New York City’s famed LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts & Performing Arts, renowned for its performing arts programs and famous alumni, has named alum and former teacher Deepak Marwah as its new principal, ending a five-month period without permanent leadership.
Marwah’s appointment follows a turbulent era for the school, marked by high-profile debates over the balance between arts and academics and the departure of the previous principal, Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos, amid contentious clashes with parents.
Marwah, who is a graduate of LaGuardia and later returned as a vocal performance teacher, said that his experience at the school “changed his life,” and he hopes to provide that transformative impact for others.
However, Marwah emphasized the need to first “go in and really understand what works right now” before shaping the school’s long-term vision.
Under the helm of previous leaders, the school faced heated arguments and protests over its mission and priorities. Some parents have raised concerns over the academic rigor of the institution, while others have called for a stronger focus on the arts.
Sea Han, a graduate of LaGuardia’s class of 2016 who studied under Marwah, said, “Mr. Marwah was one of the most memorable and kind teachers I encountered during my time at LaGuardia. As the Elementary Chorus conductor, he was the first musical teacher most students encountered. In that role, he was a bright and driven force that kept even the least-interested student engaged.”
They continued, “He has an energy that you want to match and that’s just what LaGuardia needs to excel after the dark period it’s had recently.”
Marwah brings a background as a singer and administrator for district-level arts programs, fostering a first-hand appreciation of the power of arts education.
Ahmad Simmons, another graduate from LaGuardia’s class of 2016, spoke about Marwah, saying, “Whether in the classroom or leading a choir, Mr. Marwah displayed hard work, patience, passion, and created a safe space. Most importantly, there was love in the space. Regardless of who you are or your background, Mr. Marwah treated us equally.”
In his new role, he expressed his intention to ensure that students receive “the absolute best arts and academic education that they could possibly get.” Marwah also acknowledged a learning curve in taking on this complex role without previous experience as a school-level administrator.
The new leadership comes at a critical time for LaGuardia High School, grappling with challenges like elevated stress levels among students post-pandemic, looming budget cuts, and clashes with parents that have marked previous tenures.
Marwah considers student mental health a priority and believes arts education can be a potent tool for social and emotional learning. However, he cautioned that it’s “not reasonable” for parents to expect LaGuardia to match schools like Stuyvesant or Bronx Science academically in addition to the arts.
In a Facebook post made by Marwah, he said, “I’m pleased to announce that I will be returning to LaGuardia High School as Principal. Former students, colleagues, and fellow LaGuardia classmates, I hope to make you all proud.”
The selection of Marwah is seen by some as responsive to parent concerns, reflecting the administration’s attentiveness to community voices. Parents, students, and educators alike now look to the new principal to navigate the school’s unique challenges and build a vision that reconciles the varied expectations and demands of the LaGuardia community.
*The author of this story, Mymoena Kalinisan-Davids, is an alum of LaGuardia High School, having studied under Deepak Marwah and graduating in the Class of 2016.