Leadership

Francie Austin, M.Ed.

President and Chief Executive Officer
Francie Austin's commitment to special education students began when she completed a degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Colorado. Francie's clinical experience gave her the opportunity to work with deaf children and she found their challenges to be monumental. She subsequently completed a masters in special education with an emphasis on Education for the Deaf at Smith College.

Garen Austin, M.Ed.

Chief Operating Officer

Garen Austin is a native of this great state, and was raised in a small town in southeast Arizona. Growing up in a household of teachers, Garen always dreamed of becoming an educator. Garen graduated from Arizona State University, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Education. Shortly thereafter Garen attended Northern Arizona University, and received a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership, graduating with Distinction. Currently, Garen holds both Arizona Teaching and Principal Certificates. Garen is also a certified Instructor of Crisis Prevention and Intervention.

Mr. Andy Findysz, M. Ed.

Principal, Tempe Campus

Mr. Andy Findysz was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a degree in Secondary Education. He earned his Special Education LBS1 from Aurora (IL) University and a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Governor’s State University. While living in the Chicagoland area, Andy was a teacher, athletic director, and high school baseball coach. Andy and his family moved to Arizona in 2010 when Andy accepted a position as principal of a special education school in southwest Phoenix.

Mr. Anthony Pozar, M.Ed.

Principal, Peoria Campus

Mr. Anthony Pozar joined The ACES team in August 2006. Mr. Pozar started his professional career with The ACES at the Peoria campus as a Junior High School and Jumpstart Vocational teacher. In addition to teaching, he served as the Junior High School Coordinator and Extended School Year Coordinator for 4 years. When The ACES opened the Avondale Campus in 2010, Mr. Anthony Pozar was a clear choice to continue The ACES student success stories by becoming their campus Principal. Currently, Mr. Pozar is servicing as Principal of The ACES Peoria campus. Mr.

Mr. John Doran, M. Ed.

Principal, Gilbert Campus

Born and raised in Buffalo N.Y., John first gained his Bachelor’s degree in Art and pursued a career as an illustrator and portrait artist. He began his career in education in 1989 as an Art teacher in public school and with The League for the Handicapped, a private early intervention pre-school, simultaneously. Having greatly enjoyed working with children with special needs John gained his Masters degree in Special Education and continued working as a special education teacher at the pre-school for several years.

Ms. Leigh Trainor, M.Ed.

Principal, Phoenix West Campus

Leigh Trainor started working at The ACES in 2004. While at The ACES, she taught junior high and high school age students in both the Junior High program and the Jump Start program. She has held the Coordinator position for Rising Stars, Jump Start, and Junior High as well as campus administrator for Extended School Year. Leigh has a BS in special education from Arizona State University and a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.

Mr. Paul Thiessen

Director of Positive Behavior Supports & Certified CPI Senior Level Instructor

Paul Thiessen has been working with exceptional students for over twenty years in a multitude of settings. He initially became interested in education while serving in Desert Storm and Desert Shield with the United States Marine Corps. Moreover, his experience invoked a passion for understanding human behavior. Coupled with a desire to learn and understand, he entered the field of psychology earning a Bachelor of Arts from Ashford University.

Mr. Larry Schwarz

Director of Human Resources

Larry grew up in south Florida attending Broward Community College (AA – Business Administration) and Florida Atlantic University (BA- Sociology) and a Masters Degree in Education from RTS. He worked for several years in faith based organizations in North and South Carolina. Larry was the Adolescent Program Director for Charter Oak Psychiatric Hospital in Charlotte NC. He then moved to Arizona to be the Director of Marketing for Desert Vista Hospital in Mesa, AZ prior to coming on board with The ACES in 1996 as the Director of Human Resources.

Ms. Melissa Austin Button

Chief Financial Officer

Masters in Educational Administration, Northern Arizona University
Bachelors in Psychology and Religion, University of Arizona
Certified Trainer in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI)
Certified Pet Partner
16 years of experience working with children with special needs
15 years of experience at The ACES