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Keynote Speakers

Friday, March 3rd -- LEAD-K

Julie Rems-Smario is an educator actively involved with Early Intervention  where she can further her goal to preserve, protect and promote ASL for all Deaf children as a basic human right.  For the work she has done to push for Deaf babiesí rights, she was honored by DeafLife as the Deaf Person of the Year in 2014.   During her tenure as the founding executive director of DeafHope, Julie was nationally recognized with several awards such as CNN Heroes, Pearls Award,  and E-Women Network International Humanitarian Award.  She still works on contractual basis creating public service announcements (PSA) to educate the community about domestic and sexual violence in the Deaf community.  Currently she is activity advocating for language quality, ASL and English, as a basic human right for all Deaf children.  As on of the co-founder of Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K), she is involved in the legislative campaign to establish mandated language benchmarks for all Deaf children between the ages of 0 to 5, to academically prepare them for Kindergarten in California.


Sheri A. Farinha, CEO at NorCal Service for Deaf & Hard of Hearing since 2003. She is well-known as a dedicated and successful leader, advocate and civil activist on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing people.  She is actively involved with a multitude of causes benefiting the deaf community, including telecommunications rights, civil rights, and American Sign Language access for deaf children.

Sheri began her activism more than 20 years ago when she joined deaf community members in storming the office of then Superintendent of Public Instructions Bill Honig to protest the application of LRE ("least restrictive environment") to minimize the value of the schools for the deaf that provides unrestricted communication access.  

In the years leading to the passage of ADA, Sheri testified before Congress on access, educational and employment issues for deaf and hard of hearing people.

In 1991, she filed a complaint against Los Angeles Police Department for their failure to respond to her 911 TTY call.  The 1994 settlement between LAPD and the U.S. Department of Justice was instrumental in the DOJ enforcement of 911 TTY access in 150 cities under Attorney General Janet Reno's leadership.  

Sheri served as a specialist member representing Deaf issues on the Alert and Warning committee under the California Governorís Office of Emergency Services; Chair of the National E911 Stakeholder Council; and Vice Chair; Board of Directors, California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  

She is a highly requested presenter at conferences and workshops, most notably on the subject of Leadership and Management, Diversity in the Deaf Community, and Telecommunications Advocacy.

Just a few of her past accomplishments include: Chair, California Department of Education,  Superintendentís Task Force to restructure Deaf/HH Programs in California; Chair, California Deaf Education Coalition, a 26-member organizations affiliate that passed the Deaf Child's Bill of Rights; Chair, NADís Education Section; Member, California Judicial Council Advisory Board, Sign Language Interpreters;  Telecommunications Administrative Deaf & Disabled Advisory Board (TADDAC) to the California Public Utilities Commission; President, California Association of the Deaf. Founder & Campaign Director for L.E.A.D.-K. Ė Language Equality and Acquisition Campaign for Deaf Kids, 2015 Governor Appointed to the Ė D.V.A.C. Ė Domestic Violence Advisory Committee


Saturday, March 4th -- Dr. Ron Stern, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet

Dr. Ron Stern is vice president of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center at Gallaudet University. In this role Dr. Stern serves as the chief administrator of Kendall Demonstration Elementary School, the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, and a national research and training unit, and as a leading member of the Gallaudet University presidentís executive team.

Dr. Stern has worked in deaf education for more than 40 years. Prior to his current position, he was superintendent of the New York School for the Deaf from 2015-2016, superintendent of New Mexico School for the Deaf from 2000-2015, and director of instruction at California School for the Deaf, Fremont from 1990-2000. He has served on the board of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf in many capacities, most recently as past-president.
Dr. Stern holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Gallaudet University; a master's degree in deaf education from California State University, Northridge; and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of New Mexico. He and his wife Hedy have three children and four grandchildren.