Torch will be passed to a new director at Plymouth preschool

| June 1, 2023 | 0 Comments

NEW HEAD of Plymouth School Sondi Toll Sepenuk.

Sondi Toll Sepenuk has been named the new director of much-loved Plymouth School.

When the Brookside resident takes the reins in September, she will be the third director in the preschool’s 52-year history.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be taking over. Plymouth is such an important part of my family life and many families in the community,” Sepenuk told us.

In her new post, Sepenuk will oversee the faculty and curriculum at the school, located at 315 S. Oxford Ave. on the property of the Wilshire Presbyterian Church at Third Street and Western Avenue.

Multiple generations
The school counts multiple generations of local families among its alumni. Sepenuk’s family is among them, which is one of the reasons the school board offered her the position.

“Her two kids went to school here, and she’s been a teacher here for five years. She represents the nonprofit school culture. She’s awesome,” current school Director Megan Drynan told us.

Drynan, who grew up in the area, is retiring from the post after nine years to spend more time with her family. (Her siblings and three children plus nieces and nephews all attended Plymouth.)

“The original director, Penny Cox, asked me to be director nine years ago,” she said, “and I have been blessed with an amazing staff and community to support me through the many transitions and growth of the school.

“I knew that Sondi would be a perfect fit.  She has been a teacher here for five years, and her strong sense of community and love of the school made it clear to us that she would be perfect.

“I am happy to pass the torch of director to Sondi knowing she has the support of our community.   She will protect our traditions while creating a loving environment to help nurture and stimulate our young children.”

Drynan, who will remain on the four-member school board, added: “[The school] is a gem in our neighborhood that has many important traditions. Soup Day, holiday parties and Fourth of July parades have been going on for 50 years.”

Another favorite is the festive 100th day of school, when the “100-year-old man” talks to students about what life was like a century ago. Sondi’s husband, Pete Sepenuk, an actor and producer, dons a beard and dresses for the role and explains to eager listeners what life was like when everyone drove the same model car.

“They believe it. They believe he’s 100 years old,” Sondi beams.

Sondi, a Seattle native, has a bachelor’s degree in English from Loyola Marymount University. She continued her studies in early childhood education at Los Angeles City College and UCLA, and she was a founding parent of Larchmont Charter School. She has held various leadership positions as a manager, TV writer and producer.

She also is the Around The Town columnist for the Larchmont Chronicle, and she is a member of NGA (Needlework Guild of America) Hancock Park.

At Plymouth, where classes have names such as Hippopotamus and Giraffe, Sepenuk has taught the Bear class, which is made up of the oldest children at the school.

Children between the ages of 2 and 5-and-a-half years old are enrolled at the 60-pupil school.

Both of her children, Hazel and Gus, attended the school. (Hazel is currently a sophomore at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Gus is a high school sophomore at Larchmont Charter School.)

Founded in 1972
The preschool was co-founded in 1972 by Cox, who died in 2020 at 87. Dissatisfied with the preschool where they were teaching, Penny and three other teachers and a neighbor opened Plymouth in 1972 in a space in the Wilshire Methodist Church on Plymouth Boulevard. In 1992, the non-denominational preschool moved to its current location.

“There aren’t many places like Plymouth,” said Sepenuk.

The play-based school features pre-reading and pre-math for the oldest children. “We work it in a way where they don’t even know they’re doing it,” Sepenuk adds. “The school is more like a family, like home, with longtime teachers on staff [some who attended the preschool as children themselves].

“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. We know what children need —­ to feel safe and be in a space where they can grow and learn and socialize and learn to be kind people and open up their minds to exploration and curiosity.

“I’m really excited about it, about meeting new families and helping them to guide their child forward.”

She added, “I look forward to continuing the legacies of Founding Director Penny Cox and now Megan Drynan, who have built the school into the warm, friendly, welcoming environment that we all know today.”

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Category: People

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