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Here are the two principal finalists for Mount Vernon Community School

Jen Hamilton (on left) and Eneida Thomas, the two finalist candidates for the Mount Vernon Community School principal position, speak at a community meet-and-greet on July 10, 2023 (Via ACPS)

A longtime Alexandria City Public Schools educator and an assistant principal from Fairfax County Public Schools are the finalists for the principal position at Mount Vernon Community School (MVCS) in Del Ray.

Jen Hamilton, the ACPS dual language coordinator, and Eneida Thomas, the assistant principal at Braddock Elementary School, answered questions Monday night in a Zoom meet-and-greet moderated by former Alexandria City High School principal John Porter.

With more than 800 students, MVCS is the largest elementary school in Alexandria and is known for its dual language program. The job opened up after former MVCS Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana, the Washington Post’s 2023 Principal of the Year, resigned last month.

Porter said that the resignation prompted the school system to quickly hire a replacement, and candidates will interview with Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt on Thursday, July 13. The new principal is expected to be hired by the School Board in a special meeting on Thursday, July 20, according to ACPS.

An ACPS community survey on the MVCS principal position is also open until tomorrow and comments will be sent to Key-Wyatt in a memo.

The new principal is expected to start work before the beginning of the next school year in August. The salary for the job is between $118,000 and $181,000.

Hamilton was an assistant principal at MVCS from 2018 to 2022, and was hired by the school system in 2014 as an English learner specialist. She started her career as an English as a Second Language teacher in Prince William County Public Schools in 2006. She has a Master’s Degree in teaching English as a second language from Georgetown University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and linguistics from Georgetown. She said that she would continue building MVCS to be a model dual language school.

“I’m not a candidate who is seeking a principalship somewhere,” Hamilton said. “I’m a candidate who is seeking a principalship here specifically at Mount Vernon, which is a school that I’ve served at for the last five years and where I feel a commitment to and a passion for the students, staff, community and program.”

Eneida Thomas is one of three assistant principals at Braddock Elementary School in Annandale. Her career in education began 25 years ago as a kindergarten teacher at a charter school in D.C., followed by more a decade as a special education teacher, and an eight-year stint as an assistant principal at Metz Middle School in Manassas. Born and raised in Panama, she moved to the U.S. when she was 19 years old and received a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from George Mason University, a Master’s Degree from GMU in educational leadership and a Master’s in special education from Regent University.

“I’ll be a champion for students and staff ensuring that your needs are met in a safe orderly learning environment,” Thomas said. “I will also have high expectations for students, staff and families, yet providing them with the support resources and tools that are needed to be successful.

As the ACPS dual language coordinator, Hamilton said she’s been working on transitioning ACPS elementary schools to a 70:30 dual language program model, where 70% of most core subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts) are taught in Spanish. She also said she felt a call to service when the principal position opened up and that her experience as an assistant principal at the school will come in handy.

“I helped to manage the building during a time when we were going through roof replacement, library renovation, cafeteria renovation, playground renovation, mold mitigation, asbestos mitigation, all of those things,” Hamilton said. “I’m pretty well versed in the processes and procedures and have good relationships with the people we need to work with to make sure that our building and our community remains remains in tip top shape. In terms of being a dual language coordinator. I think that I’ve also learned the inner workings of the dual language program between those two positions very well. I feel really well poised with the plan that we have to be able to implement some of the changes we’re bringing to Mount Vernon Community School.”

Thomas said her leadership style is collaborative, strong, compassionate and adaptable.

“If I’m selected as your principal, I will give 110% to ensure that I’m a champion for students, staff and families of the Mount Vernon Community School,” she said. “As a reminder about my heart’s work, I am passionate about dual language programs and that is why I purposely sought the principalship at this school… I’ll be honest, transparent. I’ll communicate very clearly because my leadership is very strong. It is caring, compassionate and it’s adaptable.”

See the full videos of the sessions below.

Image via ACPS

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