Joanie Dean: A New Face in AB Administration
BY ADI RAMAN '23
Added to the list of changes this school year at ABRHS is the retirement of Principal Larry Dorey and the subsequent selection of Joan “Joanie” Dean as the next high school head. Ms. Dean was selected for the position following an interview process with the Principal Search Committee, a group composed of students, teachers, and administrators, along with the consideration of Superintendent Peter Light. Ms. Dean will assume the role on July 1, 2021, and her multitude of qualifications offer a necessary and new approach to high school education. Specifically, her STEM-related background will be a refreshing addition to the high school’s administration, setting the future of the high school on a favorable trajectory.
Joanie Dean comes to ABRHS with extensive experience under her belt. She previously worked at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School (CGPS) in New York City for twenty-one years, progressing from a department leader in both math and science to the director of the school. The resemblance in rigor levels between ABRHS and CGPS will allow Ms. Dean to transition into her new position smoothly. Moreover, she carries some experience in the public education system as well, having worked at a Brooklyn public school for two years.
Her experience in managerial roles at schools comes in tandem with a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in Mathematics Secondary Education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and an Ed.M. in Leadership for Educational Change from the Bank Street College of Education. Ms. Dean’s unique perspective, developed from both her educational pursuits and work experience, will hopefully drive ABRHS forward.
David Baumritter, head of the high school science department and member of the Principal Search Committee, concurs with these sentiments. He notes Ms. Dean’s “extensive background” as an educator and how her involvement in high school management on multiple levels gives her “a multifaceted experience.” Furthermore, Mr. Baumritter explains how one of the key aspects of STEM “is the iterative problem-solving process that includes making quality observations and asking quality questions to guide data collection and analysis.” He believes that Ms. Dean’s background will allow her to identify trends and themes at the high school and in the community, and continues that “[she] will implement strategies and approaches that she feels are the best fit for a given scenario.”
While her overall knowledge and background will be beneficial to the AB community, Ms. Dean’s approach to resolving conflicts and working with students and families is also incredibly necessary during a time where repeated acts of blatant racism, antisemitism, sexual assault/harassment, and other deplorable acts plague the community.
Her leadership qualities will also be advantageous as the high school continues the transition to fully in-person school in the 2021-2022 school year. Ms. Dean reports a successful adaptation to online learning at CGPS this past school year, in part due to continuous community outreach and collaboration. After sending out surveys for feedback on the school’s original online learning schedule, complaints surrounding a lack of direct instruction surfaced. As a result, Ms. Dean worked with the CGPS administration and faculty to find a happy medium between minimal student-teacher interaction and the school’s standard nine-period schedule receiving positive responses when follow-up surveys were released. Her ability to listen to the community, mediate conflicts, and create swift change will be vital in a time where the district is divided over a multitude of topics, from the high school mascot to the administration’s response to acts of hate.
It is a given that all principals bring their own backgrounds and experiences with them to the position and can use their skill sets for the benefit of the community. Granted, it is impossible to appeal to every member of any community, and town residents will always have their own expectations of what a principal should be. Regardless, Joanie Dean’s background—which will uplift and strengthen the community as changes and challenges arise—is presently essential and will remain so in years to come.