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.

Doug Long – Principal

Doug Long graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Va.) in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. He began his teaching career in 1988 at Dean Rusk Middle School (Canton, Ga.), as a band director. During his tenure in Cherokee County he taught band and general music at the high school and elementary levels. During this time he earned a Masters of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music (Chicago, Ill.) and Specialist in Education in Administration from Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, La.). In 2000, Mr. Long took an administrative position as Assistant Principal at Cass Middle School (Cartersville, Ga.). He was the administrator for Special Education while at Cass. After six years, he then became Principal of Southeast Elementary School (Rome, Ga.). Southeast Elementary served the Rome City Schools elementary autistic population, as well as mildly and moderately impaired elementary students. In 2011,  Mr. Long was at Dallas Elementary as the music specialist until 2017.

Mr. Long is married to Lisa Long and they have two children, Nigel and Josie. He enjoys playing tennis year round in the ALTA leagues. He has been a soccer and football referee for 10 years and is a trustee of the Etowah Valley Soccer Officials Association.

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.

Jeff Twomley – Director of Finance

Jeff grew up in southwestern Michigan and attended Indiana Academy, a boarding high school, where he met his future wife, Kim.  He earned a Finance degree from Michigan State University and soon moved to Atlanta, working as the controller for a die manufacturer.  After 17 years, he accepted the Treasurer position at Bass Memorial Academy in Mississippi, working there 7 years while earning an MBA from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He then moved to Virginia and worked as VP of Finance at Shenandoah Valley Academy for 5-1/2 years. Needing to be closer to family (3 children and 3 grandchildren), Jeff & Kim relocated back to Atlanta in 2015.

An avid sports enthusiast, Mr. Twomley enjoys golfing and playing softball. Music plays a major role in his life. Since high school, he has sung in various groups and choirs, and currently plays trombone in Zephyr Instrumental…a 21st century orchestra.

Haley Scarborough – CFGO Emeritus, Canine Therapy

Sweet Haley was the founder for our canine therapy program.  She began working when Cumberland was one student and watched as the school grew to 100 students. Students loved working with Haley and she was tremendously successful in her work with the special needs student population. She will always be remembered and Cumberland students are awaiting her successor in the canine therapy program. 


Lucky Scarborough – CFGO, Canine Therapy

Lucky is a rescue dog that was adopted by the Scarborough family in the summer of 2017. He is currently in the process of being trained, yet has already proved to be an enormous emotional support for our students. We welcome Lucky as the newest member of our school.

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.

Samantha Wheeler- Administrative Assistant

Samantha Wheeler was born in Lee, Massachusetts and grew up in Warner Robins, Georgia with her mom, dad and three siblings.  In 2015 she graduated from Valdosta State University with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing.  After graduation, she moved to Atlanta where she began working at Lee & Associates as a Research Coordinator. Samantha left that position just after a year to pursue her dreams as an administrator in the education system.  In the spring of 2017 she joined the Cumberland team and currently assists the front office. Samantha resides in Old Fourth Ward and enjoys rooting for the New England Patriots, biking, tennis, and yoga.

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.

Rodney Carlock- Athletic & Project Coordinator

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.

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.

Tiffany Atkinson – Art Teacher

Tiffany Atkinson is joining the Cumberland team this year as the Art Teacher, and she excited to share her passion for visual art with our exceptional students. She looks forward to working with students on problem-solving, collaboration, and creative expression through the process of creating artwork. Tiffany holds a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgia State University and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Art Education. She has 4 years of experience in early childhood education. She is trained in the “Conscious Discipline Approach” and is a certified life coach, which makes her passionate about helping students curve behavior and achieve their goals by nurturing emotional regulation and offering positive reinforcement. She is an active participant in the Atlanta visual arts community; she has volunteered for local galleries and curated art shows. When not teaching, Tiffany enjoys drawing, cooking, performance art and seeing movies. 

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.

Renee Carmon – Pioneer Coordinator 

Renee Carmon was born and raised in Western Massachusetts. She moved to Atlanta shortly after she earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from North Adams State College. Renee went on to receive her Masters in Special Education from Georgia State University and has been teaching in the Atlanta area for over 20 years in both the public and private setting. Renee is certified in all content areas in grades 4-8 as well as Special Education Adaptive Curriculum.

In her spare time, she enjoys family activities with her three children and cheering for Boston sports teams.

Devyn Carter – Teacher/ Executive Functioning Skills Coach 

Devyn’s background includes a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology, with emphases in biological and cultural studies. He taught Anthropology and Higher Education Seminar at Georgia State University for nearly a decade before joining Cumberland Academy. In addition to college teaching, he is also is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator and specializes in executive function education and parenting support. He has worked with adolescents at improving their executive skills at Perspectives Center for Holistic Therapy.

Devyn also worked for five years as a Lead Research Specialist at the Living Links Center of Emory University where he conducted non-invasive behavioral and cognitive studies with socially housed chimpanzees. In addition to research and teaching, he has conducted Comprehensive Child and Family Assessments (CCFA) for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

Devyn enjoys spending time outdoors with his daughter and their two rescue dogs Roxy and Charley.

Stuart Downs – Explorer Lead 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.

Peter Dyer – Computer Science Teacher

Entrepreneur and educator Peter Dyer was born and raised in London, England and came to the United States as part of the Virgin team of companies. After a successful career in music business management, Peter became involved in educating students with unique needs through the Howard School, where he was both teacher and later, Director of Technology.  

Peter has undergraduate degrees in Special Education and Art from University of Roehampton, and is a certified Microsoft Systems engineer.  After leaving The Howard School to work as an education writer at CNN Newsroom, Peter joined The Galloway School as the Educational Technology Coordinator, and subsequently Director of Innovation and the Arts, he has applied this combination of skills in a long-term career of integrating technology for students with different learning styles.

Lori Fineman – Career Prep Coordinator 

Lori St. Germain Fineman hails from New England.  She graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts with an undergraduate degree in French.  After fifteen years in business in sales at Xerox, including running her own business with her husband, she shifted careers toward education; she taught French in Maine, during which time she earned her master’s degree in French at the University of Maine.  Lori taught French in a full inclusion setting; in the most recent years, she worked half of her school day in the resource room, one-on-one with special needs students with varied abilities.

In 2017, she and her husband Norman relocated to Gwinnett County where she taught at Collins Hill High School. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and reading.  She also enjoys being outside with her dog, Sherry.

Paul Fineman – Teacher

Paul and his wife Tvon have lived in Atlanta for a couple years. He is extremely passionate about sports and exercise, and cannot wait to teach important concepts such as teamwork and overcoming adversity to the students of Cumberland.

Paul’s experience teaching children with special needs started in a work-study while attending Wheaton College in Norton, MA.  His teaching experience has been primarily in the public school systems of Massachusetts and Georgia, and his patience and persistence with his students are what enabled him to connect exceptionally well with students of special needs. Paul always had a gift for working with students with special needs, which provided the motivation for him to expand his teaching certification to included certification in special education. An avid Boston sports fan, Paul looks forward to engaging and encouraging students in health and physical activity. 

Ashley Irvin – Teacher

Ashley Irvin’s background is in education, community, and social services. She is an Atlanta native and attended Oakwood University to earn her B.S in Education. She has experience in all grades K-12 and completed her training with Fulton County schools. In her free time, Ashley enjoys nature walks and hiking, creative and culinary arts, travel and community outreach volunteering.

Joanne Lipshultz – Teacher

Joanne Barrington Lipshutz (Mrs. L.) earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Washington University in St. Louis, and her Master’s Degree in Jewish Education.  She has been working in the field of education, in the Atlanta area, since 1988.  Ms. Lipshutz has worked with the special needs programs at the Weber High School, and she worked with special needs students in kindergarten through 8th grade at the Amit school.  Teaching at Cumberland Academy since 2016, Ms. “L” is excited to be moving to the Navigators (middle school).

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”.

Stephen McElderry – Teacher

Stephen was reared in the picturesque city of Augusta, Georgia. From a young age, he knew that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of children with exceptionalities, and through a band scholarship he received his Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. He continued his formal education and received a Masters in Special Education. He is passionate about the special needs community and has worked in Cobb and Fulton County schools for the past several years

He enjoys playing the trombone as well as composing and playing urban electronic music. His family lives in the Atlanta area, and he has one super amazing little boy who is 7 years old.

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.

Scott Plato – Music Teacher 

Scott received his Bachelor’s degree in classical guitar performance from Georgia State University and continued his education earning a Master of Music degree from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. In 1995, Scott became the founder of the guitar department at Gainesville College in Gainesville, Georgia. He was the head of the Guitar Studies Program for several years. He is a published author and has performed with the Atlanta Symphony and Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. Scott has produced a solo CD and is also a voting member of the Grammy Recording Academy and Grammy Awards.

Jennifer Robinson – Teacher

Jennifer Robinson is a graduate of The Ohio State University. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture and a Master’s Degree in Education.  She is certified by the state of Georgia in grades 6-12 Broad Field Science, Gifted, Family Consumer Science, and Special Education.

Ms. Robinson has fifteen years of teaching experience and has taught in Ohio, Nevada, and Georgia. She also utilized  her teaching skills to assist special needs students with academic tutoring.

Alison Ross- English Teacher

Alison Ross has been an English teacher for 18 years in the public and private school arenas at the high school and college levels. She is passionate about instructing literature and writing to students from many different backgrounds and learning profiles, including special education students.Alison’s BA degree is in both English and Spanish, and she has lived in southern Spain twice. A writer and editor, Alison has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net, and she was recently a featured reader for a New York City poetry series. Alison writes editorials and book and music reviews for the small and larger presses. In addition to writing, Alison loves reading, art, music, helping the homeless, swimming, hiking, traveling, and, most of all, cuddling with her two feisty felines.

Kathryn Telford – Drama Teacher 

Kathryn Telford is thrilled to be joining the Cumberland team this year as the new drama teacher! She is passionate about both theater/film-making and teaching, particularly students with special needs. This will be Kathryn’s sixth year as a special education teacher. Kathryn is a local actress and producer who has appeared in over 20 different television shows and movies including The Walking DeadPassengersDevious Maids, and The Originals. She’s also produced several short films shot in and around the Atlanta area.  She cannot wait to work with her students on stress management, emotion recognition, and social skill improvement. Kathryn assists students with problem solving , and reaching their dreams all through the magic of theater arts! Kathryn graduated with honors from Georgia College and State University with a degree in Middle Grades Education in 2009. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Georgia State University with a master’s degree in Educational leadership.  When not teaching or acting, Kathryn enjoys spending time with her fiancé, family, friends, and her dog, Red.

Jason Teufel – Teacher 

Jason Teufel is an Atlanta native, having grown up in Decatur, GA. He is an avid soccer player who discovered his passion for teaching as a youth soccer coach. He quickly made the connection between sports skills and social development. With this in mind, he founded and facilitated multiple sports programs around the city for children with special needs. These programs create a low-stress, high-success environment using sports skills to build children’s confidence and create team camaraderie. Jason has even played a part in creating small group-based outdoor programs for children with sensory-based special needs. The program is very successful at drawing a connection between children and the world around them while at the same time improving their physical, social, and emotional health.

For the past 11 years, Jason has worked with children with various types of neurological behavioral and spectrum disorders. He uses his training in Elementary and Special Education from Mercer University, the Alert Program, Howard Garner’s Multiple Intelligence and Dr. Stanley Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime Model in his teaching. He is proud to bring his experience and enthusiasm to Cumberland Academy of Georgia.