A report from News Americas Now.
A Caribbean born immigrant and New York school’s principal is among the 385 dead who have now died from COVID-19 in New York state.
Dez-Ann Romain, 36, was a principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a transfer school in Brownsville for students over 16 or without sufficient credits who are working toward a high school diploma. She was born in Trinidad and her death has been reported as complications caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Romain is the first known New York City public school staff member to die from the virus, reports CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Romain came to the United States at a young age. Her passion for transfer students stemmed in part from her own experience growing up poor and finding her own path through education. Mohamed Q. Amin, a friend and classmate of hers at Far Rockaway High School, who now heads a non-profit dedicated to economic opportunities for Caribbean immigrants, posted an anguished note on Facebook: “As Caribbean migrants, being raised by low-income parents in the “ghetto,” we were considered “at-risk” young people,” he said, but went on to recount their time together in student government and how they made the National Honor Society, and how she encouraged him to come to her school’s job fair to describe his work.
She worked her way through college as a hair stylist, noted Mr. Brown, who recalled how she would bring her equipment to BDA to teach students barbering skills and to give them haircuts as well. She became a special education teacher before going on to leadership positions.
“It is with profound sadness and overwhelming grief that we announce the passing of our sister, CSA member Dez-Ann Romain, Principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy, due to complications from Coronavirus,” the Council of Schools Supervisors and Administrators wrote in a statement. “Our prayers are with her family and school community as we mourn alongside them,” the statement said. “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.”
In a statement, NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza offered his condolences, saying in part, “We’ll be there for the students and staff through whatever means necessary.”
“She was caring, driven, had a vision and she carried it out,” said Andrew Brown, the former principal of BDA who hired Ms. Romain as his AP in 2015 and then pushed to have her take the reins when he became principal of Judith S. Kaye High School. “I left the school in a good place, but I knew she was the right person to move it forward. The things I couldn’t do or didn’t have enough attention to detail to do — she got them done after I left.”
Mr. Brown described programs Ms. Romain took on, such as the large mural guided by a professional artist but painted by students, her funding and completion of the school’s hydroponics (plants) and aquaculture (fish) programs, and her desire to give the school a more traditional, warm feeling.
“Transfer schools are viewed as last-chance places,” said Mr. Brown. “They’re not like a school in a suburb with a mascot and homecoming dance. She wanted the kids to have that sort of encompassing experience, with school colors, camaraderie and success. And she wanted the students to be successful not only in high school but in post-secondary education and as adults. She succeeded in all of that.”
Julia Forman, who works with transfer schools at New Visions for Public Schools, said Ms. Romain was particularly proud of her work trying to build career pathways for the students, including jobs in healthcare and jobs stemming from the hydroponics labs. “The fact that they took all the greens from hydroponic tanks and would make lunch and dinner and donate that food back to the community, that was the essence of who she was,” said Ms. Forman.
Romain is survived by her sister.