Dez-Ann Roman, Educator with Grit and Heart, Dies at 36


This obituary is part of a series about people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Dez-Ann Romain, a teacher and principal who set an example for her students by her vibrancy and perseverance, on Monday became the first employee of the New York City public schools known to have died from complications of the coronavirus, according to the city’s Department of Education. She was 36.

Ms. Romain was principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, an innovative high school with small classes in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Designed by New Visions for Public Schools, a public-private partnership, the academy enrolls about 200 students 16 and older who foundered at more traditional schools.

She was born on July 6, 1983, in Palo Seco Village, a tiny coastal town in Trinidad and Tobago. Friends said she had emigrated to New York as a teenager.

“As Caribbean migrants, being raised by low-income parents in the ‘ghetto,’ we were considered ‘at-risk’ young people,” one of those friends, Mohamed Q. Amin, wrote on Facebook.

Ms. Romain graduated from Far Rockaway High School in Queens with honors, put herself through college working in a hair salon and was teaching handicapped students at another school in 2015 when Andrew Brown, the principal of Brooklyn Democracy Academy, recruited her as his assistant principal. She succeeded him in 2017.

The Department of Education last year surveyed the teachers at the academy about whether Ms. Romain had set high standards, communicated a clear vision, understood how students learn and tracked their progress. One-hundred percent of the teachers responded yes.

She combined civic engagement with physical energy, periodically participating in five-kilometer walks and runs for charitable causes.

Ms. Romain, who lived in Far Rockaway and whose survivors include a sister, last reported for work on March 12, just before public schools were closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 18, she was hospitalized for what doctors said was pneumonia. The next day, academy officials notified teachers, parents and students that an unidentified member of the school community had self-reported a case of Covid-19.

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