The coronavirus has claimed the life of a beloved Brooklyn high school principal who served older students who struggled to keep up in traditional high school settings.
Dezann Romain, 36, headed up the Brooklyn Democracy Academy in Brownsville, a school where older-aged high school students transfer when they don’t have enough credits to continue attending a traditional high school. Her death marked the first known case of a city public school employee succumbing to COVID-19, according to The New York Post.
Romain treated all of her students like they were important and their education mattered. She expected them to get what they needed in order to gain enough credits to graduate, one of her friends said.
Courtney Winkfield, who works for the education department’s Office of Equity and Access, told Chalkbeat that Romain “gave her entire self” to the school and the greater community “and it did not matter how incredibly complex a problem was.”
Winkfield said she would sometimes visit Romain in the school and that she personally watched the principal stop and talk to every student she passed in the hallway.
“She never pitied her students. She never second-guessed what she was there to do,” Winkfield told Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. “She took every kid as her mission.”
In a statement, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) mourned the death of Romain.
“It is with profound sadness and overwhelming grief that we announce the passing of our sister, CSA member Dezann Romain, Principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy, due to complications from Coronavirus,” the statement read, reported The Post.
“Our prayers are with her family and school community as we mourn alongside them. Please keep Principal Romain in your thoughts and continue to do everything possible to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe during this health crisis.”
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said Romain’s death has been “painful for all of us.”
“I extend my deepest condolences to the Brooklyn Democracy Academy community, and the family of Principal Romain,” Carranza said in a statement. “We’re all experiencing a deep sense of confusion, uncertainty, and sadness and it’s more important than ever to provide support to one another. We’ll be there for the students and staff through whatever means necessary during this impossibly difficult time.”
Romain has been principal at the school since 2017.
Nearly 80 percent of students at Brooklyn Democracy Academy come from low-income families, according to the most recent demographic makeup from the city, reported Chalkbeat. In addition, more than a quarter of the students have disabilities.
New York no longer confirms coronavirus cases at city schools, which has led to panic among some educators, according to Chalkbeat. For this reason, it is not entirely clear how many teachers, staff members or students currently have the virus.