New principal quickly adjusting to small campus

Gabriela Gomez, Shannon Sullivan

Juniors Bella Jimenez and Jair Sanchez share a smile with principal Pia Damonte during nutrition on Oct. 24.

In her 20 years of working with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Principal Pia Damonte has worn many hats.

She has been a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade counseling coordinator at Local District Northwest since 2015, an assistant principal for Taft High School before that and in charge of the district’s Career Technical Education program. Damonte has also been a dean, a counselor, a coordinator, an instructional specialist, a Spanish teacher at Polytechnic High School and is now Daniel Pearl Magnet High School’s third principal.  

“My prior experience, like I’ve done operations, instructions, so you know to be able to run a school you need a variety of experiences,” Damonte said. “It’s not just you have to know one area well, you have to know all.”

In the past, Damonte has typically worked at larger high schools. But since she started her position in July, she’s adjusting to working on a smaller campus with a small faculty and staff.

“It’s interesting that people say that in smaller high schools there’s less challenges,” she said. “I think it’s actually the opposite. When it’s a smaller school, there’s a lot more challenges because you have fewer people to get to them. Maybe that’s the challenge.”

As a principal, Damonte hopes to help the school thrive and give students more opportunities. One way she’s working toward that goal is by providing resources such as the college and after-school classes. 

“I like her new attitude and the things she’s bringing,” Student Body President Bianca Lam said. “Overall, she’s doing her best for a school who loved our old principal a lot.” 

She loves being a mom. Damonte likes to spend her free time with her 12-year-old son, often going to the beach or hiking. She takes him to her spin class. He doesn’t like it but he goes with her. 

Damonte wants students to feel like they have somebody to talk to, whether it’s school or anything happening outside of school. She hopes that by giving students additional resources and the room to pursue their passions, school becomes a place where they’re excited to go. 

“If I see the school succeed, it’s a reflection on me that I am succeeding in my job,” Damonte said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”