Who We Are

The Partners

WSEMS is managed by a unique partnership that represents a collaborative team: A special education director, a parent, and a mediator. The WSEMS team conducts outreach activities (training, WSEMS booths, etc.) to promote the WSEMS and the importance of resolving conflict at the earliest possible stage.  The team also assists with development of system materials and models collaboration statewide.  The partners have been active nationally on the topic of special education mediation.  Each brings a unique expertise to the system.

Nissan Bar-Lev

Nissan Bar-Lev

Director of Special Education, Cooperative Educational Service Agency # 7 (CESA #7)

Nissan Bar-Lev is the Director of Special Education for Cooperative Educational Service Agency # 7, a consortium of 38 school districts, and is one of 3 partners in the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System.

Nissan serves on the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services (WCASS), and co-chairs the Special Projects Committee. Nissan is also a member of the national Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) Board of Directors.

Nissan serves on the Governor’s Council on Autism, and is the immediate past President of the Autism society of Wisconsin, and former member of the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance Autism Council.

Nissan also chairs the State Superintendent Blind and Visual Impairment Education Council. He is a member of the Wisconsin joint PBIS and RtI Advisory Council and a member of the National IDEA Partnership ‘Creating Agreement’ team.

Nissan served on the Wisconsin State Superintendent’s Council on Exceptional Education, Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Youth Apprenticeship, Wisconsin Governor’s Council on Work Force Excellence and the Governor’s task force on statewide assessment of Children with Disabilities. He was a member of the DPI Focused Monitoring & Special Education Stakeholders advisory group. He is a co-author of Special Education in Plain Language.

Photo of Courtney Salzer

Courtney Salzer

Executive Director, Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support, Inc. (WI FACETS)

Courtney Salzer is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training, and Support, Inc. She serves as Co-Director of the OSEP-funded Wisconsin Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) and the Director of the Region 4 Parent TA Center (RPTAC). Courtney also serves as the Parent Partner on the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System.

Courtney received her Law Degree and Bachelor’s Degree from Marquette University. She earned her Professional Certificate in Non Profit Management from UW-Milwaukee.

Prior to her work with WI FACETS, Courtney was an attorney in private practice, where she did a variety of civil litigation including school and special education law. Courtney is currently an Instructor in the UW-Milwaukee Nonprofit Management Program. Courtney has served on several nonprofit Boards of Directors, including currently as a founding member of the National Center for Parent Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Empowerment (National PLACE). Courtney also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE) for Courtney and her husband are the parents of two amazing school-aged children.

Michael Rust Portrait

Michael Rust

Chief Executive Officer, Winnebago Conflict Resolution Center, Inc.

Michael is the CEO of the Winnebago Conflict Resolution Center, Inc., a non-profit organization providing mediation services and training throughout Wisconsin, where he oversees a roster of 45+ mediators providing approximately 500 mediations per year. Michael also serves the Mediation Partner of the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System.

Michael received his law degree from Marquette University Law School and practiced law for several years before devoting his practice to conflict resolution full time. Michael has mediated more than 1500 cases and has trained more than 300 mediators, including at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University.

Michael currently serves as President-Elect of the international Association for Conflict Resolution, President of the Oshkosh Rotary Club, Chair of the Board of the Oshkosh Area United Way, and is Licensee & Co-Organizer of TEDxOshkoh, an independently organized TED event. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Association of Mediators, a past Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and served on the Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on Access to Civil Legal Services. Michael and his wife are parents to three school-aged children.

Parent/School Collaboration

Our Staff

Picture of Gia Pionek Valle

Gia Pionek Valle, System Administrator and Intake Coordinator

Gia Pionek Valle is the System Administrator and Intake Coordinator. Gia graduated from Marquette University Law School with a focus on dispute resolution. She also holds a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Currently, she is earning a coach practitioner certification.

Gia practiced for many years in the area of labor law, juvenile law, and immigration law. Prior to law school, she worked in community development and planning, allowing her to collaborate with a diverse array of organizations and people from a variety of backgrounds. She taught English in both Taiwan and Argentina. Gia also coordinated a Spanish School in Guatemala.

Gia currently serves on the alumni board of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is the past Vice President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association and a former board member of Centro Hispano Milwaukee.

Gia speaks both Spanish and English. In her downtime, Gia is attempting to learn the Ukulele and take advantage of the Wisconsin State Park system.

Portrait of Nelsinia Ramos

Nelsinia Ramos, Multicultural Outreach Coordinator

Nelsinia Ramos is the Multicultural Outreach Coordinator for the Wisconsin Special Education Mediation System (WSEMS). She is responsible for language translations of participant forms and the WSEMS website in Spanish. In addition, she is responsible for the coordination and dissemination of information at events throughout the state. Nelsinia also serves as Associate Director of the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support, Inc. (WI FACETS) and Senior Specialist for the Region C Parent Technical Assistance Center; both projects funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Education to serve families with children with disabilities and to provide technical assistance to parent centers in 16 other states.

Nelsinia received a Bachelor of Business and Management from Alverno College; an Associate Degree in Social Work from the Milwaukee Area Technical School, and a professional nonprofit Administration certification from the UW-Milwaukee. She is the mother of a young adult with special needs. She is a member of the Special Education Council of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Advisory Board of the National Center for Military Parents, and former board member of the National Association of IDEA training team for the Creation of Agreements. In his spare time Nelsinia enjoys exploring the outdoors and volunteering for Milwaukee Legal Aid Guardian Advocacy Network.

Our Mediators

WSEMS maintains a roster of active neutrals (mediators/facilitators), all of whom are required by state law to attend a five-day introductory training and a one-day update training each year. The neutrals are located throughout Wisconsin, and also in Illinois and Minnesota. Three are bilingual in English and Spanish.