Bridget Irish, M.B.A., S.P.H.R.
Executive Director, President, Senior Administration
Bridget holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Tufts University and a Master of Business Administration, magna cum laude, from Babson College.
I believe every student deserves a teaching faculty and staff that feel passionate about their work and are dedicated to their students’ progress. I feel so proud to work at a school where the staff exemplifies this ideal. Not only are these professionals consistently challenging themselves to develop new and innovative ways to teach our students, they are committed to working together to see what their students can do for themselves. My goal is to support our staff to ensure they have the encouragement, resources and training they need so that every member of the Cotting community is able to reach his or her highest potential. In return, I am invigorated by the amazing opportunities we create for our students and by the eagerness with which Cotting students rise to these challenges.
Leah Thibodeau, M.Ed., C.A.G.S.
Senior Administration, Special Education Director
Leah holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education, cum laude, from the State University of New York, Cortland, a Masters of Education in severe special needs from Boston College and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from Bridgewater State College.
I have always had a firm belief that teamwork is key to supporting students to reach their potentials. At Cotting, fostering partnerships between staff, parents and school districts is of significant importance in working with our students. Our staff strive to have ongoing communication before, during and after student meetings to ensure that student and parent concerns and priorities are taken into account as they develop goals and plans that lead to student success. There is nothing more rewarding than the opportunity to facilitate a team process that leads to the development of attainable goals that are in each student’s best interest. Though there are times when conflicting views can challenge this group effort, it’s always important to remain focused on the needs of our students to be able to come to constructive resolutions.
I’m reminded on a daily basis of our faculties’ commitment and dedication to the success of our students. They work with collective diligence to make sure that individual student’s access needs are met, and instruction is designed to enhance learning and independence. They have risen to the challenge of designing and implementing learning models and formats so that student learning continues whether in-person or from a distance even when crisis abounds. I’m so proud to have the opportunity to work alongside such a wonderful group of professionals. There is no better place to be.
Sejal Costa, M.Ed.
Director of Post-Secondary Pathways, Senior Administration
Sejal holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Syracuse University’s School of Education with a major in Inclusive Special Education and Elementary Education as well as a concentration in Archaeological Anthropology and a Master’s in Education from Wheelock College with a major in Special Education and Elementary Education.
When people ask me what I like most about Cotting, my response is the community. Cotting is a nurturing, supportive environment where you know what everyone’s intention is who works there. It is an amazing feeling going to work knowing that everyone is there for the same reason. Cotting has the most inspiring students who challenge us to be better. Students at Cotting are treated as individuals and are treated with respect and dignity. Each teacher, specialist, therapist and administrator value each student and help promote independence while providing a safe, caring and supportive environment where students feel empowered.
I began working at Cotting in 2005 and the opportunities and experiences that Cotting has and continues to provide are endless. I have been a teacher, coach, mentor and student teacher supervisor. I have also had the opportunity to work on developing curricula and participate on the Admissions and Instruction Leadership Teams. All of these opportunities and experiences have shaped the person and educator I am today. I truly love working at Cotting and have learned and continue to learn each and every day.
Karen Waddill, M.A. CCC-SLP ATP
Interim Director of Student Services, Senior Administration
Karen completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences from the University of Wyoming before earning her Master of Arts degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
When I began at Cotting in 2002 as a communication therapist, I was excited to start a new job with an interesting caseload. I had no idea that I was becoming a member of an amazing community. My roles, responsibilities, and office locations have changed frequently over the years, but one thing has remained constant. Cotting has provided a safe place to take risks, try new things, and develop as an individual.
For the past 10 years as the Director of Cotting Consulting, I focused on providing services and building a team that supports students, families, educators, and therapists in public, private, or collaborative educational settings. This unique position has taught me the importance of meeting people where they are. Learning the values, style, and needs of others facilitates connections that allow me to support them on their path.
It is this connection, this community that Cotting provides for me that I strive to carry on for students, parents, and colleagues, no matter their link to Cotting’s continuum of services.
Jeanine Meredith, M.Ed
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Senior Administration
Jeanine holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary and Special Education, Magna Cum Laude, from Providence College and a Master of Education in Special Education with a Concentration in Literacy from Lesley University.
I started working at Cotting School as a classroom teacher in 2009 and wholeheartedly believe that the collaboration between staff, students, and families is unparalleled. It is truly a pleasure to be part of such a warm and caring community, where students of varying abilities are welcomed with open arms and celebrated for who they are. Every student has something special to offer. Despite the obstacles and challenges they face, students work hard and preserve and it is impossible not to be inspired.
There are so many special and rewarding moments each day, ranging from seeing a student master a skill independently after weeks of practice or being greeted with ear-to-ear smiles after the weekend to strategizing plans in team meetings that allow students to reach new heights. I take my classroom experiences with me as I transition into my role as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, which will allow me to creatively adapt, maintain and explore the development of new curricula. As a Teacher Supervisor, I am eager and dedicated to fostering a supportive, caring and collaborative environment that shines a light on the potential of each student by encouraging staff, students and families alike to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and needs.
Michael Pembroke, M.B.A.
Chief Financial Officer, Senior Administration
Mike holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Boston College and a Master of Business Administration from the Wallace E. Carroll School of Management at Boston College.
It is a privilege to serve as the CFO of Cotting School. Cotting is a first rate educational institution and arguably the best in its purpose and achievement. Many great students, faculty, staff, and volunteers have worked together over many years to achieve the highest possible outcomes for our students. All who work at the School understand and believe in the School's mission and focus on the student and feel proud to contribute to this wonderful learning environment. With great enthusiasm, I look forward to the future where there is much more good work to do.
Elizabeth Campbell Peters, M.S.
Director of Advancement, Senior Administration
Elizabeth holds a Bachelors of Arts degree, cum laude, with high honors in English from Middlebury College and a Master of Science in Communications from University of Colorado, Boulder and Denver.
At Cotting, everyone - students, staff, administration, and trustees - is committed to working together toward innovation and excellence, our hallmarks since 1893. Our students achieve their goals because they know the entire community truly cares about them. We have complete faith in them and their abilities.
In my job I hear many accounts of student successes from grateful family members who have found the Cotting Difference to have significantly changed their student’s life. Staff enjoy working here; we value the genuine collegiality we share. We all are supported by our Board of Trustees’ confidence in what we do and how we do it.
Best of all, from the top down, everyone has a sense of humor, which makes all the difference.
Elizabeth Fay Russell, M.A., C.A.G.S.
Director of Admissions, Mental Health Team, Senior Administration
Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, cum laude, from Wheaton College, a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
When I started working at Cotting in 1995, I really had no idea that my career had taken me to such an amazing place where I could feel a deep sense of community and support amongst my colleagues, my students and their families. Cotting School is a special place; you can feel this the moment you first walk in the doors. At Cotting, I am surrounded by remarkable students who inspire me in the ways they overcome obstacles, gain confidence, develop genuine friendships and grow and mature in extraordinary ways. At Cotting I am surrounded by amazing staff and colleagues who are highly skilled and professional and who care greatly for each other as well as for their students.
In my tenure at Cotting I have worn a number of different hats. First I worked as the Director of Guidance and had the wonderful opportunity to work directly with our older students in a counseling and transition planning capacity. Later, I took on the Director of Admissions role and in this role I have had the opportunity to meet many prospective families and teachers and administrators from public school districts. I am the person who gets the privilege of welcoming new students and families to our special community. I give many tours and feel like I see Cotting from fresh eyes every day. I see folks who are visiting for the first time who already feel that sense of community spirit and caring right from the get go. I see the amazement in their eyes as they see all the cutting edge technology that our students and teachers use and view our impressive facility.
Cotting is truly a unique and special place and I welcome visitors to take a first hand look at all the amazing things that happen under our roof on any given day! I feel fortunate to have landed at Cotting and appreciate the many aspects of this community that have given me a sense of fulfillment both personally and professionally.
Pamela Varrin, Ph.D.
Family Support Coordinator, Mental Health Team, Senior Administration
Pam holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Brown University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Clinical Psychology from Boston University.
I came to Cotting with experience as both a clinical psychologist and the parent of a child with disabilities. Previously working in the community mental health system and then in private practice in the Boston area, I was particularly interested in understanding what helped individuals and families retain and develop resilience in the face of serious illness, disability, and other forms of trauma. From my dual perspective as parent and professional, at Cotting I strive to be responsive to and learn from each family’s experience and needs in contributing to a supportive community. Through sharing information and nurturing the experience of belonging, I pursue the goal of maintaining a safe, reliable, and empowering community for families raising children with disabilities.
We all feel supported when we feel heard and understood, when we know that our experience and expertise brings something valued to the table. The education and development of children with special needs is a high-stakes endeavor for all involved, requiring ongoing and multiple complex conversations in working toward the goal of the best possible future for each individual child. If we can all use our experience and perspective to make these conversations feel better and more productive for both professionals and families, then together we can do something very important for our students.
David Peduto, B.S., LEED Certified
Director of Facilities, Maintenance Team, Senior Administration
Dave holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Southern New Hampshire University. He is LEED Certified and has a certificate in HVAC from Northeastern University.
Cotting is a very special place that does an amazing job with every student that attends the school. I am always astounded at how caring, patient and friendly the staff is, and how this extends to all students. The facilities are designed to ensure every student can be included, no matter what the activity, which enhances the student experience at the school. It is a sincere pleasure to be here every day and watch the students blossom into mature, caring young adults.
Lynn Coleman, M.A., M.B.A., PhD
Clinical Director, Senior Administration
Lynn earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Political Science at Northeastern University, a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology at Boston College, a doctorate in Counseling Psychology at Boston University and a Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration from Northeastern University.
I began working in the field of mental health in 2006, first with children, adolescents and their families and eventually with adults as well. Since becoming a licensed psychologist in 2016, I have been privileged to work in several leadership positions, overseeing mental health and medical services in education as well as corrections. I am thrilled to have been welcomed into the role of Clinical Director at Cotting School, and I am excited to support the great work being done by all of our clinical teams!
Patricia Salmonson, B.S., A.T.P.
Director of Technology, Senior Administration
Patti holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Special Education from Fitchburg State University. She has done graduate work in education administration at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and is certified through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America as an Assistive Technology Professional.
When I began my career as a teacher at Cotting School, I never dreamed that I would still be here over 30 years later. I’m grateful for all of the opportunities, experiences and different roles I’ve had at Cotting. I’ve learned so much from the students and from my colleagues over the years, and I truly love coming to work every day.
Words can’t describe the genuine caring for and deep investment in helping students reach their potential that our staff has. When you walk through the hallways, the smiles on people’s faces, both students and staff, speak volumes about the warm and supportive environment that can only truly be understood by being here.
Amanda Balagur, M.L.A.
Director of Marketing & Communication, Senior Administration
Amanda holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Theatre Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy (Food Studies) from Boston University.
Although I’ve worked in marketing and communications in a variety of industries, education has remained a passion of mine. I am thrilled to join such a historic and highly regarded organization as Cotting School. The genuine warmth, support and dedication of Cotting’s faculty and staff inspire me every day. What’s more, so do the students! It’s a very special place, and I feel lucky to play a role in sharing that with a wider audience and be welcomed into the Cotting community.