The Westchester Children’s Museum along the Playland boardwalk announced has a new executive director. The museum’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint Thomas Sullivan as its new executive director after a national search. Sullivan succeeds Tracy R. Kay as executive director and is only the second person to hold this role for the museum.
“In considering the ideal qualities for our new leader, the search committee, with the support of the board and staff, sought a candidate with an entrepreneurial, innovative and collaborative spirit,” said Carolyn Carr Spencer, chair of the Westchester Children’s Museum Board of Directors and the WCM search committee. “Thomas is a creative and
dynamic force. He comes to us as an experienced, visionary educator who will now take this unique opportunity as a next generation executive director and institutional leader to build upon our momentum and drive the Museum towards its fullest potential as a key learning destination for children of all ages and abilities in our region for years to come.”
“I have long been familiar and deeply impressed with the Westchester Children’s Museum as an unparalleled site with a dedicated, creative staff and team of educators with expertise in STEAM learning,” said Sullivan. “Children’s museums provide a safe and healthy environment for fun, play, and creativity apart from school. The Westchester Children’s Museum is poised to serve as that hub for this region and be a new kind of town square welcoming families, schools, and communities of all kinds to play and learn together. I am thrilled and honored to serve as the next executive director and help lead this extraordinary institution into the next era.”
Sullivan and His Experience
Sullivan comes with more than 15 years’ experience in education. He previously held the position of Director of Education at the DuPage Children’s Museum in Illinois and has extensive classroom teaching experience at the Pre-K, elementary, middle, and graduate/Master’s levels. He brings experience in exhibit development, STEM teaching, and grant management to WCM.
Sullivan holds a Masters in Museum Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. As Director of Education and Programs at DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, IL, he supervised a team of 58 full and part-time staff, and oversaw a budget of $2.75 million.
His most recent tenure was as Director of STEM Learning at Waterside School in Stamford, CT, where Mr. Sullivan taught science classes for students in grades 1-5 and spearheaded a capital project to expand the existing science program by creating an interactive STEM lab. He also oversaw curriculum and programming that positioned the school to partner with the Westchester Children’s Museum to receive a $50,000 federal IMLS grant award. Sullivan has also served as adjunct professor and course designer at Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL, where he developed and taught the “Engineering in Early Childhood” course as part of the STEM Certification track for graduate students in Education.
A Relatively New Museum
The Westchester Children’s Museum is a relatively new museum, only opening to the public in 2016. Located in the historic landmark Bathhouses adjacent to Playland Amusement Park, the museum undertook a major expansion and renovation that brought the museum’s available programming space from 6,000 square feet to over 20,000 square feet, completed in February 2020 just before the pandemic forced the museum to close.
The museum pivoted to virtual learning during the closure and reopened in summer of 2021 with a condensed operating schedule and reduced budget and revenue. The appointment of Sullivan as executive director coincides with the museum’s return to a seven day operating schedule that includes five days open to the public and two days exclusively for school and community field trips.
Sullivan will work with the board, staff and community partners to conceive and install new exhibits, introduce new STEAM experiences, expand and enhance the makerspace, while working to fill the expanded space with innovative experiences that are unique to the Westchester area.