Staff Information

Linda Brault, Project Director |

Linda Brault, Project Director

LINDA BRAULT is the director of Beginning Together, and the California Map to Inclusive Child Care Project, all projects of WestEd, Center for Child and Family Studies in collaboration with the Early Education & Support Division of the California Department of Education. Linda is also an instructor in Child Development at MiraCosta Community College.

Prior to directing projects for WestEd, Linda was an early childhood special education teacher for over 18 years. Linda received two Bachelor degrees from the University of the Pacific; one in music therapy and one in psychology. She received her M.A. in special education from CSU Dominguez Hills and holds an Early Intervention Graduate Certificate from San Diego State University. Linda holds board positions in several professional organizations and is a member of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Early Childhood Training Cadre for the International Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC/CEC).

Linda is passionate about inclusion of children with special needs into child care settings, in part because she is the parent of children with special needs. Linda has published articles and speaks frequently on inclusion of very young children, young children with challenging behaviors, legal requirements in early intervention/early childhood special education and transition between early intervention and special education.

Linda's main hobby is watching her husband, Tom, and daughters, Gerilyn and Robyn, perform on stage in local community theater. Her daughters continue to be a source of great wisdom and learning.

Cindy Arstein-Kerslake, Research Associate |

Cindy Arstein-Kerslake, Research Associate

CINDY ARSTEIN-KERSLAKE has worked as a research and evaluation consultant in the field of early intervention and early mental health for the past 12 years. In the first of those years she promoted the role of families in the education of their children by co-authoring CDE's Handbook on Family Involvement and conducted and authored The SEEDS Study on Family Involvement Activities in California. From 1999 to 2005 she served as the evaluator for the infant and early mental health initiatives under 3 different funding sources. As part of that work in collaboration with DDS, WestEd, the Department of Mental Health and countless service providers Cindy developed and coordinated the Infant Preschool Family Mental Health Clinical Services Study which produced evidence of the effectiveness of relationship-based approaches to early mental health services for children ages birth to five and their families. Over the past three years she has consulted for the California First 5 Special Needs Project as a trainer on screening tools and in the promotion of infant and early mental health.

Cindy’s educational background includes a BA in psychology and an MA in quantitative methods. Her job as a mother to three girls, one with a developmental disability, is her inspiration and the driving force behind all that she does. She has been involved with the WarmLine Family Resource Center in various capacities since it was created and presently serve as President of the Board of Directors. As a Board Member for the Infant Development Association of California, she co chairs the Infant and Early Mental Health Committee which has developed a directory of infant mental health interagency groups, training programs and service providers and hosted trainings in infant mental health topics throughout California and at the 2007 IDA Conference. Currently as an employee for WestEd Center for Child and Family Studies Cindy works as a Research Associate II on the Map to Inclusive Childcare and Beginning Together.

Cindy Bernheimer, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate |

Cindy Bernheimer, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate

Cindy Bernheimer has spent nearly 30 years in the field of early childhood special education. Her research has focused on children with disabilities and their families, and she has been involved in program and systems evaluations at the local, state and national levels. She has served as evaluator for the Chartwell Education Group, the Hilton/Early Head Start training program, the California Early Intervention Distance Learning Project, and the California Early Intervention Evaluation: Implementation of Part H and the Family Resource Centers. Currently, she serves as evaluation consultant for West Ed Center for Child and Family Studies.

Dr. Bernheimer served as a director of Projects CHILD and REACH within the UCLA Department of Psychology's Sociobehavioral Group from 1985 to 2004. She publishes and presents widely on early childhood special education and issues pertaining to families of children with disabilities. She has been a reviewer of academic journals including Child Development, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, American Journal on Mental Retardation, Infants and Young Children and Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Laurie Clark, Technical Assistance Specialist |

Laurie Clark, Technical Assistance Specialist

LAURIE has always been passionate about including children who have special needs into the community. She is happy to be a Technical Assistance Specialist with Beginning Together. She has worked with programs helping children and families thrive for over 25 years, including managing an Early Intervention Program for eight and a half years serving infants and toddlers birth to three years old who have developmental delays or who are medically involved.

She is a California Ambassador and Learning Coach for Special Quest, a project through Sonoma State University that supports Early Head Start and Community Partners in Inclusive Practices. She has facilitated numerous trainings for Child Care Providers including integrating children who have special needs into their programs. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and her Master’s Degree in Special Education is in progress. She believes in working hard and playing hard. She loves the beach, hiking, exploring nature and playing with her two grandsons, Caleb and Dylan. She also enjoys spending time with her two best friends, her adult daughters, Stacey and Chelle’.

Sandi Walters, Technical Assistance Specialist |

Sandi Walters, Technical Assistance Specialist

SANDI is a Technical Assistance Specialist for Beginning Together, where she hopes to use her skills and knowledge in Child Development and Early Intervention to support inclusion for young children in child care programs across the state. Sandi has advocated for and implemented inclusion for ALL children since her career began in child development as a preschool/kindergarten teacher.

Young children and their families have benefited from Sandi’s partnership in a variety of settings: she owned a family child care and a center-based child care program which included children with special needs; she taught Child Development classes infused with inclusion in the college classroom; through the YMCA she organized recreational and fitness classes for developmentally disabled teens and adults; she was the Child Development Specialist in the Early Intervention Program for infants and toddlers at Cal State Northridge; she trained home- and center-based early intervention program staff and managed three early intervention programs in the Los Angeles area. Sandi continued her work with developmentally delayed children and adults as a branch manager at Tri-Counties Regional Center. While working at Child Development Resources, the local Resource and Referral, Sandi recently managed the SB1703 funding for Ventura County by helping the county increase capacity of child care for children with special needs. She was also a facilitator for the CAEYC state accreditation project for family and center-based child care.

Sandi is active on the boards of VCAEYC and California DEC and is on the Professional Development Committee of the Local Child Care Planning Council. Sandi has a Master of Science degree in Human Development with an emphasis in Early Intervention and a Master of Arts in Child and Family Counseling. Sandi’s number one priority is her husband and three children. They enjoy hiking, camping, surfing, and just hanging out at the beach together.

Karen Charest, Conference Coordinator/Editor |

Karen Charest, Event Coordinator/Editor

As Conference Coordinator/Editor, KAREN is a “Jacqueline of All Trades.” Professionally, she has run the gamut from working on the copy desk at the Los Angeles Times to being editor of a magazine for Teleflora flowers–by–wire service to working at various corporations as a writer/editor in their publications departments. Prior to joining the WestEd San Marcos Team (Beginning Together, and the California Map to Inclusive Child Care Project), she ran her own marketing–public relations–event planning company, Charest Communications, while raising her two sons, P.J. and Mike. She is a native of Michigan and a graduate of the University of Detroit. She’s an avid reader and loves to travel and get together with friends.

Alejandro Castillon, Graphic & Web Designer |

Alejandro Castillon, Graphic and Web Design

ALEJANDRO serves as Web & Database Administrator for several projects out of the WestEd San Marcos office including Beginning Together, the California Map to Inclusive Child Care Project, and as Webmaster for the Program for Infant Toddler Care in the Sausalito office.

Alejandro graduated from California State University, Sacramento in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. He currently resides in Northern California and spends his spare time walking along beaches, training his dog and spending time with his family.

Katie Whalley, Administrative Assistant |

Katie Whalley, Administrative Assistant

KATIE serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Working Together for Inclusion & Belonging projects, including Teaching Pyramid and Beginning Together. She assists the Working Together staff by prepping training materials, maintaining attendance and evaluation records, communicating with participants, and attending to the day-to-day logistical needs of the office.

In addition to assisting the Working Together staff, Katie also works as a professional actress, singer, and dancer, performing at various theatres across the country in musicals such as Cabaret, White Christmas, and Parade. Most recently, she received a Craig Noel Award for her performance of the title role in Gypsy at San Diego's award-winning Ion Theatre.

Melody Rupple, Office Services |

Melody Rupple, Office Services

MELODY is the Administrative Analyst/Specialist for Beginning Together and the California Map to Inclusive Child Care Project. Melody is responsible for all the bookkeeping and accounting needs of her office. She tracks all budget expenditures and processes all invoices and bills, staff and consultant travel expenses, and contracts.

Melody has a BA in Business Administration with an emphasis on Management Information Systems. Prior to joining Beginning Together in 2003, she worked in customer training and support on accounting and other financial software. Melody and her husband, Bob, have four daughters, Nicole, Kristen, Lisa, and Kayley. In her spare time, Melody loves to read, scrapbook, garden, and decorate.

Kristen Rupple, Student Assistant

Kristen Rupple, Student Assistant

KRISTEN Denice Rupple is a student at Palomar College in San Marcos. She graduated from Rancho Bueno Vista High School in Vista, where she was a member of the dance team, choir, and drama club. She currently participates in dance and yoga classes, as well as Reading 30. She enjoys working in the WestEd San Marcos Office with her mother and other co–workers.