Board of Directors

Carol E. Gassen  |  President
Merchants Bank of Indiana

Carol Gassen joined the board in the fall of 2010 and accepted the role of president in November 2012. She is VP, Chief Compliance Officer for Merchants Bank of Indiana and has a degree in finance from Iowa State University. Carol’s career in banking has spanned over 20 years, working in small community banks to large regional banks in Iowa and Indiana. Carol lives in Fishers and is actively balancing family, career and volunteerism. She has two children, a son and daughter. Her  daughter is on the spectrum, and after graduating from the University of Iowa REACH program is actively employed and transitioning to full independence.


Linda Mcleaish
Washington Township Schools

Linda has a master’s in elementary education from Indiana State University and a bachelor’s in elementary education from Saint Mary of the Woods College. She has years of experience in education from creating community programs for parents and children to classroom teaching. Linda also has ten years of experience operating a gift and garden shop. She’s currently working in special education and tutoring for Washington Township Schools.


Patrick Jamison
Noble of Indiana + Martin University

A licensed behavioral mental clinician (LMHC), Patrick Jamison received a master's in community psychology. He also serves as an advocate for adults with disabilities within the criminal court system, specializing in transitional services, as well as with the State Workforce Initiative Committee. Additionally, Patrick is employed as a general contractor with Noble of Indiana, and is an adjunct professor with the psychology department at Martin University.


Kari Sheward
APplied behavior center for autism

Kari is a board-certified behavior analyst and is the Clinical Director for Applied Behavior Center for Autism. Her career in the human service field began in community mental health as a crisis therapist. Kari has four children, one diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. His diagnosis motivated her to change career paths and return to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in psychology with a specialty in applied behavior analysis. She has worked in ABA clinics as well as in community/home-based programs. Kari volunteers once a week as a behaviorist at The Independence Academy. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her children.


JANICE HICKS-SLAUGHTER                                                                                                               MARIAN UNIVERSITY

Janice Hicks Slaughter is Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Klipsch Educators College at Marian University. She has extensive experience in education, youth development, community involvement, strategic alliances and organizational leadership. Janice has an autistic sibling and is committed to being an advocate for providing experiences and services that increase their opportunity to reach their fullest potential.                                                                                                    


Barb has her undergraduate degree from Purdue University and her master’s in elementary education from Ball State University.  She has over 20 years of experience in education in both the private and public sectors.  Aside from teaching and volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, gardening, and cooking.                                                                                                                                      

Ruth Padgett
Emeritus Board Member

Ruth Padgett, co-founder of The Independence Academy, served as IA's administrator and board treasurer when the school opened in 2008. Ruth had a career as a clinical research associate with Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Mannheim Diagnostics, and with her own business, before deciding to be at home full-time. Ruth and her husband Greg have three children. Their son graduated from The Independence Academy in 2014.

Susan LeVay
Emeritus Board Member

Susan LeVay, co-founder of The Independence Academy, served as IA's director and lead teacher from 2008 to 2012. She earned her bachelor’s and teaching license in English education from Michigan State University and her master’s in rhetoric and composition from Colorado State University. Susan held teaching positions at the high school and college levels for 15 years before she began working in special education in 2003. She developed a passion for teaching students with autism and is certified in TEACCH and PEERS. Susan and her husband have two adult sons with autism.

Advisory Board

Jane A. Constantine
JAC Insurance and Financial Services

Gregory L. Padgett
Padgett Law

Jill Phillip
Former Board Treasurer