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Meet the FirstServes Advisory Board
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Meet the FirstServes Advisory Board

The FirstServes Advisory Board brings subject matter expertise and a passion for serving students with disabilities.

When transporting students with disabilities, it’s important that those trusted with the job understand that each child is an individual with a unique set of characteristics, personality traits and challenges. First Student is dedicated to educating our staff about the different qualities attributed to each disability and how to appropriately address student challenges as they occur.

Our FirstServes special education transportation program takes this effort a step further, building on our standard special needs training to incorporate research-based interventions and other effective training models to better serve children with disabilities.

Developed in conjunction with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the #4 children’s hospital in the United States, FirstServes is a special education leadership training program that equips drivers, attendants, district partners and families with tools to better serve students with disabilities. The foundation of the program is built on a partnership between First Student staff, district leaders, and the families of students in special populations. Together, we evaluate the needs of the child and implement research-based behavioral interventions that transform their transportation experience.

The FirstServes Advisory Board is comprised of nationally recognized experts from backgrounds that range from behavioral psychology, special education, and human resource development. The board develops and delivers research and trauma-informed training, facilitates training for local leaders and consults on a case-by-case basis for unique behavioral issues.

Will McDermott

Will McDermott Headshot

Area General Manager, First Student
Co-Founder, Hopewell Transportation

Will McDermott is the co-founder and president of Hopewell Transportation, which has recently been acquired by First Student. Hopewell Transportation’s mission is to provide safe, reliable, and value-added transportation services to students receiving special education services.

Previously, Will was the Principal of Hopewell Academies from August of 2007 to August 2018.  During his time as a high school Principal he identified a need for a new approach to Special Education Transportation. Will earned his Bachelor of Arts from Loras College in Special Education with an emphasis on Transition Services and Mild and Moderate Development Disabilities. He later earned a master’s degree from Purdue University in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Leadership Development and Special Populations. In addition, Will has an advanced degree in Educational Leadership from Lewis University. Will remains on staff at Purdue University in the Department of Career and Technical Education where he teaches classes in Leadership Development.

Dr. Allison Blackburn

Allison Blackburn Headshot

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Licensed Psychologist
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
#3 Children’s Hospital in the U.S.

Dr. Blackburn received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Louisville. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Blackburn has interests in accessibility and inclusion. She works with community partners to promote inclusive opportunities so that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families can fully participate within their own communities.

Dr. Blackburn is a Licensed Psychologist, specializing in the assessment and treatment of children with developmental disorders. At the Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the 3# children’s hospital in the country, she serves families and their children through comprehensive behavioral interventions and diagnostic evaluations.

She partnered with First Student in 2018 to co-develop the FirstServes program to enhance the bus riding experience for children with developmental disabilities. In the past year, Dr. Blackburn has trained over 500 bus drivers and attendants across the country on identifying and understanding developmental disabilities, providing behavioral supports, and preventing and de-escalating challenging behaviors for students who require extra care.

Dr. Susan King

Susan King Headshot

Special Education Professor
George Washington University

Dr. Susan King is an experienced special educator, researcher, and professor based in the Washington, D.C area. Prior to obtaining her doctoral degree, Dr. King was a special educator in one of the largest school districts in the Washington, D.C. area. Dr. King has been an assistant professor at Juniata College and faculty member at The George Washington University. Her expertise is in the area of assessment, teacher training, behavior management and working with families of students with special needs. 

Dr. King has consulted with public and private schools, served as an expert witness in legal cases, and conducted independent educational evaluations. She has served as the Chair of The National Advisory Committee for the HEATH Resource Center, National Clearing House on Post-Secondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities (Washington, D.C.) and currently serves as a member of the FirstServes National Advisory Board (Cincinnati, Ohio).

Dr. King is active in her church. She serves on the Staff Parish Relations Committee, sings in the sanctuary and gospel choirs, and supports a Christmas project for homeless children. Some interesting facts are she worked her way through college as an Umpire for men’s softball and women’s fast pitch softball league and ran cross-country at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Professor Jim Brown

Jim Brown Headshot

Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota

Professor Jim Brown retired in January 2015 as a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota.  At the University of Minnesota, he served as his department’s Director of Graduate Studies, coordinated the Work-Based Learning Program, directed the Minnesota Research and Development Center for Vocational Education, and directed research projects focused on learners with special learning needs. He directed evaluation projects, including co-directing the evaluation of Minnesota’s state-wide Tech Prep system.  He was a member of the College of Education and Human Development’s Committee on Diversity for 10 years and was Chair of that committee for four years.

Professor Brown became a teacher educator in 1978 and taught a wide variety of courses focused on instructional methods, at-risk student retention strategies, effective program development and implementation, analysis of program performance, interagency collaboration, school-to-work transition enhancement, work experience program coordination techniques, diversity issues in education and work settings, and quantitative research methods.

He obtained and directed numerous R&D grants, totaling more than $1,000,000. In recent years Professor Brown has combined his professional interests in business and industry training strategies with his personal interest in flight training.  Professor Brown published more than 75 journal articles in referred journals and served as President of the National Association for Vocational Education for Special Needs Personnel.