×

A school administrator’s arrest goes unannounced for six weeks. Good idea? Pembroke says no

  • The front of Pembroke Academy is seen on April 2. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Allenstown siblings Gabriela (left), 16, and Christian Dulabic, 25, talk about their reactions to the quiet arrest of a Pembroke Academy administrator for possessing heroin and steroids while dining at Rock On Diner in Suncook on Saturday. Gabriela is a Pembroke Academy sophomore and Christian is a graduate.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

BY RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Christian Dulabic’s sister is a sophomore at Pembroke Academy, and his buddy at Keene State College died from a heroin overdose last month.

So, yeah, you bet Dulabic was miffed when he read Saturday that Rekha Luther, Pembroke Academy’s dean of students, was arrested for possession of heroin. . . 

. . . In February.

“I was pretty pissed off,” said Dulabic, 25, an architectural designer who lives in Allenstown. “It’s ridiculous the way the school handled it.”

Dulabic and 16-year-old Gabriela Dulabic sat at the Rock On Diner in downtown Suncook, a brother and sister enjoying lunch on a cold, dreary Saturday afternoon.

They worried about talking for this column, then they worried about allowing their last names to be used, then they worried about the effect talking to me might have on Gabriela, who will be back at school Monday.

In the end, though, their eyes met, a silent pact formed, and they agreed to open up completely, more worried about aligning themselves with Pembroke’s nothing-to-see-here stance concerning one of the top issues facing the state: heroin addiction.

“I expect people, even the police, to tell people and not to be so secretive,” Gabriela said. “When something like that happens, you tell the families. If nothing is said, it will just keep going on like that.”

That’s what made people mad. Not so much that a high-ranking school official allegedly brought illegal drugs, including steroids, to school.

Silence, in this case, was far from golden, and now Pembroke administrators are left to scrape off the tarnish.

Pembroke officials came clean when the Monitor’s Nick Reid, acting on a tip, dug the story out this week, but by then Pembroke’s initial intention was clear.

“I don’t agree with this being swept under the rug,” said Mitzi Dassing of Allenstown, a waitress at the Rock On Diner.

In front of her sat a customer, a man with a gray beard and a Saturday Monitor on the counter, the disturbing news stripped across the top.

Behind Dassing, near the square opening that the wait staff uses to communicate with the cooks out back, stood Dassing’s 14-year-old daughter, a freshman at Pembroke Academy. She works there, too.

“She’s shy,” Dassing said, explaining that her daughter would prefer not to comment.

And that’s fine, because listening is more important than commenting.

Wouldn’t this have been a good time to discuss Narcan, the overdose-reversing medication approved for use in the Manchester, Nashua, Conway and Berlin School Districts?

Officials had that chance two weeks after Luther’s arrest, at the district’s annual meeting. The topic never came up.

And what better time to reinforce with students that heroin and drug abuse, which killed 400 people in New Hampshire last year, is here, now.

Taken away in cuffs was an educated person, with a $73,000 salary. This was a leader, someone in charge of discipline, and, as 2014 Pembroke Academy graduate Sam Nichols said outside Sully’s Superette, “someone who’s supposed to be a role model.”

Luther’s arrest shows that addiction can infiltrate every nook and cranny of society, every socioeconomic and educational level.

“Very scary,” said Sam Nichols’s sister, Gaby Nichols, who graduate from PA in 2013. “You never quite know what’s going on.”

Gauging who knew what when was difficult Saturday. At a robotics program at Pembroke Academy, a student told me he and others noticed Luther was gone, and they had heard rumors for weeks before Saturday’s confirmation.

When asked what faculty members would say when questioned by students, this student, who did not want to be named, placed his index finger to his lips and said, “Shhh.”

But at a local diner, the waitress, a PA student, said she had no idea this had happened. Tweets were flying in the morning, but a lot of people I approached still had not heard the news. This week should be interesting as word spreads and media outlets decide how much attention they’re going to give this story.

Meanwhile, back at the Rock On Diner, a brother and sister ate lunch and talked about a subject that sounded like an April Fool’s joke, not reality.

But real it was.

Gabriela Dulabic has met Luther, saying, “She stopped by a couple of my classes. She seemed sweet. She smiled a lot.”

Christian Dulabic lamented his old friend from Keene State, whose funeral he attended during a sad college reunion a few weeks ago.

“No one knew he was doing what he was doing,” Dulabic said. “His best friend was working at a center for people addicted to (heroin) and he didn’t even know. It’s still hard on a lot of us.”

That’s why the siblings are mad. They should have been told. Everyone should have been told. It might have done some good.

Maybe now it will.

“When something like this happens, there should be more transparency,” Christian said. “Just look around. Look at what’s been happening all over the state.”

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)