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Mount Vernon Community School at 2601 Commonwealth Avenue in Del Ray (via Google Maps)

A new principal has been chosen for the Mount Vernon Community School (MVCS) and George Mason Elementary School.

At a School Board meeting last night, Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt announced that Jen Hamilton, the ACPS dual language coordinator, was picked to be the new principal of Alexandria’s largest elementary school.

Hamilton will be replacing Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana, who resigned earlier this year just a few months after being named Washington Post’s 2023 Principal of the Year. Burrell-Aldana had been the principal of the school since 2017 and got a new job in neighboring Arlington Public Schools.

Hamilton was an assistant principal at MVCS from 2018 to 2022. The 800-student school is known for its dual language program, a program Hamilton said she wants to continue building on.

“I’m not a candidate who is seeking a principalship somewhere,” Hamilton said at an early Q&A. “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.”

At the same meeting, it was announced that Christopher Finan would be taking the helm of George Mason Elementary School.

Finan comes to ACPs from New Mexico where he’s been an elementary school principal for the last two years.

According to ACPS:

Mr. Finan comes to ACPS from Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico where he has served as an elementary school principal since July 2021. Prior to that, he was an elementary school principal at the Community Day Charter Public Schools in Lawrence, Massachusetts and previously served as a principal intern within Boston and Framingham Public Schools. Mr. Finan was a curriculum facilitator at New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut and also served as a fellow of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was a school operations manager with Teach for America. He also served as a Teach for America corps member and taught seventh and eighth grade science at Clinton Avenue School (K-8) in New Haven, Connecticut.

Mr. Finan received a bachelor’s degree in biology and Hispanic Studies at Boston College. He has a master’s in school leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He studied Spanish language and literature at Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain and is fluent in Spanish.

Image via Google Maps

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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. Read More

Mount Vernon Community School at 2601 Commonwealth Avenue in Del Ray (via Google Maps)

Tonight, residents can meet the two final candidates for the principal position at Mount Vernon Community School (2601 Commonwealth Avenue) on Zoom.

After tonight’s meet-and-greet, the finalists to lead the Del Ray school will interview with Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt on Thursday and the new principal is expected to be hired by the School Board in a special meeting on Thursday, July 20.

The candidates, whose identities aren’t yet public, will meet with community stakeholders on Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

“We expect to have a new principal in place before the start of the new school year,” Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt wrote in a June 26 letter.

Former MVCS Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana, who was named the Washington Post’s 2023 Principal of the Year, resigned last month.

Kay-Wyatt said that the process is being run by former Alexandria City High School Principal John Porter and Rene Pachal, the acting executive director of ACPS human resources.

“Ultimately, the selected principal will be a school leader who can provide excellent educational, social, and personal outcomes for students, staff, parents, and the community,” Pachal wrote.

An ACPS community survey on the MVCS principal position is also open until Wednesday.

The salary for the principal position is between $118,000 and $181,000. More details from the MVCS principal job listing are below.

Read More

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Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana with students (photo via Mount Vernon Community School/Facebook)

Mount Vernon Community School Principal Liza Burrell-Aldana announced her resignation today via email. Burrell-Aldana was named the Washington Post’s 2023 Principal of the Year in April, and her last day is June 30.

Burrell-Aldana, MVCS principal since 2017 and vice principal for three years before that, didn’t specify why she’s leaving, but wrote that she made the announcement with mixed emotions.

“After nine years of successes and challenges with the best family community and staff in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), the time has come for me to take on new professional challenges,” she wrote. “It was initially daunting, but being the principal of MVCS became my career’s most invaluable leadership experience to date.”

Burrell-Aldana’s departure follows the recent resignation of Alexandria City High School Executive Principal Peter Balas.

Both resignations were made a little more than a month since Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt was officially hired to lead the school system.

ACPS did not respond to a request to comment.

Burrell-Aldana’s letter is below.

Dear MVCS Families and Staff,

It is with mixed emotions that I share some news with my Mount Vernon Community School (MVCS) family. After nine years of successes and challenges with the best family community and staff in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), the time has come for me to take on new professional challenges. Please know that my last day as the principal of MVCS will be June 30, 2023.

While I am moving to start a new chapter in my career, I am incredibly grateful for all the work we did together to benefit our MVCS students, staff, and dual language program. I have learned much over the past nine years and have built meaningful relationships with our students, staff, administrators, families, and community members.

When I was appointed principal in 2017, after being an assistant principal at MVCS for three years, I gladly took on the challenge of leading the largest elementary school in ACPS, the only full dual language school, and working with one of the most involved and supportive family communities in the school district. It was initially daunting, but being the principal of MVCS became my career’s most invaluable leadership experience to date. I am grateful for the support I received from my staff, the school community, and ACPS leadership throughout my tenure as the proudest school principal in the school division.

It has been a privilege serving MVCS. Your support of my leadership of the MVCS dual language program, our teachers, and the leadership team has brought incredible growth to our school at many levels. The success of systems and structures that make MVCS a great learning community for students, staff, and families is a product of true collaboration between the school and the community.

Over the next few weeks, I will close the school year and prepare the school for the transition to new leadership. The school division will ensure MVCS will continue growing our program, emphasizing a positive school culture and offering the best learning experience for our students.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me the leader I am today. I will miss the hugs of our students and the incredible sense of community we have built together. I have collected many wonderful memories with all of you and will remember them fondly over the years to come.

It has been a pleasure partnering with you during these past years.

With my deepest gratitude – iHasta luego!

Liza Burrell-Aldana

Proudest Principal, Mount Vernon Community School


Alexandria was spared from significant flooding this week after remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the East Coast. The only flooding found was on lower King Street in Old Town, where businesses laid sandbags at windows and doorways.

“We’re open inside, but if you want to eat you’re probably going to have to come barefoot,” a hostess at Mai Thai told ALXnow on Wednesday.

Our top story this week was, for the second week in a row, on the recent brawl inside Alexandria City High School.

It’s a three-day weekend, and on Sunday the annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street. Monday is Labor Day, and the city will operate on a holiday schedule.

In this week’s poll we asked how satisfied readers are with Alexandria City Public Schools since reopening on August 24. A majority (31%) reported being extremely unsatisfied with the school system, while 29% said ACPS has done a good job, 25% are extremely satisfied and 14% are unhappy overall.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  2. 13-year-old hit by car while walking home from school in Del Ray
  3. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  4. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  5. No injuries or arrests after shots fired on Duke Street
  6. ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns
  7. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  8. Alexandria sees cases rise in August and warns of COVID-19 in schools
  9. Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
  10. Historic Black cemetery under threat of being washed away in Old Town
  11. Man swallows two bags of drugs and runs from police in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!


Morning Notes

Early voting begins for June 8 Democratic primary — “Early voting will begin on April 23 for the June 8 Democratic primary election in the City of Alexandria. The ballot includes contests for Virginia Governor;Lieutenant Governor; Attorney General; House of Delegates (45th District); Mayor and City Council.” [Zebra]

Alexandria to renovate baseball field near Mount Vernon Community School — “The project is scheduled to begin Monday, April 26  and work will occur Monday through Friday from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Work is planned for the restoration of approximately 39,600 square feet turf. This includes the installation of irrigation. The work area will be closed to the public during the installation period.” [Zebra]

Bradlee-King Street road changes could be paused for resident input — “Earlier this year, the City of Alexandria planned to apply for a grant to fund significant changes along Upper King Street, including new bike lanes, narrowed car lanes, dedicated bus lanes and fewer left turns into a popular shopping center. Now, that grant application for the 0.5-mile stretch on King Street outside Bradlee Shopping Center may be put on hold as city officials go back to get resident input and make more specific plans for the roadway to meet expectations from the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT).” [Alexandria Living]

Church donates gift cards to elementary school families in need — “On Tuesday, March 23, 2021 Lazarus Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church informed ACPS that they will be donating $5,400 for the purchase of gift cards for families in need at William Ramsay Elementary School.” [ACPS]

Titan volleyball team going to state championship — “T.C. Williams (16-0) advanced to the first state championship game in program history, which it will host Friday or Saturday.” [Washington Post]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High near 65F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph… Mainly clear (in the evening). Low 41F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.” []

New job: Dog groomer — “Join us at A Dog’s Day Out in Van Dorn! We passionately deliver a great dog experience composed of play, affection, and socialization – all in a safe, friendly, and clean environment. We offer doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming for dogs of all shapes and sizes who play nicely and want to hang with the gang.” [Indeed]


Morning Notes

Inova Hospital System Needs Blood Donations — “Starting this week, over 1,400 blood donors will be needed each week to make lifesaving donations. One blood donation can save up to three lives! Schedule your lifesaving donation with Inova Blood Donor Services online at or call 1-866-BLOODSAVES.” [Facebook]

Video: Alexandria Firefighters Thank Health Care Workers — “Station 203 members made a quick stop at Envoy of Alexandria today to thank healthcare workers.” [Facebook]

VDOT Asks Drivers to Slow Down on Interstate — “While many #stayhome and #socialdistance, there are fewer cars on our roads. That doesn’t mean safety goes out the window, though. PLEASE comply with posted speed limits. Let’s help keep each other safe #NoNeedForSpeed #SlowDown” [Twitter]

Rep. Beyer Defends Dr. Fauci Amid COVID-19 Criticism — “People in positions of power and influence trying to capitalize commercially and politically on treating Dr. Fauci like some kind of national villain as he literally works to save their lives is not a proud moment for this country.” [Twitter]

City Continues Series on Teleworking ‘Innovation’ By Citing 911 Operators — “After a successful one-month pilot, Alexandria became the first city in the United States to enable some staff to answer 911 calls from home. Rather than relying on employees’ home phone or internet connections, this remote setup uses wireless hotspots connected to a dedicated national public safety network called FirstNet. Regardless of the location, staff comply with the same strict confidentiality and quality assurance standards, and have access to the same computer-aided dispatch system that helps route public safety resources.” [City of Alexandria]

New Sheriff’s Deputy Sworn In at Alexandria Courthouse — “Congratulations and welcome to Deputy Fidelis Asonglefac who was sworn in yesterday! Deputy Asonglefac received his badge and Clerk of Circuit Court Greg Parks administered the oath of office at the courthouse.” [Facebook]

New Italian Restaurant Planned for Del Ray This Summer — “Piece Out LLC, which operates Café Pizzaiolo, St. Elmo’s and Markt2Market, is working on opening a from-scratch Italian restaurant at 2419 Mount Vernon Ave. The restaurant will initially focus on carry-out dining with plans to grow into a sit-down restaurant as the region starts to recover from the coronavirus crisis, according to owner Larry Ponzi. The restaurant will include pizza, house-made pasta and more. The company is very early in the planning process, Ponzi said, but he hopes to open the new Italian restaurant by mid-summer.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Animal Hospital Now Open For All Appointments — “Whoop! We are excited to announce that we are now able to accept all appointment types. We will continue our curbside service and safety protocols to ensure the safety of our staff and clients. We’ll greet you outside and keep you informed during your pet’s visit. With safety in mind, we will continue to limit hospital traffic to associates only.” [Facebook]

Mount Vernon Community School Teacher Launches Youtube Channel — “Did you know that Mount Vernon Community School has many amazing dual language teachers? One of their music teachers, Mrs. Quesada-Sayler. has started a YouTube channel to provide more music lessons in Spanish and English. Check these out. They are awesome!” [Facebook]

Lee Fendall House Celebrates Museum Week — “Much has been said about the historic times we are living through now. Are you doing something to document them in your own way? Perhaps you are keeping a journal, taking pictures, or saving certain mementoes of life in quarantine?” [Facebook]

Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Center To Reopen Saturdays — “The City of Alexandria will reopen the Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Center for one day a week starting on Saturday, May 16. The limited opening is intended for residents who cannot store materials at home indefinitely for reasons such as moving. Others are encouraged to store materials until normal operations resume.” [Patch]

New Job: Administrative Specialist for Salvation Army National HQ — “Bachelors degree and at least two years’ of experience required. Knowledge of general office practices and procedures, effective and efficient record-keeping and bookkeeping practices, knowledge of proofreading symbols and basic mathematics. Ability to transcribe dictation and type information into a computer. Ability to scan documents and work with same. Ability to operate various office equipment including a telephone, Dictaphone, computer, scanner and adding machine.” [Indeed]


The crossing guards at Mount Vernon Community School are in love and they’re getting married.

Every school morning and afternoon, Essie Tarpley and Kalil Mason-Alphanso work their respective sections on opposite sides of the Del Ray elementary school. Each will high-five students, parents and teachers braving the early morning street crossings. Lately those early morning greetings have been congratulatory.

But that’s only because word just got out.

In fact, the couple have been engaged for about two years. Mason-Alphanso just finished his first year working as a crossing guard, while Tarpley has been a crossing guard at Mount Vernon for the last 15 years. When her fiancé moved from New York to live with her in Alexandria, she told him that there was a job opening in her unit.

“There’s a big building right between the two of us. But we work at the same place,” Mason-Alphanso told ALXnow. “It’s actually pretty awesome.”

The story goes that Tarpley and Mason-Alphanso met three years ago on the seventh day of an 11-day Carnival Journeys cruise in the Caribbean. There was a dance party that got a little rowdy for some of the aged guests trying to sleep, and it was announced that it had to be shut down. Tarpley approached the DJ to protest, since he was just starting to play the 90s music she loves, and that’s when Mason-Alphanso first saw her.

“I was just happy to see someone on the cruise that was my age,” he said. “Most of the time on those cruises it’s very young people and very old people, and no in-between. So we moved to another portion of the ship to go dancing to Latin music.”

The couple, who have not decided on a wedding date, also finish each other’s sentences.

“He asked me if I was good at dancing, and I said I was all right,” Tarpley said.

“I told her that I danced everything, and we got out there and she was more than all right,” Mason-Alphanso quickly interjected. “She shut me down.”

The pair were inseparable for the rest of the voyage.

Tarpley has a number of other jobs, including teaching Zumba at the YMCA on Monroe Avenue, and as a cafeteria hostess at Patrick Henry Elementary School.

The work can be stressful, and Tarpley takes it in stride.

“Everyone is trying to get somewhere and especially in the morning, nobody wants to start off their morning with attitude. No one wants to get yelled at first thing. So, we greet them with a smile and understand they’re trying to get somewhere,” she said. “I understand that I am stopping you… Give me a second and I’m going to get you on your way as quickly as I can while I save the lives of these children.”

“And the same thing goes for the kids,” she continued. “Sometimes the kids don’t feel like going to school and they’re just like, ‘Oh, this sucks. I have a test,’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, you woke up today, you got dressed, you’re here on time! You rock, you’re awesome, and great job mom and dad. You got the kids in school on time right before the door closed? Yes! Adulting properly is awesome. Everybody break out the confetti and just throw it. It’s a little victory.'”

Recently she was talking to some teachers at Mount Vernon about being a crossing guard.

“I’m like, ‘Well, my fiancé works on the other side,’ and it was a big shock.”

News spread and the couple soon started receiving congratulations from parents and students.

“They’re great,” said Mike Dameron, who walks his kids to Mount Vernon every school day. “It’s a perfect match. Everybody at Mount Vernon knows about them. It’s just really heartwarming when you hear of a love story in your small community.”


Morning Notes

Summer Camp Guide Released — “Registration for 2020 summer camps offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on February 12 for City residents and February 14 for nonresidents. Registration will be available online, or in-person at the Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.).” [City of Alexandria]

Women’s Guest House Profiled — “In the heart of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, there is a place that’s been quietly offering hope and rebuilding lives for 45 years.” [NBC 4]

Superintendent Serves as Substitute Teacher — “Dressed down in a hoodie and T-shirt, he looked every bit the young, enthusiastic teacher ready to handle whatever this class of lively fourth graders could throw at him. And while ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. admitted to feeling a little apprehensive when he introduced himself to students at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy last Wednesday, he soon felt right at home.” [Zebra]

Parent Liaison Named Living Legend — “She’s been a much-loved and respected figure as the Parent Liaison at Mount Vernon Community School for the last twenty years and has touched the lives of thousands of children and their families in that time. Now Rosa Landeros has been bestowed a major honor — named as one of just a handful of outstanding citizens who become Living Legends of Alexandria each year.” [ACPS]


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