Lead Founder & Executive Director
Diana Díaz-Harrison, M.Ed. is the Lead Founder and Executive Director at Arizona Autism Charter Schools (AZACS). She was inspired to start the school by her son, Sammy, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Like many parents, she struggled to find an appropriate school for her son and decided to do something about it.
In 2012, she formed a board of parents and grandparents of children with autism along with professionals in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Together, they drafted a proposal for an instructional program and business plan to create Arizona’s first autism-focused charter school. Diana presented this plan to the Arizona Charter School’s Association and was selected to participate in a competitive Charter Starter Development Program. After completing this program, she submitted a successful charter application to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, which was approved in 2013. Once approved, Diana worked with her team to apply for prestigious start-up grants to gain the capital needed to start the school. It was an arduous labor of love, and the school opened successfully in the fall of 2014.
Diana possesses a unique combination of experience in broadcast media, public relations and education. While her early career experience was as a bilingual school teacher in California, she later held several prominent positions in broadcast media and public relations. Prior to dedicating herself full-time to AZACS, she was a Senior Communications Strategist at Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona’s leading utility company. In 1999, she came to the Phoenix market to serve as Univision 33’s lead Spanish language news anchor and reporter focusing on education and medical news.
Her professional career turned to education once again, after her son, Sammy, was diagnosed with autism. From 2007 to 2009, she served as Hispanic Community Relations Strategist for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). In this role, she brought autism awareness to the forefront of the Hispanic Community by working with Univision television and radio to produce weekly news segments on this widespread neuro-diversity. In October of 2009, Diana was recognized with an Emmy nomination for her news reports on autism. While working at SARRC, Diana conducted multiple trainings to teach educators about the characteristics of autism and strategies to connect parents to early intervention services. It was her professional experience at SARRC that connected Diana to the leading professionals in the treatment and education of children with autism and what planted the idea of starting a school.
In her role as Lead Founder and Executive Director, Diana has worked with her team to open three successful campuses and an accredited online school in just nine years of operation. Each year, the schools meet and exceed their academic goals as approved by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.
AZACS has been recognized by several prominent educational entities such as Charter Schools Growth Fund, A for Arizona, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s Office of Education, and most recently was the top million dollar winner of the Yass Prize. Diana’s goal is to help each student become a fulfilled, productive citizen. She is doing this by develop community partnerships that can lead to jobs and ensuring students are ready for college and vocational opportunities. As the mother of a child with autism, her driving force is to create a life of purpose and fulfilling opportunities for her students.
Chief of Staff
Lisa Long has a long career in education spanning over 30 years. She has been a classroom teacher, technology trainer, district administrator and a Principal. Mrs. Long holds a Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. A native Tucsonan, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family and cheering on her favorite teams, the University of Arizona Wildcats and the Boston Red Sox!
Sr. Director of Online Programming
Dana Van Deinse
Dana Van Deinse is currently the Senior Director of Partnerships and Online Programming at the Arizona Autism Charter School. She earned a Masters of Education in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. She has served as an administrator, teacher, board president, community member and parent in the Arizona school systems for more than 20 years. Having spent many years working in the corporate banking industry, she earned her Post-Bac degree from Arizona State University and became a middle school math teacher for seven years. After earning a Master’s of Education in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University, she moved into a head of school position with an Arizona online high school where she built programming to annually serve more than 20,000 students online. She served on the team with Cognia that developed the accreditation quality benchmarks for educational corporations and digital learning schools. She most recently served as the executive director of partnership development with Arizona State University’s online high school, ASU Prep Digital and is also the co-founder of Grand Key Education, an education company that provides social emotional training for youth.
IT and Operations Director
Dan McCarty is currently the Director of Operations and IT for Arizona Autism Charter Schools. Dan brings over 12 years of experience in Operations and IT management and over 40 years of business leadership.
Dan started his career in the hospitality industry where he spent 35 years in several leadership roles with companies like Hilton Hotels, Wyndham Hotels, Intrawest Golf as well as owning and running his own restaurant. Dan managed facilities across the United States as well as Canada and facilitated new construction building projects as well as takeovers.
During his leadership roles, Dan was responsible for multi-million dollar budgets, and hundreds of staff, millions of dollars of inventory, and ensuring brand integrity. He was responsible for designing and opening facilities as well as flipping properties to the corporate brand.
Dan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and a Masters of Arts degree in Elementary Education which he received from the University of Phoenix. He also has certification in Windows Server Administration, Network Management, (Network security, Local Area Network, and OSI model, Wire and Wireless Protocol), CompTIA A+ Fundamentals, and Cloud, and Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2.
STEAM and Innovation Director
My name is Supreet Kaur, and I am the High School Math Teacher. It is indeed a matter of great pride and honor to work with this wonderful team at AZACS. I am deeply influenced by the professional and empathetic attitude of the entire team. It is going to be an enchanting experience working as a high school teacher at AZACS. I have a strong self-belief to acquaint the students at AZACS with the best academic knowledge and skills. I shall leave no stone unturned to make them responsible, mindful and independent human beings.
I am a graduate and a post graduate in Biotechnology. Additionally I’m currently enrolled in Masters of Education in Educational Leadership at Northern Arizona University. I have twelve years of experience in teaching and facilitating different age groups, especially teenagers. This is my third exciting year at AZACS. I have worked as an academic coordinator with Cambridge International School in India. I have taught Biology and Science at the high school level under Cambridge Assessments International Education, which is affiliated with the University of Cambridge, UK. I have been consistently gearing myself up by participating and attending different academic and administrative workshops, and am excited to implement my learning within the classroom.
My hobbies are reading non-fiction. I love to travel and explore new places. I love to spend time with my family.
I look forward to having an amazing academic year!
Chief Academic Officer
Director of Talent Management
Sr. Director of Data & ABA
My name is Claire Piper and I am the Early Learning Center ABA Co-Director. I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA), and a Certified Special Education Teacher. I have my masters in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University. This will be my fifth year of working at AZACS, but will be my first year based out of the Early Learning Center. I am thrilled to be joining the team as early intervention is my passion. I have been working with individuals on the spectrum for more than 10 years.
Physical Education and Afterschool Manager
Kelly Hardegree-Ullman graduated from the College of Idaho in 2012 with a B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology. Upon graduation, Coach Kelly spent three years working in the athletic department at Emma Willard School in Troy, NY before moving to Illinois for graduate school. In 2017, Coach Kelly graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with an M.S. in Kinesiology, specializing in Exercise and Sport Psychology. Coach Kelly has two dogs; an Australian Cattle Dog named Indie and a Pitsky named Blue.
School Wellness Registered Nurse
Jessica Mangieri, RN, BSN
School Nutrition Manager
UC Campus Director
West Valley ABA Director
Michelle Downie is honored to serve as the ABA Director for the West Valley Campus. Michelle has been a Licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analyst since 2013. After obtaining a Master’s Degree in Global Business Management and working for 15 years in both the retail and insurance industries, Michelle’s son was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Observing the amazing work that BCBAs performed with her son, Michelle decided to change her career and go back to school to obtain her Master’s in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism. She obtained her practicum hours working in a clinic as an ABA therapist and then in-home as a Program Manager. Once certified, Michelle worked as a Clinical Supervisor and as the first BCBA hired by a large public school district, where she helped develop and grow their specialized Autism program for 8 years. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member at her alma mater, Arizona State University, in their graduate level ABA program.
Born in Queens, NY, and raised on Long Island, Michelle moved to the Valley of the Sun in 1999. In her spare time, she enjoys boxing, yoga, listening to live music, seeing the latest movies, spending time with her family and her two pups, and fostering small senior pups when given the opportunity.
Michelle is excited to be a part of the AZACS team, who also share her vision and mission. Her son is the inspiration for her passion and drive to help children and their families and she hopes to continue to make a difference in their lives for years to come.
ELC Campus Director
My name is Patrick Masson, and I am the Assistant Director at the Early Learning Center. I graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelors in Sociology. I started working with students with Autism in 2009 when I worked as an ABA Therapist in the Connecticut public school system. I moved out to Arizona in 2011, and worked at a private school as a Behavior Coach before coming on board with AZACS.
I have been a part of the AZACS family since we opened our doors in 2014. At AZACS, I have worked as a Co-Teacher, a Special Education Teacher, and a Special Education Program Manager. Since coming on board, I went back to school and received my Masters in Special Education from Grand Canyon University. I am also currently enrolled in a program to pursue an additional Masters in Education, with a focus on Educational Leadership, through Northern Arizona University.
Outside of Special Education, I am an adventurer in every shape of the word. I love to travel, hike, & run. I have participated in 16 Ragnar Relays to date (9 of them being out of state), with hopefully many more to come!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email: email@example.com