KIM SHERIDAN CALLING IT A DAY AT FAUNTLEROY CHILDREN’S CENTER
By Judy Pickens
When the Fauntleroy Children’s Center opened as the Fauntleroy Day Care Center in September 1978, Kim Seaman Sheridan wasn’t there to welcome the eight children as they entered a room at Fauntleroy Church.
But she was there the following year as a teacher and she has been there every year since as the center’s director, welcoming nearly 5,000 infants and children over her 42 years of service.
Come January 1, Kim will begin the next chapter of her life – one not so abundantly populated with children.
She sees a change in directors as a plus for the center, enabling new leadership to run with new ideas. Also, she said, “After 42 years, it’s time to be home.”
Kim came to Seattle in 1978 with a degree in psychology and a specialty in child development. Her first job was teaching at a center that she soon realized was not good for children. She started substituting in the fledging program in Fauntleroy, which led to her being hired as a teacher in the spring of 1979.. When the first director moved on, Kim filled in on an interim basis and the board made it permanent in the fall of 1980.
The founding members of the Fauntleroy Community Service Agency board were concerned that the young families who were revitalizing the neighborhood were sorely in need of all-day childcare. Church members shared their concern and offered space if the board could get a program off the ground.
“It was that care about filling a community need and how involved all the volunteers were,” she recalled. “They worked for no money and went to any extreme needed to make sure the center thrived.”
In the beginning, it served ages 2 1/2 to 5 years. By 1980, the center was serving a wider age range and required more room than the church could provide. It operated with a waiting list until Fauntleroy School closed
in the summer 1981.
Over the summer, the board negotiated a lease with the school district, enabling the center to open in the fall across the street with lots of indoor and outdoor space. Kim guided board and staff members through expansions and enrichments to serve infants through 12 years of age.
In 2007, the school district declared the schoolhouse to be surplus. Thanks to state and city appropriations, the board was able to meet community needs by buying the building and attracting tenants to help pay the bills.
An accomplishment that continues to be a source of pride to all involved is accreditation by the National Association for Education of Young Children in 1987. The center remains the only childcare program in West Seattle
to be so recognized.
Investing an entire career in one job is unusual these days but “to be insanely devoted,” as Kim put it, is the work ethic she learned growing up.
“The people here kept encouraging me to keep trying and they were always there to support us in the belief that kids deserve the very best in whatever sort of environment they’re in,” she said. “We’ve all wanted to keep meeting the needs of our families as they changed over the years.”
Many on the center’s staff mirror her commitment. Assistant Director Debbie Robbins, for instance, was one of the two teachers that the center intially hired, in 1978. Gerry Cunningham recently retired after 24 years.
“People here have a good feeling when they walk in every day,” Kim said. “there’s a love for the school building itself. People feel a sense of caring and family. Our teachers have never lost that spark, that enthusiasm
to be helpful and to create a curriculum built around the children.”
While maximum enrollment during the pandemic has been just 75, Kim’s priorities have been keeping all the staff employed and restoring enrollment as soon as possible. Center capacity is 120 children served by 28
teachers and assistant teachers, plus administrative staff.
“I’m working my way through the usual things for this time of year and anticipating changes to our state licensing that will require more of teachers and the director,” she said. “I’m doing what I can to make things
easier for when the new person comes on board.”
She intends to leave everything in order for a new director. The closure of many area childcare programs as a result of the pandemic means a large pool of talent is out there.
Kim’s parting words: “It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with this board, these teachers, these families, this community. So many people have touched my life in ways that I can’t even describe. The friendships
are what made it possible to do what I’ve done.”