The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide


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Principal Deeny pivots appointing norms

Photo by Zita Ziniel
Principal Deeny continuously works hard to challenge norms and promote the mental health of RM students through various activities and events.

2020 and the years following it, created some of the biggest changes the world had ever seen, especially for students. Richard Montgomery and MCPS had one of its most groundbreaking shifts in leadership when Alicia Deeny became the first female principal of Richard Montgomery High School in 2021. This took Montgomery County by storm with an influx of local media coverage. Three years later, her origins, identity and pathway have all played a key role in her career at RM and the legacy she intends to leave here. 

Principal Deeny is one of two sisters born to a Puerto Rican mother and Irish American father. In a household where women outnumbered men she was no stranger to seeing women take charge. With her role model mother and father that encouraged physical activities, she was placed in environments where she was often then minority, but her upbringing saved her from shying away from them. In high school Principal Deeny played golf where she was the only girl on her team. She continued playing in college while pursuing a career in music, producing two albums as a guitarist and singer-songwriter from 2000 to 2001. These experiences allowed her to go from a quiet and timid child to an outspoken young woman.

She later began working as a teacher and in 2013, made history as the first Latina principal in MCPS during her time at Takoma Park Middle School. She held this position for eight years before taking on her next project in 2021 as the principal of RM. 

Growing up in Rockville but never attending the school as a student, Ms. Deeny got to observe RM from the outside, noting the way it changed over the course of thirty years. When she initially decided she wanted to work here, she was drawn to the magnet program (which was relatively new at the time) and the increasing cultural diversity of the student body. She had no idea that she would break a 127-year record as RM’s first female principal since the school’s founding in 1892.

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“How did that happen that so many decades after the women’s movement, there’s a particular school that still hasn’t had a woman as a leader?” Principal Deeny said. “Sometimes we need the perspective of it changing to make us realize that we were not doing it.”

“I think it definitely is a step forward in where it needs to be…but I feel like it shouldn’t be as much of a surprise because it is 2024.” English teacher Carolyn Greenspon said. Ms. Greenspon has been at RM since former principal Mr. Damon Monteleone was in office. 

Her induction was also a hot topic on local news outlets such as The MoCo Show and Wtop news and social media platforms including Twitter. Comment sections featured both the positive and negative reactions of MCPS’s students and adults. While many encouraged her and saw the moment as an advancement in the school community, others believed she was subject to identity politics and only received the role for her gender and ethnicity. In response, she tried to put public focus more on the quality of her work rather than her ethnic and gender identity. 

When school doors reopened in 2021 and students began to pour back into classrooms, students’ mental health severely declined. In response, Ms. Deeny worked with sga and administration with the goal of creating a mental health conscious environment. This included the implementation of Rocket Refresh, instruction free Wednesdays for students to catch up on work or “refresh” themselves and a week of restorative events for students and staff during Mental Health Awareness month.

Since the 2021-2022 school year, she has focused on prioritizing the improvement of academics while keeping mental health a key factor in the school’s operation. This includes improving literacy which has reached 71% according to the 2024 analytics of U.S News and World Report. This is part of her action plan to strengthen academics, increase graduation rates, and tackle disproportionate success rates among students of different racial groups. This includes increasing attendance and encouraging students to join AP and IB courses. 

Even though Principal Deeny wants to be known for her work, her identity is in no way irrelevant. Instead, she uses it as a medium for connecting with students, especially female students, with experiences like hers, encouraging them to advocate for themselves both in the school system and their post-high school lives. 

“I very often see that females, and I’ll say this about myself, that when they’re younger underestimate their own strength and ability…be confident in the skills and abilities that you have and take a risk with it, “ Principal Deeny said. 

If you would like to voice your opinion on an issue you feel is relevant to our community, please do so here. Anyone is able and welcome to submit a Letter to the Editor, regardless of journalistic experience or writing skills. Submissions may be published either online or in a print issue.

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About the Contributor
Zita Ziniel
Zita Ziniel, Opinions Writer