Pubdate: Tue, 18 May 2004
Source: Middletown Press, The (CT)
Copyright: 2004 The Middletown Press
Author: Stan Fisher


CLINTON -- Kathy White, the highly-regarded principal of Eliot Middle
School, faces charges of drunken driving and possession of marijuana
after a concerned motorist tracked her meandering passage from
Interstate 95 through Clinton.

Police said a glass half full of wine was found in the cup holder in
her car, and a bag containing marijuana and half-smoked marijuana
cigarettes was in plain view on the front seat when she was stopped
Sunday night.

On Monday -- White's 52nd birthday -- the 20-year veteran of the
Clinton school system was placed on paid administrative leave and
suspended from her duties at Eliot by school Superintendent Albert

The arrest came as a shock to many in the community, who praised her
professionalism and her rapport with staff and students.

"I think she's a great lady. I think she's great for the kids," one
parent said. But the parent, speaking on condition of anonymity, also
said White had failed students in betraying the conduct expected of a
school administrator.

The arrest came after an out-of-state driver came upon White's car,
driving erratically in the southbound lanes of I-95 at 8:30 Sunday
night, police reported. The motorist notified police and continued to
follow White as she left the highway and drove into Clinton.

After driving through the Fairy Dell Road parking area at Eliot
School, still with the motorist on her trail, White headed up Ninety
Rod Road, where police said they caught up with her.

White's car was seen weaving down the roadway, police said, and she
evidently was so fixed on her driving that she failed to notice the
police cruiser trying to stop her. She stopped only after a second
police car pulled alongside her vehicle, they said.

Police said White, after failing a field sobriety test, initially was
charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol
or drugs and failure to drive in the proper lane.

But she subsequently was charged with possession of marijuana and drug
paraphernalia after police said they found marijuana and smoking
materials in the vehicle. In separate plastic bags plainly visible in
a paper bag on the front seat, police said White had stored 6.7 grams
of marijuana, the half-smoked joints, cigarette papers, lighters, and

Police said White, a Killingworth resident, told them she had been at
her family's summer house in Groton Long Point, and had consumed three
glasses of wine, as well as half a marijuana cigarette.

In testing at police headquarters, police said White revealed a blood
alcohol content of .199, nearly two and a half times the legal limit
for driving.

Called at home Monday, White was said to be unavailable for

Released to her husband after posting $500 bail for a May 25 court
date, White reported for work Monday morning, where staff members
awaited her with a birthday cake, officials said.

In a tearful meeting with her staff, White told them of her arrest and
later Assistant Principal Michael Gourdier, who will assume White's
duties, told a student assembly of the incident.

Coviello sent a letter home with students describing the arrest and
White's suspension, assuring parents that allegations of misconduct
would not impair the district's commitment to "providing safe and
nurturing schools" or the excellence of education at Eliot.

Coviello said White, since becoming principal in 2001, has run "a very
well-ordered and maintained school. She sets high expectations, and
insists that staff and students follow them." Her arrest, he said,
"was a very big shock and surprise to me."

White, who earns more than $93,000 annually, will remain on leave
until school officials complete an internal investigation, after which
Coviello said he would take appropriate action.

The parent, with two children at Eliot, said, "I think she's human, I
don't think she did anything terribly wrong, but we send out kids
every day to school hoping they'll teach them the things we can't.
They need to be setting an example."

And one student found hypocrisy in what she said was White's tough
opposition to student use of marijuana, while allegedly smoking it
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