellard

Senior Research Consultant

Daryl Mellard’s 35-year career at the University of Kansas has been spent leading successful research, technical assistance, and professional development projects associated with adolescents and adults, adult learning disabilities, adult learning assessments, accommodations and interventions in adult basic and secondary education, career and technical education, and community college settings. In 2015, Daryl became the project director of the OSEP-funded Center for Online Learning and Students with Disabilities (COLSD) and lead nationwide efforts to further define the landscape of digital learning and students with disabilities. Daryl brings his years of expertise and experience to support the mission and goals of iDEC.



Kathryn Kennedy - idec senior research consultant

Kathryn Kennedy

Senior Research Consultant

Kathryn Kennedy serves as a critical member of the iDEC workgroup.  Her deep understanding of the intricacies related to online learning environments as well as her expertise in working with multiple stakeholder groups has been invaluable in moving iDEC towards achieving its mission. Kathryn previously served as the Director of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, the research arm of Michigan Virtual, where she worked with a team of researchers and writers on multiple state-legislated research projects focused on policy and practice in K-12 online and blended learning.  She also formerly served as the Director of Research for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). Her practical experiences and research interests include educator professional development for technology integration and instructional design in traditional, blended, and online learning environments.



Toni M. Curry - idec research specialistToni M. Curry

Research Specialist

Toni Curry has served as the research specialist for iDEC since its inception. Her expertise includes IDEA compliance, IEP development in online learning environments, and nondiscriminatory identification and evaluation. Additionally, Toni’s research interests include neuropsychological assessment, parent advocacy, suicide prevention, and social media use in adolescents. Currently, Toni is a doctoral student in the School Psychology program at the University of Kansas. She is also a practicum student within the Department of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at Children's Mercy Hospital, as well as a trainee in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) program at the University of Kansas Medical Center.   



Sarah ThamMary Rice

Assistant Professor of Literacy

Mary Rice is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of New Mexico. Prior to coming to UNM, she completed her doctoral work at the University of Kansas where she worked as a graduate research assistant and then a post-doctoral researcher at the Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities. Mary has authored or co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 books, and numerous book chapters and industry papers on accessibility, access, and literacy in online learning. Mary is also an assistant editor for the journal Online Learning, and a special associate editor for the journal Distance Education. In 2018, Mary was named an Emerging Scholar by the Online Learning Consortium.



Ruochen ShenRuochen Shen

Program Assisstant

Ruochen Shen has recently joined the iDEC team as a program assistant. Ruochen has his master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Kansas. In addition to writing reports, he helps the iDEC team transfer, evaluate and analyze research data. His research interests include inclusive education for students with moderate or severe disabilities, Universal Design for Learning, classroom and behavior management, and the impact of teacher behavior on student behavior. Ruochen currently works with students with low-incidence disabilities as he completes his student teaching.