Damonte transfers to another school after one year as DPMHS principal

Alliana Samonte

Principal Pia Damonte will leave DPMHS after a year for a new principal position at Vista Middle School. (Maribella Ambrosio)

In the midst of a pandemic and at the beginning of a new school year starting in distance learning, Principal Damonte is leaving Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) to become principal at a middle school.

“It might be the worst time to lose a great principal,” Magnet Coordinator Leah Pevar said. “We just need to keep positive that the next person will be just as strong a leader as Ms. Damonte.”

After her last day at DPMHS on Friday, Damonte will become the principal at Vista Middle School in Panorama City. Damonte was hired as DPMHS principal in June of 2019 and previously worked in the district in various capacities, including as counseling coordinator at Local District Northwest since 2015.  A hiring committee who will determine the next principal of DPMHS is in the process of being formed. An interim principal, Linda Ibach, will start Monday and will oversee DPMHS until a new principal starts.

“I’ve never met her, but she is a friend of Ms. Smith and Ms. Lupe worked with her at Grant many years ago,” Pevar said.

Damonte did not respond to requests for an interview when contacted several times through Schoology and email on Aug. 14, 17 and today. 

Applications for the DPMHS principal position were open until Aug. 19. From there, the district will look over the applications to make sure they are fit to be principal with the right credentials and background training history. The interviews will take place via Zoom to follow social-distancing procedures. 

“We will have an interim principal and then a new principal very soon,” Pevar said. “We won’t be without leadership for very long.”

DPMHS has gone through three principals since 2009 when the school opened: Janet Kiddoo, Deb Smith and Damonte. For such a small school of about 260 students, having gone through three principals in the past 11 years is not bad, according to Pevar. Although Damonte was principal at DPMHS for one year, she used her various connections within the district and with community colleges to provide resources to DPMHS students.

“Ms. Damonte provided many opportunities for our students,” Guidance Counselor Martina Torres said. “Ms. Damonte is doing what she can to transfer the direction being given by the district and our Local District Northwest to our staff.”

The principal brought opportunities such as on college classes during the school day on campus, a greater leadership to the school and arranged an official PE changing room. Other than improving the physical features of DPMHS, Damonte was very helpful as she allowed students to recover credits and helped fellow co-workers like Pevar to create an environment to increase and pull in potential families who look into enrolling their kids to DPMHS.

“I feel like Ms. Damonte and I grew a bond and I was excited to enter senior year with her as my principal,” senior Om Patel said. “She was constantly helping students with their problems.”

Many teachers and students were disappointed with her departure but are thankful for everything she had to bring to DPMHS as a first-time principal.

“She brought in another point of view and made things easier to understand,” Science teacher James Morrison said. “It is disappointing and we will miss her capable leadership and strong support.”