Tim Frazier, the recently retired Southampton Intermediate School principal and the current vice president of the Springs School Board, has stepped in as interim director of the Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center.
According to the Eleanor Whitmore Center website, Katy Graves, who was hired as director of the center in January, is on a leave of absence for medical reasons. During her tenure there, Ms. Graves, a former Sag Harbor School District superintendent, started a pop-up food bank and coordinated a free child care program for families of essential workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Frazier has been there for about two weeks, and is joined at the center by Susan Wright, the new program director, who was a longtime assistant principal at Southampton Intermediate School.
"Tim is an extraordinary educator and an extraordinary leader, and we are equally lucky to have Susan. The two of them are such a great team," Ruth Ann McSpadden, chairwoman of the board of directors, said on Tuesday. "In the midst of all this craziness they are just such strong, calm, accomplished, wonderful leaders. In their hands, anything is possible."
Mr. Frazier said it was a pleasant surprise to be called upon by the center. In June, when he retired from the Southampton School District, he said he had hoped to get involved in the nonprofit world. His hope is now a reality.
"It's challenging, but it's really fulfilling so far. Susan and I have been able to come in and bring some clarity and focus. The people here are fantastic," he said Tuesday. "The focus here has always been on child care and also early childhood literacy. . . . We're here for the community."
Enrollment at the center is down by 20 students this year from its normal capacity of about 100, because of the pandemic, Mr. Frazier said. Classes are limited to 10 for the youngest students and 15 for the prekindergarten children.
The staff is taking safety precautions and doing health checks for the children. He noted that there has not been a single case of Covid-19 at the facility.
"They've really been cautious, and it's paid off. Cross our fingers, knock on wood, we haven't had a single incidence," he said. "The parents feel like it's a very safe place for children to come to."
Mr. Frazier was familiar with the Eleanor Whitmore Center beforehand, as that is where the Springs School sends its prekindergarten students. Currently there is a waiting list of about five Springs students for the 4-year-old program. There is also a waiting list of about 35 children for privately placed enrollment at the center.
Mr. Frazier said he is searching for more teachers and teaching assistants so that the center can open up another socially distanced section of prekindergarten.
"It's hard to find qualified people to do this work, but we're still looking and hopefully we can make it happen sometime in the next few weeks," he said.