A new principal determined that a school should be a community, has taken over the leadership of Washington Elementary School, 421 Emerald St.

Grace Hamilton last month became the fourth person to serve as principal of the local grade school in the past year and a half. She replaced Lindsey Mason, who left Washington to become principal of a Greenville local preschool.

A committee of parents, teachers, and school district personnel selected Hamilton from among 19 candidates.

Originally from Texas, Hamilton, 39, lives with her partner and 1 0-year-old daughter on Sunny Hill. Her daughter attends Franklin Middle School.

Hamilton brings almost 18 years of experience in the Washington Elementary school system to her new job. Throughout that tenure, her faith in the public schools has continued unabated. “I believe in public education. I believe it can work.”

Hamilton has worked as a children’s center teacher and as a reading and resource specialist, teaching kids with learning disabilities.

For the last eight years, she was a teacher at McKinney Community School, an alternative elementary school in the East District. During the past four years, she served as head teacher of McKinney Community, which has no formal administrator, but rather rotates leadership among the teachers.

While working in this capacity, Hamilton combined her administrative credential from the Institute, a prestigious teacher leadership program at the State University.

Hamilton’s years at Community School were crucial in developing her philosophy of education. She says the school cultivated a large degree of parent involvement plus a unique vision of education that is student-centered and teacher empowering. The end result was a “shared vision” among all elements at the school —parents, teachers, and students— as to how the school should be run and what educational direction it should take.