Meet Our Team

THe HQ IEP Resource Lead Project is a partnership between East County and Santa Clara County Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs). 

Heather DiFede
Executive Director
Heather DiFede is the Executive Director for East County SELPA. She is currently serving on the IEP Expert Panel for California. Under her leadership, East County SELPA has recently administered the IEP Technical Support and Assistance (ITSA) Grant awarded by CDE and is currently serving as an Exemplar for Interagency Collaboration for the California Early Childhood Special Education Network. As a SELPA Administrator, Ms. DiFede has served as the Chair of the SELPA Administrators’ Association, and additionally is serving or has served as co-chair for the following Association Committees: Forms, CALPADS & Compliance, Local Plan, and Interagency Collaboration. She has also served on numerous statewide committees including the Dashboard Alternate School Status, College and Career Indicator for Alternate Schools, AB 2657 Restraint & Seclusion Workgroup, and the Students with Disabilities Collective. Ms. DiFede was also awarded the 2016 Special Education Administrator of the Year for California by the Association of California School Administrators.

Leo Mapagu
Executive Director
Leo Mapagu is the Executive Director for Santa Clara County SELPAs I, II, III, IV and VII. Mr. Mapagu started his career in the Ravenswood City School District (RCSD), which placed heavy emphasis on IEP compliance and improved outcomes for underserved students with disabilities. During his tenure in RCSD, he participated in various activities to assist district administration in meeting corrective action plan and self-improvement plan requirements. Mr. Mapagu is a collaborator, as is evident by the various partnerships he has developed. He has worked with San Jose State University and Santa Clara County Office of Education’s (SCCOE) Educator Preparation Program to train teachers in a variety of special education topics. He has also partnered with Parents Helping Parents to serve as a panelist and present on special education and IEP-related topics. As a SELPA Administrator, Mr. Mapagu is serving or has served as co-chair of the following SELPA Administrators’ Association Committees: Forms, CALPADS & Compliance, Parent Engagement, Local Plan, and Related Services.

Jennifer Yales, Ed.D
SELPA Executive Consultant
Jennifer Yales, Ed.D firmly believes that all students can learn–her passion for this belief, and a strong sense of responsibility, drive Dr. Yales in her advocacy for the development and implementation of structures and systems that facilitate learning for all students. She is a lifelong learner with over twenty years of experience as a Special Education professional. For sixteen years she worked in a large, urban school district in California, growing from a school psychologist before being promoted into an administrative leadership role within the district, ultimately advancing to the position of SELPA Director. Prior to going the HQIEP grant, Dr. Yales served as the Senior Director for the System Improvement Leads (SIL) project for five years.

Dr. Yales is certified as a Master Practitioner in Compassionate Systems and her doctoral work focused on parent perceptions of collaboration during the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. As a parent of a son with autism, Dr. Yales is committed both professionally and personally to providing equitable education for all students.

Sara Wildman
Sara Wildman M.Ed, has 20 years of experience serving students within special education in a variety of settings. Mrs. Wildman is currently a special education coordinator with East County SELPA as part of a grant from the California Department of Education to support districts throughout California focusing on high-quality IEPs. Mrs. Wildman’s professional interests focus on supporting students and families from marginalized communities to understand the special education process. She also enjoys working to support systems change using a human-centered approach. Sara has earned a certification with the Compassionate Systems Framework, which is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (MIT J-WEL) initiative. She has started her doctoral studies in Organizational Leadership at the University of La Verne.

Noreen Lippincott
Program Administrator
Noreen has been in the field of education for over 20 years. She has worked in the group home setting, taught in both general education and special education settings in various grade levels, and has been a Program Specialist and Special Education Program Administrator. Noreen has supported Early Childhood through Secondary programs. She also served as an Improvement Facilitator working with the System Improvement Leads (SIL) Project, focused on improving outcomes for students with disabilities. Throughout her career, she has continued to seek every opportunity to share her core beliefs of equity and access for all, with a foundation in Universal Design for Learning and Growth Mindset. Noreen believes that ALL children can learn, ALL children can contribute, and ALL children deserve a champion.