Diane Halpin, Ph.D. Executive Director

Dr. Halpin is the executive director of Lionsgate Academy. Previously employed as a research associate at the Institute on Community Integration, she conducted research for the National Center on Educational Outcomes, the North Central Regional Resource Center, and the National Inclusion Project. Her work has included teaching at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate levels. Dr. Halpin holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology/special education from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in education and human development with an emphasis in educational administration from George Washington University. She has developed the Minnesota Visual Autism Symptom Scale, an online assessment/IEP planning tool for teachers of children with autism. Dr. Halpin is the mother of a daughter on the autism spectrum. She has been active in local autism advocacy organizations and has served on the board of directors for Families for Effective Autism Treatment and the Minnesota Autism Center.


Brandy Dougherty, M.A., Assistant Director

Brandy Dougherty grew up in Colorado before attending Bemidji State University where she received a history and political science degree. She furthered her education at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, where she received her degree in social studies education. After teaching for three years in a small southwest Minnesota town, she moved to the St. Paul area and completed her Master of Arts degree in gifted, creative, and talented education from the University of St. Thomas. Brandy joined the Lionsgate family in 2008 and has grown in her position within Lionsgate from social studies instructor to assistant director. She completed the K-12 School Administrator program at Saint Mary’s University. She also served on the Lionsgate board of directors for four years representing teachers and staff and brings with her dedication and commitment to the organization, vision and mission of the school.


Ryan Rehnstrand, Director of Special Education  

Ryan Rehnstrand has been the Director of Special Education for Lionsgate Academy since June 2016.  The past six years, Ryan was the Assistant Director of Special Education at Mid-State Education District.  Ryan worked with the Pierz, Onamia, Royalton, Upsala, and Swanville School Districts.  From 2000-2010, Ryan was an EB/D teacher and head swim coach for the Buffalo/Hanover/Montrose School District.

Ryan received his bachelors in Elementary Education from Moorhead State University, his Master’s in Special Education from St. Cloud State University, and his Principal and Director’s license from St. Mary’s University.



Ron Berger, MBA, CPA (Inactive), Director of Finance and Operations

Ron Berger joined Lionsgate Academy as Finance Director in 2013.  He has been associated with the school since 2009 (2009 – 2012 as Board Treasurer/Board Chair and 2012 – 2013 as a service provider).  He grew up in an Air Force family, and attended high school in a small town in Central Minnesota.  Ron earned a BS in Accounting from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN and a MBA from the University of St. Thomas.  Ron brings 35 years of finance and business experience to Lionsgate.  Prior to Lionsgate, Ron held senior finance roles at 3 Twin Cities-based companies, following stints as a principal in a private investment banking firm and in public accounting.




Rachel Boyack, M.A., Special Education Coordinator

Rachel Boyack started at Lionsgate Academy in the fall of 2009 as the social studies inclusion teacher and case manager and took on the role of special education coordinator in 2012. Rachel grew up on a dairy farm west of the metro area and attended Southwest Minnesota State University where she received a history degree. She taught in rural southwestern Minnesota and South Dakota for four years before returning to the metro area. Rachel received her Master of Arts in special education at Bethel University in 2011.




Jessica Bjorkman, BCBA-D, PhD., Site Director

Dr. Bjorkman joined Lionsgate Academy in the fall of 2014 as the school’s first Board Certified Behavior Analyst. In the fall of 2015, she became the first Special Programs Supervisor supporting the resource rooms and in early 2016 joined the North St. Paul team as the building’s Site Director. Prior to Lionsgate Academy, Dr. Bjorkman worked for a special education cooperative for 5 years and also worked privately with families needing behavioral support in the home and community settings. Dr. Bjorkman grew up in St. Cloud Minnesota and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from St. Cloud State University. In 2008, she defended her dissertation at the University of Minnesota earning her Doctor of Philosophy in Educational  Psychology/Special Education. Currently she is working on earning her principal and director of special education licenses through St. Mary’s University.