Behavioral Health Services Staff Bios
Bandar AL-Omaira (he/him), , Social Work Intern
Bandar AL-Omaira is a bilingual (English and Spanish) Social Work Intern who provides counseling groups and other Tier 2 support for K-12 students. Bandar has worked in the Special Education and Behavioral Health Services at SCOE for the last four years. He is amazing at building strong relationships with the students he works with; these bonds have helped him gain rapport and trust that leads to positive student growth. Bandar is an avid sports fan who loves to catch as many NFL and MLB games as he can. He enjoys spending time with his family and his dog Bear.
Mishale Ballinger (she/her/ella), Program Coordinator
Mishale Ballinger PPSC, APCC8007 has twenty years of experience supporting, encouraging, and empowering young people. Twelve of those years she spent working as a social emotional/school counselor and therapist at middle and high schools in Sonoma County. She has experience in diversion, restorative practices, mindfulness,health education, dance and more. She is continually unlearning, dismantling, and doing the work to be a trauma informed, LGBTQ+ affirming, anti-racist, and culturally humble clinical counselor and program coordinator. She believes life is full of beautiful discoveries, personal progress, and finding one’s magic! Also, conflict, big emotions and personal battles. Mishale deeply enjoys supporting children, teens, educators, and families through this significant and challenging process.
In her life outside of work, she is having dance parties with her awesome family, going on adventures with her favorite people, or lifting heavy things to help herself stay well.
Caitlin Casey (she/her), Mental Health Counseling Specialist
Caitlin Casey is a Mental Health Counseling Specialist on the Behavioral Health team at SCOE. Caitlin enjoys working directly with students of all ages at school sites throughout the county. In addition, she believes that it is equally as important to support the important adults in students’ lives, and values collaboration with caregivers, educators, and other service providers. Caitlin incorporates trauma-responsive approaches in her work with students, families and educators to support healing and growth. Her approach to both clinical work and work with educators is rooted in social justice and equity. Prior to starting at SCOE in 2022, she worked for Shasta County Office of Education in Redding. In her free time, Caitlin enjoys exploring the local parks and beaches with her family and her dogs.
Mary Champion (she/her/ella), School Psychologist
Mary Champion is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She obtained her graduate level training from Cal State East Bay and has worked for the Sonoma County Office of Education since 2013. She provides bilingual (Spanish and English) direct services and supports for students and families and focuses on programming that aims to prevent suicide, support healing and resilience of students/schools, and reduce mental health stigma. Mary is part of Sonoma County’s System of Support, a network of volunteer crisis response agencies that support local schools. She holds a leadership position in the Northern California Bilingual Roundtable of School Psychologists, which is a group that works to support bilingual school psychologists and advocate for Multi Language Learners students and their families. She served as an instructor in a teacher credential program through the North Coast School of Education and as a consultant for a grant with the North Bay Regional Center to create a statewide curriculum to promote healthy relationships and prevent sexual abuse of adults with developmental disabilities. Mary loves spending time with friends and family, cooking, being in nature, and seeing as many Broadway musicals as possible.
Dani Eaton (she/her), Education Specialist & Teaching Coach
Dani was born and raised in Sonoma County and received her teaching credential through the North Coast School of Education. She has worked for the Sonoma County Office of Education for the last seven years working as an Education Specialist teaching in elementary school classrooms that support students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. She joined the Behavioral Health and Well-being department as a teaching coach to help support districts and teachers across Sonoma County incorporate trauma-responsive approaches into their classrooms. Dani enjoys cooking, exploring new restaurants, going to the movies, and spending time with family and friends.
Alayna Fischer (she/her/ella), Mental Health Counseling Specialist
Alayna Fischer, PPSC, APCC8763 works directly with students, families, and staff at various school sites throughout Sonoma County. Alayna feels inspired by young people's resilience, creativity, and insatiable appetite for learning. She believes that young people have an innate and intuitive capacity for healing, and they just need an environment conducive for that growth. She is honored to be in the privileged position to cultivate a space for that healing and empowerment. Alayna graduated from Sacramento State University in 2020 with a M.S. in Counseling, and immediately began her career as a counselor at SCOE. During Alayna's free time she continues to look for connection through being in nature, eating delicious food with the people she loves, and creating art.
Gabriela Gachet (she/her/ella), Mental Health Counseling Specialist
Gabriela Gachet, PPSC, APCC8434 is a bilingual/bicultural Mental Health Counseling Specialist who works with the Behavioral Health team at SCOE. She was born and spent her primary school years in Ecuador. She migrated with her family to Sonoma County at 12 years old and began her educational career as an ESL student in the county. Gabriela received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from San Francisco State University.
Gabriela is living her dream of working with students who are situated farthest from opportunities including English Language Learners, their families, stakeholders and staff. She believes in a student-centered approach and uses this as a guiding compass to work with students of all ages. In her free time she enjoys traveling, hiking, cooking, dancing and spending time with her family.
Shauna Hamilton (she/her), Program Coordinator
Shauna Hamilton is a dedicated education professional with a License in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), a Masters in School Counseling (PPSC), and hands-on experience overseeing support and guidance services for diverse student populations. Shauna is focused on increasing equity through education and wellness opportunities for all students. As a Program Coordinator within SCOE’s Behavioral Health Department, Shauna focuses much of her work on the development of Wellness Centers in Sonoma County high schools, facilitating the Field Education Program to encourage emerging clinicians to enter the wonderful world of schools, and leading Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (T-SEL) initiatives county-wide. Shauna has worked in public education for almost twenty years, serving most recently as a Head Counselor within the San Francisco Unified School District, before moving back to Sonoma County for a Fire-Recovery Counseling position with SCOE in 2019.
Shauna is a Sonoma County native who loves sharing sunshine, snacks, and laughter with family and friends.
Carolina Herrera (she/her/ella), Mental Health Counseling Specialist
Carolina believes that every child has an innate ability to heal and find a path to wholeness, which inspires and informs her work. She seeks to create environments that encourage agency in children and allow for healing to take place, with specific emphasis and expertise with underserved populations such as the Latino community in Sonoma County. Carolina has a B.S in Anthropology and Psychology from University of Illinois, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. Prior to working at SCOE, she provided individual and family therapy to children and teenagers for six years at Social Advocates for Youth.
Marie Patterson (she/her), Mental Health Counseling Specialist
Marie Patterson, LMFT PPSC, believes that through connection, we can find healing and joy. Marie provides counseling support to students, families and staff at schools throughout Sonoma County. She enjoys working with youth of all ages by bringing her authentic self and humor into the room. Marie has a psychology bachelor’s degree from University of Oregon and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy & School Counseling. Marie comes from Los Angeles and Ventura County where she has 5 years of experience in social work focusing on children, youth, and families.
In her spare time, Marie enjoys spending time outside, reading, baking, and spending time with her family.
Rebekah Pope (she/her), Program Coordinator
Rebekah Pope is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who loves providing school-based mental health services and is passionate about helping schools meet the needs of their most vulnerable students. She has had the honor of providing a range of prevention, early intervention, and healing-centered supports in school settings over the course of her career, and is currently focused on county-wide suicide prevention efforts with the Sonoma County Office of Education. She obtained her graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago in 2005, and has worked with SCOE since 2012. Rebekah coordinates Sonoma County’s System of Support, a network of volunteer crisis response agencies that responds to local schools in times of need. She volunteers with Paws As Loving Support assistance dog agency, and is pleased to be able to provide canine-assisted therapy in classrooms. Rebekah loves exploring Sonoma County’s beautiful outdoors and baking cakes for friends and neighbors.
Laura Sherwood Higgins (she/her), Mental Health Services Provider
Laura Sherwood Higgins is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is grateful to be able center her work at the intersection of youth, mental health and education. Laura has worked in the social service and mental health fields for nearly 20 years, with a strong focus on maternal and child health and social justice. She believes that supporting and empowering young people to feel well and to be able to learn is one of the most powerful ways to build a healthier and more equitable society. She holds a Masters in Social Welfare and a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley.
Outside of work, Laura likes to spend time in the redwoods, in the mountains and at the beach. She lives with her husband (also a social worker), two strong daughters, a couple beehives and 6 chickens.
Wendy Worms (she/her), Program Coordinator
Wendy has worked at the intersection of education, mental health, and social justice for more than twenty years. An East Coast transplant, Wendy began teaching middle school in Oakland through Teach for America as a recent college graduate. She served as a teacher, school social worker, and program administrator in San Francisco, Oakland, and Mount Diablo Unified school districts before relocating with her family to Sonoma County in 2016. Wendy believes that school should offer all students a sense of belonging, hope, and agency – and that learning should be meaningful, relevant, and full of mistakes. Wendy is interested in building systems that nourish and sustain adults and students. At present, she focuses much of her work on the development of Wellness Centers in Sonoma County High Schools, and facilitating the Field Education Program to encourage and support the entrance of emerging clinicians into the world of schools.
At home, Wendy can be found outside, with her two young boys, learning how to garden, and striving to cultivate a balanced life.
"I love that the people I work with are passionate about their work, passionate about our students getting the best possible education, and passionate about Sonoma County. "- Nicole Rosaschi, SCOE Administrative Operations Specialist, Human Resources