By Katherine Shaver and Sarah Marston
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The students who put together the 2007 yearbook at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville dubbed Theresa C. Duarte "the coolest woman alive."
But Montgomery County police say the former English teacher and yearbook adviser's relationship with two students turned criminal in June, when she gave them cocaine -- one of them on two occasions -- in her Rockville home.
Duarte, 44, of the 1000 block of Brice Road, was arrested Monday on a warrant charging her with two counts of distributing narcotics and two counts of contributing to delinquent conditions of a child. Police said that they were investigating whether additional students received drugs from Duarte.
Duarte resigned from Wootton in mid-June, at the end of last school year, for personal reasons, Principal Michael Doran said. Doran said school officials are cooperating with police but don't believe Duarte provided any drugs on campus. The investigation did not begin until after her resignation, police said.
"I'm shocked," Doran said of Duarte's arrest. "It came out of the blue. I'm disappointed if any adult takes advantage of his or her position as a teacher and role model. . . . She was popular, and she produced a good yearbook. She seemed like a regular teacher."
Doran said he didn't know the two students' names. He added that he was discouraged that news of the arrest yesterday marred an otherwise successful start to a new school year for the campus of 2,500 students.
In a charging document, Detective Karen Carvajal wrote that a current Wootton student, identified only as "Student A," reported receiving cocaine from Duarte twice in June. Another student, identified as "Student B," received cocaine from Duarte just before school ended in June, when Duarte still worked at Wootton, Carvajal wrote.
In an Aug. 20 interview with police, Carvajal wrote, Duarte said she kept cocaine in her bathroom and acknowledged giving some to two students.
"Duarte stated she could not remember when she gave student A cocaine," the detective wrote. "However, she believes it was approximately one week after she gave cocaine to student B."
Carvajal wrote that she found a straw, a folded paper and a small amount of white powder, believed to be cocaine, while searching Duarte's home.
Duarte was released from the Montgomery County Detention Center yesterday after posting $150,000 bail. William C. Brennan, an attorney for Duarte, declined to comment yesterday.
Police said they began investigating Duarte on Aug. 19, after county Child Protective Services officials said they had received information that Duarte was providing illegal drugs to Wootton students. Police said they did not know why the two students were at Duarte's home and are not releasing their ages to protect their identities.
"This is still very much an ongoing investigation to find out if there are any other incidents," said officer Tenesha Jensen, a Montgomery police spokeswoman.
Kate Harrison, a spokeswoman for the school system, said Duarte had taught at Wootton since fall 2004. The school's principal said that Duarte did not teach English last year but worked part time as a yearbook adviser.
A former student of Duarte's at Wootton said last night that she was highly regarded.
"She's the best," said Chad Meyers, a sophomore at Virginia Tech, who graduated from Wootton in 2007. ''Everyone loved her," he said. "She's such a sweetheart.
"This story is crazy," he added. "It's the most ridiculous thing."
She began her Montgomery teaching career during the 2003-04 school year as a long-term substitute teacher at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Harrison said.
Duarte had just completed a master's degree in teaching at Johns Hopkins University when she joined the Wootton staff, according to an August 2004 newsletter published by the school's PTSA.
Before teaching, she had graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland and had earned an MBA from Johns Hopkins, the newsletter said. She had "left a highly successful business career in marketing to return to her first love, English," and she attended a Johns Hopkins program that allows students to earn their master's in teaching while working in Montgomery schools.
Supervisors and students at Einstein gave her "rave reviews" as an intern and teacher there, the newsletter said.
Staff writer Dan Morse and researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.