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Brooklyn Democracy Academy

New York City high school principal dies from coronavirus

March 25, 2020
Dez-Ann Romain was principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy.

Dez-Ann Romain, principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a public high school in New York City, died Monday from complications of the coronavirus — the first known death of a New York City public school staff member from the virus.

The New York Times reports that the death drove home what the authorities have been warning all along, that the virus does not just kill the old and medically frail. Romain was 36.

Ronda Phillips, 48, the principal at Kappa V High School, which uses the same building as the academy, is also hospitalized, school officials said.

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent a letter to the academy community on Monday night notifying them of Romain’s death.

In a statement, Carranza called Romain’s death “painful for all of us” and offered condolences to the academy community and to Romain’s family.

Romain was in her fourth year leading the academy, a transfer school for students who were challenged by traditional high schools.

School officials said that she last reported to school on March 12, after which the school was deep-cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis.

She had begun to feel ill and was hospitalized on March 18 for pneumonia, school officials said. A day later, the academy notified its community that there was a self-reported Covid-19 case in the school, officials said.

Colleagues described Romain as an organized administrator who had an incredible rapport with, and concern for, her school’s largely African-American student body and for Brownsville, the neighborhood where the school is.

She “just loved being principal,” said Courtney Winkfield, a senior strategy and policy adviser at the Department of Education’s Office of Equity and Access.

“She looked at every single kid as her personal mission,” she said. “She knew every kid’s back story, their family members, what was going on with them and how to motivate them.”

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