The Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System helps parents and schools work together to resolve disputes about special education.
We do not provide legal advice or advocacy for either parents or districts, and we do not mediate 504 plan disputes.

Joan C. Pray


Name: Joan C. Pray

Location: Statewide Availability for Mediations Only

Why Special Education Mediation Is Helpful:

Sometimes the plan for a student’s success doesn’t work as expected and the participants don’t notice until issues are serious. Both the family and school are aware that they may have a long-term relationship and may have to work together for a number of years. Teachers and families want to avoid rising conflict and may need the time to ask difficult questions.

Mediation provides for an agreed upon time and a safe, private place to address the needs of the student. Mediation is also place where everyone can talk about new ideas, plans, and solutions that everyone can try.

As a mediator, I will try to:

  • Make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate and the mediation session is confidential.
  • Help each person tell his or her whole story without interruption.
  • Help each person understand the other’s point of view.
  • Provide and acknowledge the parties’ right to disagree respectfully.

When we get a complete picture of all the issues:

  • All parties (parties=school district and family) can suggest solutions; even if it is uncommon.
  • All parties decide if the solutions are possible and support the needs of the student, the family, and the school.
  • All parties can help write down all the agreed upon solutions, who is responsible for them, and all parties receive a copy.

Education and Training:

  • Bachelor of Science degree, Speech Pathology, Colorado State University, 1976
  • Master’s of Arts degree, Special Education, University of Northern Colorado, 1978
  • Graduate Certificate in Dispute Resolution, Marquette University, 1998
  • Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System (WSEMS), 40 hour training, 1998
  • WSEMS Annual Update Trainings, 1999 to present.
  • Waukesha County Small Claims Mediation, Annual Trainings, 2000 to 2010 Chapter 13 (Bankruptcy) Mortgage Modification Mediation training, 2011.

Professional Experience: I began my career in 1978 as a special education teacher in northern Milwaukee County and worked with Kindergarten through 12th grade students. I then moved to diagnostics testing students for Learning Disabilities and Emotional/ Behavioral Disabilities in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties as an independent contractor. I have supervised teachers working toward advanced degrees Special Education at Cardinal Stritch University. I also served on the New Berlin Board of Education where I represented all interests of district and families). In addition to statewide special education mediation, my other mediation experiences include: Waukesha Small Claims Court; Mortgage Modification Mediation for the Wisconsin Eastern District Bankruptcy Court; and Northwest Milwaukee Mediation Program including outreach with the Milwaukee Police Department and the Boys & Girls Club of Wisconsin. I was part of the Wisconsin Lemon Law Arbitration system for four major auto manufacturers and Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors dispute resolution. As part of my current business, ASCENT CONFLICT SOLUTIONS, LLC, I also do special education IEP Facilitation (WSEMS), Peer Mediation Training, Conflict Coaching, Business Facilitation, Small and Family Business Conflict Training and Mediation.

A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor-English Proverb