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Challenged Child and Friends names familiar faces as interim executive director, new principal
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She had plans for retirement, but instead, Cathy Drerup has taken on a bigger role at Challenged Child and Friends.

The former executive director of the Gainesville school is filling that top role again while the board searches for a permanent replacement for Amy Gates, who resigned in November after starting in October 2014.

“This is an opportunity for me to take years of experience and a love for the agency to help during transition,” Drerup said.

She served as executive director from 1988-2007 and returned in a part-time role as compliance coordinator in 2012. Her vast knowledge of the agency will help provide a “stabilizing” force during the transition.

Challenged Child and Friends educates children with a variety of developmental delays and disabilities in a full inclusion program with children who have typical development.

Drerup said she thinks the interim period should last a couple of months. In that time she plans to “keep things rolling” and keep tabs on what needs to be passed onto the new executive director.

Another familiar face is returning to be principal on Jan. 4.

Carla Baker previously served in administrative and management roles, including program director. Most recently she was program specialist and family engagement coordinator at the Head Start program run by Ninth District Opportunity.

Drerup said Baker’s experience with family services will be an asset for the school, along with the benefit of her prior experience with Challenged Child and understanding its mission.

“I look forward to working with the CCAF team to increase public awareness of the benefits of our inclusive program where children with and without developmental delays learn and grow together in a licensed, accredited and Quality Rated center,” Baker said in a news release.

Principal Monique Jackson recently resigned. Jackson had taken over the principal role in January.

“Cathy and Carla's experience and dedication to our children, families and center leaves no doubt that we are headed into a bright future,” said Stephen Cobb and Gail Schneider, co-chairs of Challenged Child, in a news release. “They possess the leadership qualities that all great nonprofits must have to be successful in serving their staff and mission.”