Debbi Scarborough – Headmaster

Debbi and her husband Matthew founded Cumberland Academy of Georgia after a frustrating battle of searching for the right school for their son Steven who has Asperger’s. From 2007 to present, Mrs. Scarborough has been the Headmaster and served on the Board of Directors for this non-profit, special needs school that focuses on children with high functioning Autism, ADD, and ADHD. She has built the academy from one student to now over 100, and continues to run the day to day operations. Cumberland has received full accreditations from Southern Association of Colleges & Schools / Council on Accreditation & School Improvement (SACS / CASI) and Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC). Prior to beginning Cumberland Academy of Georgia, Mrs. Scarborough started a national executive search firm over thirty years ago. Kreisler & Associates, LLC has been listed as one of the top ten Executive Search firms in Atlanta for the past ten years. In 2009 she decided to sell her business and focus on building Cumberland. 

Happily married over 20 years, Matthew and Debbi are the proud parents of two boys, Steven and Sam.  With a strong sense of civic pride, they have been involved in numerous charities throughout Georgia.  Mrs. Scarborough has been on the Board of Directors for the March of Dimes for over 15 years. She has published articles about autism and has been a guest speaker as an authority on Asperger’s.

Don Sasso – Principal

Don Sasso is a native of Connecticut and he relocated to Atlanta 25 years ago. His educational background includes a B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts with a double major in History and Spanish, an M.A. in Educational Administration from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and a 6th Year Degree in Educational Administration from The University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut.

Mr. Sasso has over 43 years of experience working in education in a variety of settings in Connecticut, in Spain, and here in Atlanta. He joined Cumberland as principal in 2011.  During his career, he has been a high school and elementary school teacher, a coach, and a high school and elementary school Principal. He most notably served as Principal of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta for 9 years and Principal of Sophia Academy, an elementary school for special needs students in Atlanta, for 4 ½ years. He has been a Central Office Administrator for the Catholic school system in Atlanta and he has been the Head of the Middle and Upper School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta.  Mr. Sasso has been active in professional organizations. He is a past-President of the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools (AAAIS) and a past-Secretary of the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA).

Mr. Sasso has been married to his wife Janice for 45 years.  She has an extensive background in school finance and joined Cumberland as Director of Finance in 2015.  They are the proud parents of two adult children and a Great Dane named Blue!

Terri Brooks – Director of Admissions

Terri Brooks joined Cumberland in January 2011 with over 30 years’ experience in education.  She spent 18 ½ years at Georgia Tech as an administrator in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.  She resigned to raise her children after the death of her husband in 1993.  Over the course of the next 13 years Mrs. Brooks worked in various capacities at The Walker School, where her children attended.  She substituted in the classroom, the various offices (including Admissions) and worked as a parent volunteer.   When the assistant in the admissions office became quite ill, Terri substituted and grew to love it.  In 2006, Mrs. Brooks accepted a position in the Admissions office at Brandon Hall School.  She began as an assistant, later served as Interim Director of Admissions and was subsequently offered the position of Director. Mrs. Brooks has been married to her current husband, Tony, since 2000.  Together they have 5 children and 5 grandchildren.  Tony is a commercial real estate broker and owns his own firm.  They reside in Canton.  Terri’s passion is ballroom dance.  During the time her children attended The Walker School, Mrs. Brooks became an avid ballroom dancer, competing on a pro-am level frequently across the country.  Both of her children became interested in ballroom dancing as well, and her daughter also became a competitor.  Mrs. Brooks loves to watch Dancing with the Stars.  She actually knew a couple of the professional dancers on the show and competed against their amateur partners for several years.

Floyd Bushey – Director of Operations

Floyd Bushey has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and International Relations from Elmira College, as well as a Master’s of Science Degree in Education from Alfred University in Alfred, New York.   Mr. Bushey worked for 20 years at Emory University working in both Student Life Development and University Relations. He brings both his business experience and academic acumen to Cumberland. Mr. Bushey started with Cumberland when it began in 2007 and manages all aspects of the day-to-day operations. He will ensure the quality of excellence is maintained at Cumberland, as well as research innovative ways to keep Cumberland on the cutting edge of education and technology.  Mr. Bushey is married and has two children.

Kelli Ritter, Ph.D., LPC, NCC – Advisor/Counseling Services

The Founder and President of Effective Parenting, LLC in Atlanta, Dr. Ritter earned her Ph.D. in counseling from Georgia State University where she specialized in child and family counseling.  Dr. Ritter is trained as a play therapist with many years of experience and research in child and family therapy.  She possesses a unique approach to helping families by utilizing concepts and skills from both Play Therapy, Individual Psychology, and Positive Psychology.

Dr. Ritter inspires parents to make the most of play with their children. Through her classes, workshops and products, Dr. Ritter’s FEEL Method helps parents by engendering confidence in, and control over, their own parenting style.  Dr. Ritter’s parenting book & DVD, Come Play with Me!, illustrates her true passion for working with parents, caregivers, and teachers to enhance relationships with children.  Dr. Ritter is also an inspiring public speaker and presenter.

Valerie Laura – CFO

Valerie Laura grew up just north of Nashville, Tennessee in the small town of Hendersonville. She attended Western Kentucky University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. After graduating, Ms. Laura traveled all over Europe with her best friend for just over a year. Upon returning to the States she started her accounting/finance career working for Ingram Entertainment Inc. located just outside of Nashville. Ms. Laura worked for Ingram for six years as Accountant, Financial Analyst to Senior Financial Analyst.

In 2004 Ms. Laura left Nashville and moved to Atlanta to be closer to her sister and nephews. In Atlanta, she worked as a Financial Analyst in the Planning, Strategy, and Finance Group for the North American headquarters of Randstad. She worked for Randstad North America for two years before joining Debbi’s team at Kreisler & Associates, LLC as the Director of Accounting & Finance.

In 2007, Ms. Laura assisted Debbi in starting Cumberland Academy of Georgia. She has been with the school since the beginning and has seen it grown by leaps and bounds. As CFO of Cumberland, Ms. Laura is responsible for all financial and fiscal aspects. She provides leadership and coordination in the administrative, business planning, accounting, and budgeting efforts.

Jan Sasso- Director of Finance

Jan Sasso was born and raised in Connecticut, moving to Atlanta in 1991. She attended Post University and Central Connecticut State University, studying Business Administration.

Mrs. Sasso started her finance career as a banker in Waterbury, Connecticut. After several years, she traveled and lived in Torrelominos, Spain for one year with husband, Don. When they returned to the states, she served as Finance Manager for the LaSalette Missionaries in Hartford, Connecticut.  After relocating to Atlanta, Mrs. Sasso began employment at St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School, working in the office and eventually took over as Director of Finance where she remained for 24 years.

Mrs. Sasso and husband, Don, returned to Spain this June for vacation and to renew friendships made 36 years ago. They live in Lilburn, GA with their Great Dane, Blue. They have two grown children. Bart lives in Atlanta and Rebecca (Becky) lives in Tampa.

Haley Scarborough – CFGO

Haley is the CFGO (Chief Feel Good Officer) at Cumberland Academy of Georgia. She is eight years old and has worked with “Aspies” kids since she was born. For students needing a quiet moment, she is always there for them with some warm and fuzzy affection. She loves to chase tennis balls and our students love to help her with that.  She is usually the first to greet parents and guests with a request for a pet and a wag of her tail.

Val Schwan, LPC, NCC, MA- Director of Counseling Services

Val Schwan, LAPC, NCC earned her M.A. in Community Counseling from Argosy University and holds a B.S. in Business from Arizona State University.

Val’s work experience includes individual and small group counseling with children and adolescents in the school setting as well as in private practice. She is experienced in helping students with tools for their social and emotional needs that will enable them to thrive. Val enjoys the unique gifts and characteristics of each child and works from a child-centered and strength-based framework.  She provides a supportive environment that encourages students to reach their highest potential academically, emotionally and behaviorally. She is also a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator who helps parents with strategies to navigate difficult parenting challenges.

Tracy Wilbanks – Development Advisor

Tracy Wilbanks joined Cumberland in February of 2013.  She is a non-profit leader with more than 24 years’ experience in fundraising and development. Ms. Wilbanks has a proven track record in long range fundraising planning. She served a variety of fundraising and development roles with the March of Dimes for 20 years.  Most recently Ms. Wilbanks served as the Southeast Region Director for Autism Speaks, partnering with staff and volunteers in the Southeast to implement fundraising campaigns and mission initiatives. She developed region-wide strategic plans for region growth to include revenue, sponsorship, and volunteer development.  Ms. Wilbanks attended the University of Georgia.  She and her husband, Allen, are both native Atlantans and currently live in Cobb County.  They have one son, Hunter, a recent college graduate.

Shari Wright – Director of Advancement, Office Management

Shari Wright graduated from Furman University with a B.S in Business and a minor in French.  After college, Ms. Wright began her career in sales and marketing with Turner Broadcasting.  She spent several years selling CNN, Headline News, TNT and Cartoon Network to cable systems across the country.  From Turner, Ms. Wright accepted a position at a regional sports network in Detroit.  She spent several years working for various broadcasting entities before moving to Manhattan Beach, California and raising a family.

Ms. Wright began to volunteer in various education fields.  Using her French background, she began working in a public school French immersion program in Salt Lake City.  From there she was asked to help students in a reading retentive program for Canyons School District through an AmeriCorps program.  Ms. Wright moved her family to Atlanta then began working at Cumberland.

Amy Abramson- Teacher

Amy Abramson has taught for 20 years in both the public and private school arenas, including a long tenure with Fulton County, before teaching at McGinnis Woods Country Day and Hayden’s Way. She also runs her own tutoring business, The 5 O’ClockScholar. A native Atlantan who grew up in Dunwoody, she now resides in Johns Creek with her husband, Gary,  son, Noah, and her two precious crazy dogs, Scooter and Lena. Ms. Amy attended the University of Alabama and graduated from Georgia State University in 1995. She is certified in Elementary Education and Special Education. She holds several positions with the Doe Network, an organization that helps law enforcement solve missing person cold cases and is proud of her involvement with Doe since 2001. She has also been a Cub Scout den leader, taught religious school classes and been the coordinator for historical education for the Society for Creative Anachronism. She adores teaching writing, language arts and history!

A lifelong learner, Ms. Amy believes that education is a calling, not a job, and loves absolutely every minute of teaching! When not teaching, you can find Ms. Amy working on her writing, photography, various craft projects, collecting vast amounts of musical trivia, researching genealogy, solving mysteries, cooking or planning her next big project.

Mihkel Allpere – Teacher/Experiential Learning Coordinator

Mihkel Allpere joined Cumberland for the 2013/14 academic year.  He was raised in Austria and then spent his adolescence in the Atlanta area. He is a graduate of the Atlanta International School and attended Denison University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Environmental Studies with an interdisciplinary concentration in Education. He then began teaching at outdoor schools in California and the Great Smoky Mountains. In 2005, Mr. Allpere returned to Atlanta to become one of the first members of the Georgia Aquarium’s education team building the curriculum for visiting school students from K-12. While working at the Aquarium, Mr. Allpere developed curriculum for special needs students in the summer camp program and field trips and decided to move back into the classroom to be able to work with students on a longer term basis. More recently, he has served as a Math and Science teacher for students with ADD and on the Autism Spectrum. Since joining Cumberland Academy of Georgia, he spearheaded the Science department and other experiential learning projects like the trout hatchery and learning garden program which was launched through a grant with the Captain Planet Foundation.

Mary Bishop – Teacher

Mary Bishop has eight years of teaching experience, all at Cumberland.  Mrs. Bishop graduated with an art history degree from Berry College, where she met her husband of three years.  Mrs. Bishop completed her master’s degree in special education from Valdosta State University in May of 2014.  A voracious reader, Mrs. Bishop enjoys sharing her passion for young adult literature with her students.  In her free time Mrs. Bishop enjoys hiking trips, cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, reading young adult fiction, and spending time with her son, Augustus, who was born in February.

Melissa Cammack- Teacher 

Melissa Cammack is an educator with over thirteen years experience. She began her career with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Spanish from the University of Kentucky. She continued her education receiving her Masters degree in Brain-based teaching strategies and continued on to receive a certification as an Educational Specialist and an additional Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Melissa has lived in the Atlanta area for thirteen years and is beginning her second year working with Cumberland. She enjoys hiking, kayaking and reading.

Rodney Carlock- IT/Project Manager 

Rodney Carlock came to Cumberland in 2014 from Shreiner Academy in Marietta.   Rodney majored in Audio Production at the Art Institute of Atlanta and uses his skills in many ways at Cumberland. Rodney works in IT support, building maintenance, coaching, and teaching.  Mr. “C”, as the students call him, works with students in Audio & Film Production and is a gifted basketball coach. Rodney also developed Cumberland basketball clinics and a summer camp sports week.  In his spare time, he enjoys competing in independent film festivals and has won multiple awards in film.  Rodney grew up In St. Louis, MO and Hiram, GA.  He is married to Heather, and they have a son and a daughter.

Stuart Downs – Teacher

Stuart graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Mathematics. He has been teaching math in the Atlanta area for over 10 years. When not in the classroom, Mr. Downs works with students in a private tutor setting to assist them in preparing for the SAT, ACT and various track classes. Although Math is his first passion, he enjoys playing music and has also coached ultimate frisbee extensively.   Of note, in 2006 he coached the UGA Bulldogs to the National semifinals!  Stuart is also an active volunteer with an organization promoting peace and conflict resolution through ultimate frisbee play.

Keith Henck – Athletic Coordinator

Keith Henck (Coach) has worked at Cumberland since 2010. Coach graduated from Georgia Southwestern State University with a Bachelor’s in Science Education with a primary focus on Recreation Management. Over the last nine years, Coach has taught a variety of children and young adults the skills needed to improve performance in team sports and improve knowledge for healthy living. Coach works with Cumberland’s students in a variety of settings including: athletics, P.E., classroom instruction, summer camp and field trips. Coach continues to develop the athletics program at Cumberland and initiated the middle and high school age groups to compete in the athletic conference. Coach strives with helping students reach their potential to develop qualities for success, both in sports and classroom.

Brandon Jones – P.E. Teacher/Coach

Brandon Jones was born and raised in Georgia and attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where he received his degree in Recreation Management. During his college career, he played football and was also team captain for the Bobcats. After college, he went on to play Arena Football for a few years before beginning his coaching and training career. Brandon strongly believes in mentoring youth and assisting in their athletic development. During his transition from playing to coaching, he started G.R.I.N.D., LLC in which he speaks to schools and various groups not only on the development of their athletic skills but also empowering them to obtain the keys to be successful in the game of life and to become productive citizens. Brandon is now physical education teacher, coach and mentor to the Cumberland student body. 

Jennifer Liang – Teacher/Instructional Technology Specialist

Jennifer Liang graduated from Georgia State University in 2005 with her bachelor’s in middle childhood education and has completed coursework towards a master’s degree in special education. She has taught Language Arts, Reading, Science and Social Studies at Amana Academy, The Cottage School and The Orion School. She also used Expeditionary Learning methods while at these schools. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, Jennifer is the Chair of JordanCon and the current President of the Southern Fandom Confederation, the South’s oldest regional science fiction fan club.  Ms. Liang has been a featured presenter at WorldCon, MiniCon, LibertyCon and the North American Science Fiction Convention and served as a volunteer programming Director at Dragon*Con for over a decade. Ms. Liang has also been featured as a presenter for the Georgia Independent School Association on the topics of “Multi-Media in the Social Studies Classroom” and “Board Games, Role-playing and Simulations for the Social Studies Classroom.” She blogs about local restaurants, recipes, and sustainable living as “Northside Food”.

Laurie Mensing – Navigator Lead Teacher/Curriculum and Scheduling Coordinator

Autism Spectrum Disorders became Ms. Mensing’s passion after spending a summer as a camp counselor at a specials needs camp.  Ms. Mensing returned to the University of Georgia that fall and changed her major to Special Education.  Since then Ms. Mensing has earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Special Education from UGA and her Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College. Ms. Mensing has completed TEACCH, ABA, and Orton-Gillingham workshops and training.  Most recently, she has accepted the challenge of teaching middle school mathematics while reducing math anxiety and increasing independence.  As Ms. Mensing starts her 19th year of teaching and 8th year at Cumberland, she remains excited by the challenges that each individual must overcome to reach their true potential.  Ms. Mensing strives to teach her students academic, social, and behavioral skills that will allow them to experience success in all future endeavors.

Barbra Morgan- Teacher

Barbra Morgan is a graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Education. Mrs. Morgan is certified in Orton-Gillingham and has been trained to instruct students using the Lindamood- Bell program. She has twelve years of teaching experience which include both Elementary and Middle School. Throughout this time she has spent a considerable amount of time working with students with various disabilities, including those with Dyslexia, Autism, ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and other learning challenges. These experiences have created her into a patient, and multifaceted individual, who takes each student’s gift and helps them to blossom. Mrs. Morgan truly believes that every student is precious and has special gifts and talents.

Anisiha N. Nyarotho- Art Teacher

Anisiha N. Nyarotho is a professional interior designer that loves giving back to students by teaching them how to draw, create, and design.

She graduated from the University of Chicago where she took every art class her schedule would allow. Although she went on to advocate for children as a social worker for approximately 10 years, she knew she was born to be an artist. Thus, after enrolling in the University of Wisconsin-Madison she earned another degree in interior architecture: environments, textiles, and design.

Before moving to the Atlanta area to start her own design business, Amare’ Designs, LLC., she worked with an award winning architectural firm in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Now, in her third year of teaching art and design in Atlanta area schools, she looks forward to helping students learn and apply the basic principles of art and design as they develop their own aesthetic.

Todd Sentell- Career Prep Coordinator 

Beginning his eleventh year spent exclusively in middle and high school special education, Todd is an Atlanta native and a graduate of Furman University with a B.A. in psychology.  He’s an award winning graduate of Woodward Academy.  After a long and successful career in sales, marketing, and public relations, Todd began a new career as a teacher and coach, bringing to Cumberland and the Career Prep Program an extensive background in vocational development and love of teaching, mentoring, and offering inspiration to our students.  In addition to teaching, Todd is also the head of the school’s Saturday Series and Summer Series, a wide range of weekend excursions to historic, educational, and recreational sites, for all students of the school, around Georgia. Todd is also the founding and managing editor of Cumberland’s literary magazine, “The Pioneer.”  Todd is a past winner of Georgia Trend Magazine’s “Best and Brightest: Top 40 under 40” Award, given annually to Georgians who’ve made significant contributions to the state in education, business, the arts, politics, and civic affairs.

Brooke Swearingen- Teacher

Brooke Swearingen grew up just north of Chicago, Illinois in the small town of Grayslake. She attended the University of Missouri (Mizzou) where she received her Bachelors of Science degree in Special Education. After graduation in 2015, Brooke moved to Kansas City, Missouri where she began her first year teaching in a specialized autism classroom. During this year, Brooke also began working towards her Master’s of Education degree in Special Education with an emphasis in autism. She hopes to have completed her full Master’s degree by December 2016. 

Brooke taught in Kansas City for one year before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to be closer to her long-term, high school sweetheart. She is excited to continue to explore the Greater Atlanta area and enjoy all this city has to offer. Some of Brooke’s hobbies are hiking, swimming, boating, running, skiing, and exploring new places while she travels. 

Michelle Zierten- Teacher/High School Coordinator

With over 25 years as an educator, Michelle Zieten holds a BS degree in Education, grades P-12. Ms. Zierten also holds a Masters degree in Education, Supervision and Leadership. She has worked in several school settings including both the private and public sector, more recently as a principal in a private school for students with mild to moderate learning differences.  Ms. Zierten is trained in Orton Gillingham Level 1 and holds a certification in Elementary education, a certification in Early Childhood Education, three Middle Years certifications, a National Administrative Credential, a Georgia Directors Certification and a Georgia Gifted Educational Endorsement. Additionally, she is credentialed as a Level II administrator for the International Baccalaureate/PYP program. She has lived in Atlanta for over 20 years, has two dogs and has recently celebrated the high school graduation of her daughter.