First Latina high school principal in Montgomery County prepares for new school year

Principal Alicia Deeny, of Richard Montgomery High School. (Courtesy MCPS)

Alicia Deeny, the new Richard Montgomery High School principal, represents a couple of firsts in her new role in the Montgomery County, Maryland, school system: “I’m excited to be the first Latina high school principal; I’m excited to be the first woman principal at Richard Montgomery High School.”

Deeny grew up in Montgomery County and is a product of the county’s schools. She grew up speaking English and Spanish; her mother, who is Puerto Rican, instilled pride in the family’s heritage. “I only spoke Spanish to my mom, even though my mother was actually an English major in Puerto Rico and speaks beautiful English,” Deeny said.

The Montgomery County school system is increasingly diverse, ethnically and racially, and Deeny predicts that principals of more varied backgrounds will be commonplace. Now, she says, “the kids that are graduating from college represent the diversity of our school system. And I think we’ll see more and more leaders of diverse backgrounds, which is exciting.”

Deeny served as an assistant principal at Montgomery Blair High School before taking on the principalship at Takoma Park Middle School.

At Richard Montgomery, she succeeds Damon Monteleone, who moved to the Montgomery County Public Schools’ central office.

The school system introduced a vaccination mandate for all school employees, and masks are also going to be required. Deeny says “things have changed in the last month,” referring to the emergence of the delta variant of the coronavirus. “I hope we’ve been through the toughest part of this, but what I’ve learned (is) that we need to be flexible.”

Deeny said teachers are generally saying they’re ready to be back in the classroom with students, and “I hear the same thing from students.”

But she expects the shift from virtual to in-person learning to carry some challenges: “Students are going to be coming to us in all different places, both academically and social and emotionally.”

Along with tackling the issue of learning loss, and assessing where each student stands in terms of academic progress, she said “I think there’s an overall acknowledgment of the importance of relationships, and establishing strong relationships as the focus, rather than just jumping full speed into academics as though nothing had happened.”

Deeny added she thinks the same will apply for staff members. During the pre-service week before students are back in classrooms, there will be opportunities to focus on wellness as a way to acknowledge that “our staff has been through a lot as well,” she said.

Deeny offered a message to the school community in Spanish:

August 19, 2021 | 'Estamos muy felices' (Principal Alicia Deeny)

She provided this English translation:

We’re excited for students to be returning to school. We want to welcome you back to the school year. We are excited that we are going to be able to see students in person. We continue to focus on the safety and the health of our students and we look forward to seeing our students back on Aug. 30 — bright and early.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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