As a 5-year-old girl growing up in Little Compton, it became readily apparent that Kaitlin Lambert Donahue was heading toward a career in education.

“I started playing school when I was really young and I have a younger brother [Jack] so he was always my student,” she said. “And then I started to run the school, even as a kid ... I used to love to save all of the extra papers from school so I could go home and play with them.”

As the new school year gets underway in North Kingstown Tuesday, Donahue will be greeting staff, students and their families as the first new principal at Hamilton Elementary School in a dozen years.

 
 

Former Principal Morag Cronkite retired last year after 27 years working in the district – the last 12 years as principal of the school.

Donahue, 30, was hired in May after she was the unanimous choice by a search committee.

“I wanted to be closer to my family so I slowly made the transition back,” said Donahue, who previously lived and worked in New York and Massachusetts. “I was thrilled when I saw the opening in North Kingstown and I felt like I was ready to apply to be a principal.”

Superintendent Phil Auger said she was selected because of her “great references and great credentials,” while Assistant Superintendent Michelle Humbyrd described her as “poised, professional and personable” and someone who “combines caring with candor.”

Donahue has a doctorate in educational leadership, and had been working as an assistant principal at an elementary school in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She is an alumna of the Teach for America program and has worked as an elementary school teacher in two schools in Brooklyn, New York.

She also is a graduate of Middletown High School and the University of Rhode Island, and holds masters’ degrees in literacy and educational leadership and administration.

During an interview at her office Tuesday morning, Donahue said she was fortunate enough to tour the school and meet the students and staff before summer vacation and lauded Cronkite for meeting with her once a week this summer to offer her expertise and ease the transition.

“That’s just been so valuable and it’s such a compliment to this district to give me the time with her because that doesn’t always happen,” Donahue said. “Sometimes you just get the keys and you are on your own.”

As a new principal in the district, she was assigned a mentor for the year: Stony Lane Elementary School Principal Edward Ferrario.

“He’s kept me laughing all summer,” Donahue said. “He’s great.”

Donahue credits her experience in the Teach for America program for instilling the core values she holds today: Be humble, build relationships, make change and close the achievement gap for children.

When asked what the favorite part of her job is, Donahue didn’t hesitate.

“The students,” she said. “They are just incredible, and so honest. When you’re having a hard day and they’re just so happy, you can’t not appreciate that.”

 
 

After being hired as an administrator in Bridgewater, Donahue acknowledged she had concerns about making the transition from teacher to principal – especially one in her late 20s.

“I feared that when I went into administration, I’d have no one,” she said. “Because I was going into it so young, I didn’t know if I’d have the respect. I didn’t know how it was going to go.”

Her concerns were soon alleviated and she was embraced by the community.

“I miss the teachers there so much,” Donahue said. “They were so loving and welcoming.”

She said her main goal heading into the school year, aside from learning everyone’s names, is to build a rapport with her teachers – both on a professional and personal level.

“This year, I just really want to support the teachers and get to know them and let them know that they are safe with me to take risks in the classroom,” Donahue said.

Recently married in November, Donahue and her husband, Adam, live in Newport with their two dogs, Cliff, a Cocker Spaniel, and Chloe, a YorkshireTerrier

.http://www.independentri.com/independents/north_east/article_1eaee733-a1ea-5a91-b5ef-4af90d413e23.html