School Leadership

Nicole Nichols
Executive Director


Nicole Nichols is a special education teacher and leader in the Seattle area.  For the past 6 years she has served as a teacher, member of the building leadership team, special education department leader, coach and mentor in the Seattle Public Schools.  Prior to Seattle Public Schools, Nicole worked as an instructional assistant and coach with the Bainbridge Island School District while completing her Masters in Special Education.

In addition to Nicole’s accomplishments with the school district, she is also focused on her professional growth in the areas of assistive technology and post high school transition planning, as well as being active with the Special Olympics organization.  Prior to Nicole’s career in education, she served as an executive assistant at a fast paced fashion company in New York City immediately after graduating from Washington State University.  Nicole currently lives in West Seattle with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.

Dr. Darlene A. Sousa
Director of Research and Curriculum

Darlene has been serving children and their families for nearly two decades.  She began her career providing services within community and clinical settings, but after experiencing difficulties with finding suitable schools for her daughter who has Autism and ADHD, she returned to school for an additional graduate degree in school psychology.  Darlene hoped that with a background in clinical and educational psychology, she could bridge the gap between the medical and educational model of providing supports for students with learning challenges.  In addition to providing direct services to children and families, Darlene has served as a public school psychologist, special education consultant for the State of Iowa, a special education team leader, a program administrator, a researcher for several universities and the Westat Corporation, and faculty member teaching courses in child development, disabilities, education, research methods, and psychology.

As a certified school psychologist and licensed mental health counselor associate, Darlene holds graduate degrees in human behavior, school psychology, and human development and family studies. Additionally, she is completing the requirements to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Exam. She receives referrals from the Department of Developmental Disabilities and Children’s Administration for case consultation and in-home intensive interventions.
Her daughter, Natalia, is currently 23 and attending college, with continued support and advocacy from Darlene.  Darlene emphasizes to parents of students with learning disabilities that success can be found in selecting the best vocational match for a student and in ensuring colleges provide ADA and Section 504 accommodations.  During her free time, Darlene enjoys exploring the Sound on her sailboat, shell fishing, crabbing, world music, and sharing Paella with friends and family.