Meet Mary DeArmas: J.P. Taravella High School’s Newest Principal

J.P. Taravella Principal Mary DeArmas.

By: Jen Russon

Marietta DeArmas, who goes by Mary, has a long history working in Broward County Public Schools. She began her career in education 18 years ago as an algebra teacher, eventually getting certified as an administrator.

DeArmas is the eighth principal in the history of J.P. Taravella High School and in November, she replaced Jason Nault, who took an out-of-state job after two years with Taravella.

DeArmas said she hopes to be principal longer than her predecessor.

“I am at the pinnacle of my career. Becoming principal of Taravella is a dream come true for me, and I hope I can be here until I retire.”

DeArmas is not yet 50, so her tenure at the school should be long. The 49-year-old lives in Davie, and is the mother of two grown sons. Kenny, 27, begins training in January to join the Davie Police Department and Marcus, 25, just completed four years of service in the United States Marine Corps.

“We’re a family of people who like to be in the service of others,” said DeArmas, who, prior to teaching and being a school administrator, was a paralegal.

Married for almost 30 years, DeArmas said that her husband, Ken, semi-retired contractor, who also served in the Marines, was incredibly loving and supportive when she told him her legal career was not her dream – that she had always wanted to be a teacher.

“He was supportive of me when I went back to school and got certified to teach middle school math, and was supportive again as I worked toward becoming a principal,” said DeArmas.

She taught and served as an assistant principal at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines and interned at Western High School in Davie, for one year before the school board hired her to replace Nault.

DeArmas is a lifelong Floridian. Her parents immigrated from Cuba when they were teenagers and married in the U.S. Her mother is still in Miami; her father passed way about five years ago.

DeArmas grew up in Carol City, which is in Miami-Dade County, and graduated from American Senior High School.

She said her background has made her even more committed to the mission of educators, which is to provide an excellent education to all children, regardless of their ethnicity, as if they were your own.

When DeArmas is asked what she will bring to the Coral Springs school that distinguishes her from previous principals, she said what she has to offer is not superior, so much as unique.

“I didn’t know Mr. Nault personally. I do know that he left an excellent school in my hands. I am going to work hard to keep it that way, and do better for the students and my colleagues each year I am here.”

DeArmas has five assistant principals to help manage the demands of the high school which is attended by over 3,000 students.

Acknowledging there are  a lot of students to educate and keep safe, DeArmas said that campus security is obviously a top priority.

“All of our Broward schools are tightening their security,” said the principal, adding “the changes at Taravella were here before I arrived.”

She was referring to the school’s security check point and additional gates at the entrance.

“I think if anyone had a single solution to prevent another gun massacre, we’d know it by now,” DeArmas said, stressing that it’s keeping the lines of communication open that is paramount in school safety.

“I want parents to know that I am listening carefully. I think anything unsettling – no matter how small a threat it seems – needs to be taken seriously. If I see someone being bullied, I am going to look into it,” said DeArmas.

The principal works at maintaining a good rapport with her zone principals in nearby Tamarac and Coral Springs elementary and middle schools to see this through.

DeArmas has appeared on her high school’s live news show to answer student questions. She tends to be modest about her social media account on Twitter, in spite of tweeting a lot about Taravella’s school spirit, sports, clubs, philanthropy and academic triumphs.

On her first day, DeArmas tweeted that she was excited, honored, and humbled by her new position at such an amazing school.

She said she still is, adding with aplomb: “Go Trojans!”

Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.