Brownsville principal, 36, dies from coronavirus

Principal Dezann Romain (left) looks on as Judith Atongi (center) addresses members of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (right).
Brooklyn Borough President’s Office

Dezann Romain, the 36-year-old principal of a high school in Brownsville died after contracting COVID-19, school officials announced on March 23. 

“This is painful for all of us, and I extend my deepest condolences to the Brooklyn Democracy Academy community, and the family of Principal Romain,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza 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, who had served as the head of the 190-student Brooklyn Democracy Academy that enrolls students with learning challenges, became the first known public school employee to succumb to the virus — which had killed over 120 people, and infected 25,000 people across the state as of March 24.

The news of Romain’s untimely death came the same day as the city’s 1.1 million public school students transitioned to remote learning — which Mayor Bill de Blasio predicted would last  through the end of the school year.

The Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, which counted Romain as a member, expressed their sadness at her passing in a statement to Chalkbeat

“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 organization said.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams remembered Romain for her dedicated work uplifting students in one of the borough’s most underserved communities. 

“Too many in our society have written off the young scholars under her stewardship, but where others saw problems she saw promise and potential,” he said. “Every soul we lose in this pandemic is a tragic loss for our world. The loss of Principal Romain is particularly painful for the Brooklyn Democracy Academy family, our larger public school community, and a borough grateful for her service.”

Romain’s death is unusual for someone her age — as Spain, Italy, and South Korea have all reported coronavirus-related death rates below one percent for people between the ages of 30 and 49, according to a Vox report. Health officials, however, note that the virus can infect people of all ages, and people with pre-existing conditions of any age are more susceptible to death.