Catholic Coalition for Special Education
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:5)

About Us

Board of Directors

Francesca Pellegrino, President and FounderFrancesca Pellegrino, President and Founder, has 25 years administrative experience in the diplomatic community in Washington, D.C. She is married with one son, who inspired her to create CCSE and become an advocate for children and youth with disabilities. In 2019, CCSE and Mrs. Pellegrino were awarded the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for Exemplary Models of Christian Service by the National Catholic Educational Association. Mrs. Pellegrino has been an active member of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C. since 1984 where she created the disAbilities Ministry – now a model for Catholic churches around the nation. She served on its Executive Committee. She is currently an Honorary Commander at Joint Base Andrews and serves on the Experiential Education Initiative (EEI) Community Council of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Mrs. Pellegrino has served on the Archdiocese of Washington’s Disabilities Constituent Advisory Committee, Catholic University’s Early Childhood/Special Education Advisory Council and on Montgomery County’s Commission on People with Disabilities. She has also served on the Board of Directors of a local performing arts organization.

Mrs. Pellegrino is a native of Rome, Italy, but spent most of her formative years in England, where she attended the Polytechnic of Central London (UK). She is fluent in English, Italian and French.

Mary Brogan, Vice PresidentMary Brogan, Vice President, serves as the liaison to the CCSE Parent Representatives. Mary holds a B.A. from Boston College and an M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Maryland. She has taught Special Ed in both Fairfax and Montgomery Counties and presently serves on the Board of Directors for St. Joseph’s House and on the Advisory Board for Teaching Together DC. Mary and her husband, Steve, have six children and are members of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring.

Joseph B. Fitzgerald, DirectorJoseph B. Fitzgerald, Treasurer, is a group manager in credit risk management at Toronto Dominion Bank, N.A. where he has been since 2016. Previously, Mr. Fitzgerald worked at BB&T Bank for 10 years where he served in credit risk management and client management roles in the DC Metro Region. Mr. Fitzgerald received his B.S. in Finance from the University of Maryland, his M.B.A. from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana and his Graduate Certificate in Health Services Management from The George Washington University.

          Pellegrino, SecretaryFrank Pellegrino, Secretary, Senior Engineer, Peraton, is a 30-year resident of Montgomery County, MD. He has served on many non-profit organizations’ Boards of Directors. He brings a wealth of experience to CCSE both through his non-profit experience as well as through his professional management and sales background. Mr. Pellegrino holds a B.S. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He enjoys playing the cello with several community orchestras. He is married to Francesca Pellegrino and is also an active member of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C.

Debbie Docal, Director, is a lifelong resident of Maryland and an alumna of Maryland Catholic elementary and high schools. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of Maryland, Debbie worked in the banking and finance industry for 13 years before joining her husband, Orlando, in his growing CPA practice.

Debbie and Orlando have been married for 35 years and have four children. Her youngest child has Down Syndrome. In responding to her interest in serving on CCSE’s Board of Directors, she said, “Once Ory entered our lives, I quickly became aware of the need for advocacy of people with differing abilities, as well as the need for educating others on the value and contributions they have to offer. Being a strong believer in the benefits of a Catholic school education, I have had to advocate for inclusion of my son in the same Catholic schools that his sisters attended.” Debbie and her husband are members of St. Louis Catholic parish in Clarksville, MD.

Maura Kelly LannanMaura Kelly Lannan, Director, serves on the Board of Education of the Archdiocese of Washington. She is a freelance reporter based in the Washington, D.C. area. Maura previously worked as a reporter for The Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and the Waterbury (Connecticut) Republican-American, mostly covering politics. While working for the Chicago Tribune, Maura was part of the staff that won a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for “Gateway to Gridlock,” a 2001 series about air travel problems. Maura has received numerous other awards and honors for her reporting on a variety of topics. Maura is a member of the National Press Club, the Society of Professional Journalists and the John Carroll Society. She has served as a volunteer for Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School and Church, Girl Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America, Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, Gonzaga College High School and CCSE. A native of Trumbull, Connecticut, Maura graduated high school from the Academy of Lady of Mercy, Lauralton Hall, in Milford, Connecticut, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from Boston College and a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill Graduate School of Journalism. Maura is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Potomac, Maryland, where her volunteer activities for the church and school have included serving as co-president of the Mercy Parent Teacher Organization, a member of the School Advisory Council and a member of two Principal Search Committees. She also serves as a Board of Directors member and Secretary for the Potomac Woods Swim and Tennis Club in Rockville, Maryland. Maura lives in Potomac, Maryland with her husband Robert and their three children.

Patrick Murphy, Director, is Chief Strategy Officer at CFM Partners, Inc., a governance, risk and compliance company in Washington, D.C. Previously, Mr. Murphy served as CFM’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for eight years where he was responsible for managing the company’s day-to-day operations. During this time, he led the design and development of the company’s Internet-based GRC platform and assisted in its funding efforts. In 2006, Mr. Murphy left CFM to enter the seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington. He spent four years in the seminary studying philosophy and theology at The Catholic University of America. He returned to CFM in 2012.

Mr. Murphy received his B.S. in Finance for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Anna McDermott-Vitak, DirectorAnna McDermott-Vitak, is Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Americas: DIA, leading implementation of DIA’s strategic initiatives, centered on advancing thought leadership across the therapeutic continuum, and member programs in the Americas. Anna previously served as SVP, Business Development & Administration at the Association for Accessible Medicines. Anna's career in healthcare has included over two decades of experience at Amgen with roles in government affairs, finance, and clinical research. Anna has a BA in Biology, and an MBA in Marketing, both from LaSalle University.

Anna and her husband, Joseph, have four children and are parishioners at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, MD.


Honorary Board Member

Carin Collins, DirectorCarin Collins, Director, grew up in the Washington area where she attended Georgetown Visitation and then received her B.A. from The University of Maryland. She worked for The Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation for 10 years. Carin is married to Steve Collins and is the mother of 4 children. She also serves on the Board of Trustees at Mater Dei school.


Past Board Members

Roger Brown, DirectorRoger Brown, Director, grew up in the Baltimore area where he received his B.A. from Virginia Tech. Roger is a former NFL Athlete and Super Bowl Champion and he is the owner of and a personal trainer at Train Like A Pro. Roger is married to Courtney Sullivan Brown and has three children and resides in Silver Spring, Maryland. He also presently serves on the Board of Silver Spring Lacrosse.

Patrick J. Caulfield, DirectorPatrick J. Caulfield, Director, is the President and co-owner of Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., a large commercial and institutional contracting firm. Mr. Caulfield is an active member of a number of charitable organizations, including serving as: Chairman of the Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area; Board of Directors, Victory Youth Centers, Inc.; Board of Advisors, St. Anselm’s Abbey School; Board of Trustees, Connelly School of the Holy Child, and Board of Directors, Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health Foundation. He has also served in the past as: Chairman of the Board, Associated Builders & Contractors of Metropolitan Washington; National Board of Directors, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.; Treasurer, ABC of Maryland; Member, Prince George’s Community College Construction Education Advisory Board; Member, Alumni Board of Governors, Georgetown Preparatory School; as well as other professional boards.. Mr. Caulfield is married with 4 children and is a member of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac, Maryland.

David K. Ficca, served as Treasurer from Octoer 2004 until February 2007. He is Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Baltimore Life Insurance Company. He is a licensed CPA (although not currently practicing) in Maryland and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He is Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University. Mr. Ficca and his wife are graduates of Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where David majored in Accounting. They are parents to 4 boys and members of the The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Washington.

Andrew Fois, Director, Andrew Fois is an attorney with a thirty-five year career in public service, the non-profit sector and private practice. He is presently employed as an Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legislative Affairs in the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Prior to that position, he was the Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety in the Office of the Attorney General for Washington, D.C. He has worked for the National Crime Prevention Council, as a solo practitioner and as a partner in the Venable law firm. He has served in the Department of Justice on two occasions: as the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs and as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District. His experience on Capitol Hill includes service as the Chief Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime. Mr. Fois serves on the board of directors of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program and has previously served on the board of the National Association of Children of Addiction. He served as Chairman of the D.C. Commission on Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention and the D.C. Coalition against Drugs and Violence. He is active in his parish, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, as a lector and Eucharistic Minister and was a founding member of the disabilities ministry and a member of the parish council. Mr. Fois earned his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from Georgetown University. He also has a master’s degree in American government from the University of Essex in the U.K. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two sons.

David Kane, Officer, DirectorDavid Kane, Officer, Director, Principal — Kane Real Estate Services representing Tenants and Buyers of commercial real estate in their negotiations. Mr. Kane attended Mount Saint Mary’s University where he studied Business and Finance. He has four grown children and lives Bethesda, Maryland. He is a member of Our Lady of Mercy Parish where he served on the Finance Council. Mr. Kane is also a past Board Member of The Yellow Ribbon Fund and is currently a member of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.

Ann Kern, Director, is a Speech Language Therapist at Ivymount School in Potomac, Maryland. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Denison University and a M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Boston University. Ann has over 15 years of experience working with students with developmental disabilities. She has worked for Montgomery County Public Schools as a Teacher of a self-contained class for Language Disabled students, as a therapist in private practice, and currently as a Speech Therapist in the Post High School program at Ivymount School.

Ann grew up in the Washington area and is a graduate of Connelly School of the Holy Child. She is married and has three children. Ann is an active member of Our Lady of Mercy school and parish in Potomac, Maryland.

Marguerite Kirst, Director, is Vice President of Marketing for the USO. A communications and marketing veteran, she heads up integrated marketing strategy and initiatives for this international nonprofit that supports America’s troops and their families. Prior to joining the USO, Marguerite served as vice president for constituent relations for the Autism Society of America and as deputy director of communications and research at IFES, an international non-profit dedicated to building democracies. She has experience with international marketing and business development with Price Waterhouse, the American Bankers Association, and the New York Institute of Finance. Marguerite has an MA from Johns Hopkins and a BA from Trinity College.

A native of Southern California, Marguerite is the mother of two children, an 11-year-old son with autism and a 13-year-old daughter with “empathy,” and is a parishioner at St. Bartholomew’s parish in Bethesda. She has served on the Woods Academy Parent Teacher Organization, volunteers with the Children’s Chorus of Washington, several auction committees, and was a parent/advocate member of the Special Needs Continuous Improvement Team of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

M. Elizabeth Latimer, M.D., Director, holds a B.S in Biology from Fairfield University and an M.D. from Tufts University, School of Medicine. Dr. Latimer is a Board Certified Pediatrician and Child Neurologist. She is in private practice in Bethesda, Md. and treats many children with special needs such as Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, Learning Disabilities and ADHD. Her interest in the CCSE is in an advocacy role for her many patients who are in need of such services. Dr. Latimer is married and is a member of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, Maryland.

          Lavallee, DirectorFernand Lavallee, Director, is a partner in the Washington, D.C. offices of Jones Day. Mr. Lavallee’s law practice focuses on government contracts law and litigation. He is a frequent lecturer on topics of interest to federal government contractors and is a Vice Chair of the American Bar Association, Public Contract Law Section, Intellectual Property Committee. He holds an A.B. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the College of William & Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law. He served on the Board of Directors of Mary of Nazareth Roman Catholic Elementary School in Darnstown, MD.

Mr. Lavallee and his wife, Lisa, have three children. They are members of Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish in Owings, Maryland.

Melissa Lesmes, DirectorMelissa Lesmes, Director, is a partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in the Washington, DC office. She focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation with an emphasis on construction claims and insurance coverage disputes. Ms. Lesmes has substantial experience in construction defect litigation, having handled claims involving delay, total cost, design, defective products, mold, EIFS and Chinese drywall throughout the United States. She also has substantial experience in complex insurance coverage litigation, especially in claims involving builder's risk, CGL, professional, pollution, commercial property, business interruption and other policies.

Melissa has been recognized by Chambers USA as an outstanding attorney in her field and is a member of the team awarded the 2008 and 2010 Chambers USA Awards for Excellence in Construction.

Melissa is a graduate of the Marshall Wythe Law School at the College of William and Mary and holds an A.B. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University.

Melissa is delighted to serve on the CCSE Board of Directors. Her son, who has Down syndrome, has benefitted directly from CCSE’s work. Melissa also serves on the Board of Directors of Imagination Stage in Bethesda.

She is married and has four children and is a parishioner at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Plunket is a graduate of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC and James Madison University. The Plunkets are members of St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda, MD.

Andrea W. McCarthy, SecretaryAndrea W. McCarthy, Secretary, holds a B.A. from the State University of NY at Stony Brook and a J.D. from The Catholic University of America. She is a Senior Trial Counsel with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Division. Mrs. McCarthy is married with 2 children and is a member of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, D.C.

Paul Nolan, TreasurerPaul Nolan, Treasurer, is the Vice President Tax with McCormick & Company, Inc. in Sparks, Md. Paul holds a J. D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a B.A. from Amherst College. He is a member of the New York State and District of Columbia Bar Associations, and has been a regular presenter at Global Tax Executive Conferences. He is a parishioner at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac where he served as Chairman of the Finance Committee from 2004 through 2007. Paul began his career nearly 20 years ago in the Washington office of Davis Polk & Wardwell. In 1994, Paul joined AT&T Corp. where he held several positions of increasing responsibility in tax planning as well as mergers & acquisitions before joining Host Marriott Corporation in 1998 as Vice President Tax and Tax Counsel. In 1999, Paul joined Concert Communications, a joint venture owned by AT&T and British Telecommunications, plc., as Vice President -Tax, Mergers & Acquisitions Finance, and Decision Support. After the Concert joint venture unwind, Paul was named Tax Vice President-Global Tax Operations for AT&T Corp, where he remained until joining McCormick in 2006.

Lucy Nolan, Director, serves as the Board of Directors Liaison to the CCSE Professional Advisory Board. Mrs. Nolan is a.Pediatric Physical Therapist, holds a B.S. in Child Psychology and a B.S. in Physical Therapy. She is a graduate of the University of Florida. Ms. Nolan has over twenty five years experience in Physical Therapy. Her career began at Fairfax Hospital, she then worked in a private, physical therapist owned and run, practice and subsequently she was the Director of Therapy at a Rehabilitation Facility. For the past seventeen years she has worked for the Montgomery County Public Schools. She works with children who have all types of neurological and physical concerns. Ms. Nolan has consulted with both the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Easter Seals Society in the past. Ms. Nolan is married, has three children and is an active member at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac.

Maria Leonard Olsen, Director, earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and a B.S. from Boston College. She grew up in the Washington area and graduated from Holy Redeemer School and The Academy of the Holy Cross. Maria began her career with the law firm of Dow Lohnes, where she practiced corporate and tax litigation, and earned the D.C. Bar’s Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year Award. During this time, she served on the board of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Washington for six years. In 1993, she joined the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department, where she worked on civil justice issues, as well as the formulation of the government’s first pro bono policy and program. Since having two children, she has served on the Pastoral Council of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, where she is a Eucharistic Minister and sodalist, and has led a Renew prayer group for the past eight years. Maria also led the first M.O.M.S. group in the parish, and remains active in that program. Currently, she and her husband serve as foster parents to newborn babies awaiting adoption via the Barker Foundation. She also volunteers in her children’s schools (Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart and St. Albans), writes for Bethesda Magazine and provides pro bono representation to victims of domestic violence via the D.C. Bar’s Volunteer Lawyers Project.

Matt Plunket, DirectorMatt Plunket, Director, and his wife Katherine are the parents of three young children. His oldest child has Down Syndrome. Mr. Plunket is passionate about inclusion and has worked with organizations in the area to encourage a more inclusive world. Mr. Plunket is the Founder and Past Chairman of the Auxiliary Council at the Bishop Walker School for Boys. He also previously served on the Board of Trustees of The Washington School for Girls.

Mr. Plunket is a Project Manager for American Paving and Striping. Previously, he spent fifteen years working in commercial real estate in downtown Washington, DC.

Marianne Rhoda, Director, is a resident of Chevy Chase, Maryland, and a graduate of the University of Maryland and the Art Institute of Atlanta. While at the University of Maryland she was a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and was a White House intern for Esther Peterson, Consumer Advisor to President Carter. Upon graduation from the University of Maryland, Marianne joined the ranks of IBM sales executives in one of the most respected marketing training programs in the industry. Upon completion of the IBM program, she was assigned to the Department of the Treasury account where she provided Information Systems solutions. She excelled to the top ranks within IBM by achieving the honor of Hundred Percent Club member for eight consecutive years. Subsequent positions with GE Information Systems as a program manager for tax systems led her back to IBM as a senior re-hire after taking time off to spend with her two children, Spencer and Hilary, currently 24 and 23 years old. Spencer attended Mater Dei School and is a graduate of Georgetown Prep and University of Pennsylvania. Hilary attended St Jane de Chantal and is a graduate of the Academy of the Holy Cross.

Marianne is currently the Vice President of HRH Group Inc a management company she started in 2005 to manage Hilary’s career. In Marianne’s capacity as an HRH Group Inc Vice President, the company is involved in international endeavors, as well as charitable events/donations. These include New Yorkers for Children, the Metropolitan Museum of Art MET Ball, and CancerCare, which helps the families of those fighting cancer. Additionally, Marianne runs the business of HRH Group Inc by managing and overseeing the collaborative efforts between the International Management Group (IMG), and the HRH Group team consisting of legal, accounting and public relations/publicity.

Marianne is a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament.

Patricia Staros, Director

Kathleen Wach, Secretary, grew up in Washington DC where she attended Catholic elementary school and Visitation high school. She received a BA from the College of the Holy Cross and served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps before receiving a law degree from Georgetown University Law School. Kathleen currently serves as the Pro Bono Counsel for Miller & Chevalier Chartered. Prior to her current position, Kathleen represented clients as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia and was a Westwood Fellow at the Neighborhood Legal Services Program. She also previously worked as an attorney in the Legal Division of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Kathleen is co-chair for the Judicial Conference of the DC Circuit’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono Legal Services.

Kathleen met her husband, Peter Ellsworth, when both were volunteers at Catholic Charities’ Mt. Carmel House Women’s Shelter, where they later served on the Board of Advisors. Kathleen has five children, two of whom have significant learning disabilities and have required support throughout their education. Kathleen and her family are parishioners at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown, and all of the children attend Catholic schools.


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