Our Staff

Our attorneys, collective bargaining specialists and legal secretaries come to SLS with a wide array of experience and expertise. SLS attorneys mark nearly a century of collective experience in education law. Our collective bargaining service began serving districts from the moment the Educational Employment Relations Act was enacted in 1976.

MEET OUR TEAM

Image of Grant Herndon

Grant Herndon

General Counsel


General Counsel Grant Herndon has practiced law for three decades since graduating from the Georgetown University Law Center. He joined Schools Legal Service in 1994 from private practice in Sacramento where his work included representation of state agencies in personnel matters. Grant counsels governing boards and administrators on a variety of matters including Brown Act and governance issues, conflicts of interest, administrator contracts, election and voting rights issues, nonprofit formation, and school district organization. He completed the year-long CBO Mentor Program offered by statewide education groups, is a Past President of the California Council of School Attorneys, and currently chairs the in-house committee for the National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys.

Image of Alan B. Harris

Alan B. Harris

Attorney


Attorney Alan Harris is a former United States Marine Corps JAG officer who joined SLS from private practice in 2002. Al represents districts and advises governing boards in student discipline matters and a range of other issues pertaining to students such as free speech and dress code issues. He assists administrators in obtaining temporary restraining orders and stay-away orders. He also practices in the areas of special education and school business law.

Image of Timothy Salazar

Timothy Salazar

Attorney


Attorney Timothy L. Salazar came to SLS from private practice in Torrance with an extensive background in collective bargaining and labor and employment law. The UCLA School of Law graduate and certified mediator focuses on collective bargaining for SLS districts. In addition, he represents clients in employment law matters including employee discipline, investigation of complaints, grievances, arbitrations and PERB hearings.

Kelly A. Lazerson

Kelly A. Lazerson

Attorney


An experienced civil litigator and personnel attorney, Kelly A. Lazerson rejoined SLS in 2020 from private practice and coordinates the work of the Labor & Employment Practice Group. The former teacher is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento, and Whittier College School of Law. Kelly advises, represents, and trains SLS clients on a wide range of labor and employment issues. A certified mediator, Kelly is a member of the California State Bar and Kern County Bar Association.

Abby Auffant

Abby Auffant

Attorney


Abby Auffant came to SLS from Chevron North American Exploration and Production where she focused on land issues and complex regulatory matters. The Kern County native now advises and represents SLS clients on a variety of personnel-related matters as a member of the Labor & Employment Practice Group. Abby is a graduate of Bakersfield College, California State University, Bakersfield, and University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Tumara M. Thelen

Tumara M. Thelen

Attorney


Tumara M. Thelen joined the Labor & Employment Practice Group with a background in public sector practice and civil litigation. She advises and represents SLS clients on matters including evaluation and discipline of employees, workplace investigations, leave issues, and harassment and discrimination claims. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Santa Clara University School of Law, Tumara is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

James D. Simson

James D. Simson

Attorney


James D. Simson joined the Special Education Practice Group in 2019. Jim was previously with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office where he served as a Supervising District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney, handling high profile criminal cases, and supervised the agency’s IT department. A New England native and graduate of the University of Vermont, Jim worked as a teacher and coach in Arizona before attending California Western School of Law. His considerable trial and negotiation experience, having handled nearly 60 jury trials, serves SLS client districts well. He is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Melissa D. Allen

Melissa D. Allen

Attorney


Melissa D. Allen joined the Special Education Practice Group in 2020. She was previously with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office where she served as a Deputy and Supervising Deputy District Attorney and was responsible for numerous high profile criminal cases. A native of California City and graduate of California Baptist College and California Western School of Law, Melissa serves as a board member for several community nonprofits and on the Pre-law Advisory Committee at California State University, Bakersfield. She is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Candace B. Neal

Candace B. Neal

Attorney


Returning to her native Kern County from the Bay Area, Candace B. Neal joined the SLS Business Practice Group from private practice in 2020. Her background in civil litigation and real property matters serves SLS clients well as she advises on a variety of business-related matters, including school site acquisition and construction matters and disputes, contract formation, issues relating to the California Public Records Act, nonprofit formation, and other topics. Candace graduated from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Julia K. Vlahos

Julia K. Vlahos

Attorney


Julia K. Vlahos joined the Labor & Employment Practice Group from private practice where she focused on civil litigation and personnel matters. A native of Berlin, Germany, Julia earned her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, and holds undergraduate degrees in economics and communications. She has served as an adjunct professor at the Kern County College of Law and Bakersfield College. She is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Kristina Funderburk

Kristina Funderburk

Attorney


Kristina Funderburk joined the Business Practice Group from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office where she served as a Deputy District Attorney responsible for a large caseload, handling cases from inception through resolution. Kristi also has extensive risk management experience. A California native, Kristi is a graduate of the University of California and Southwestern Law School and is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

Mark E. Pafford

Attorney


Mark E. Pafford joined the Business Practice Group in 2022. Mark advises and represents school districts and county superintendents of schools on a variety of business-related matters, including construction matters and disputes, contract formation, issues relating to the California Public Records Act, school district organization and redistricting, technology, including student data privacy, charter school matters, and conflict of interest issues. A Bakersfield native and graduate of Pepperdine University and McGeorge School of Law, Mark is a member of the California State Bar, Kern County Bar Association, and California Council of School Attorneys.

SUPPORT STAFF

Cathy Rother joined Schools Legal Service in 1983. She worked for local private law firms, including Wagy, Bunker, Hislop & Lewis and the Law Office of Patrick E. Jennison, and has been an SLS legal secretary in the areas of special education, business and construction, and collective bargaining. In 2018 she became the Supervising Legal Secretary and is assistant to the General Counsel. Cathy received her AA degree from Bakersfield College and graduated from the California State University, Bakersfield, Extended Studies, Attorney Assistant Program.

RoseAnn Franco joined Schools Legal Service in 1980. She attended Bakersfield College and her professional background includes over 8 years experience working for local private law firms and 2 years for the Kern High School District personnel department. RoseAnn has extensive experience in the area of personnel and student discipline. She currently works in the area of business, construction and personnel.

Cindy Jackson joined Schools Legal Service in 2000. She worked for local private law firms for 13 years and the Bakersfield City Attorney’s Office for 3 years. She has experience in the areas of business, construction and special education. She currently works in the area of personnel and student discipline. Cindy received her AA degree from Bakersfield College in 1983 and graduated from the California State University, Bakersfield, Extended Studies, Attorney Assistant Program in 1990.

Andrea Jones joined Schools Legal Service in 2004. She attended Cerritos Junior College and her professional background includes over 16 years experience working for local private law firms and 5 years for the Bakersfield City Attorney’s Office. Andrea has extensive experience in the area of civil litigation, business litigation, municipal law, personal injury and student discipline. She currently works in the areas of personnel and special education.

Cindy Cordier joined Schools Legal Service in 2016. She worked as a litigation paralegal for a local private law firm for almost 2 years. She has also worked as a legal secretary for the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. She has extensive experience in intellectual property, corporate, criminal and construction litigation. She is currently working in the area of personnel. Cindy graduated from University of California, Los Angeles Attorney Assistant Program in 1991.

Ana Arias-Gonzales joined Schools Legal Service 2010. She attended Bakersfield College for two years. For 6 years she worked as a legal secretary and receptionist for two local law firms. Before coming to Schools Legal Service, Ana was a bilingual secretary in the special education department at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office. In 2010 she worked as our Legal Transcriber/Receptionist. She currently works in the area of special education as a Legal Secretary. She is fluent in Spanish.

Dina Lozano is our newest legal secretary, coming to Schools Legal Service in April 2018. She has extensive experience in business, discrimination, wage and hour, contracts, and medical malpractice and civil litigation. She worked for local private law firms for 21 years before joining us. Dina is currently working in business and personnel. Born and raised in Bakersfield, Dina graduated from local schools.

Legal Transcriber/Receptionist Tanya Kilmer joined SLS in 2018. In addition to routing the day-to-day calls, greeting visitors, and other front office duties, she assists with our library and various recordkeeping projects and rounds out the Schools Legal Service team.

Accountant John Hernando provides accounting and billing services to SLS.