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Ex-St. Paul's teacher charged with perjury, witness tampering; good job reference got him hired at Derryfield School

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 28. 2018 9:48PM


St. Paul’s School acknowledged it should not have given a glowing reference to a humanities teacher the school had terminated in 2008 after a history of violations of faculty-student boundaries. That teacher was arrested Wednesday and charged with coaxing a former St. Paul’s student to lie to a grand jury.

The arrest of David O. Pook, 47, also jolted Derryfield School in Manchester, which hired him in 2009, based upon the reference from St. Paul’s.

“The school leadership at the time should never have given Mr. Pook a recommendation and the fact that it did not inform Derryfield of Mr. Pook’s boundary issues was a failure for which we apologize,” said Michael Hirschfeld, the current rector of St. Paul’s School.

According to a 29-page affidavit filed in connection to the case, authorities believe Pook was involved in a sexual relationship with the St. Paul’s student in 2008; she turned 18 that year. And their intimacy continued at least until the fall of 2017, when they discussed the case via emails, exchanged pornographic videos and recalled past sexual escapades, authorities said.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald and a grand jury are investigating St. Paul’s School and whether the elite preparatory school’s actions violated child protection laws and obstructed government administration.

“This arrest today by no means signals the end of our investigation,” said Associate Attorney General Jane Young. “This investigation continues; we will take it where it goes. If evidence surfaces of other individuals having criminal liability, we will take action accordingly.”

School records subpoenaed

In early August, the Attorney General served both schools with subpoenas seeking Pook’s personnel file, and Derryfield may have received further disclosures from authorities this fall. Derryfield only took action on Wednesday.

In a statement, the private day school said it suspended Pook once it learned of his arrest.

“The Derryfield School has learned that charges have been brought against one of its faculty members, David Pook. We have suspended David Pook immediately,” the statement reads. Derryfield School officials did not respond to Union Leader emails seeking elaboration.

Both Pook and his former student appeared before the grand jury in early December, according to the affidavit. The student’s mother and her St. Paul’s friends also testified.

She denied a sexual relationship and denied speaking to Pook about her testimony; he gave no substantive testimony, according to the affidavit, meaning he likely refused to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds.

Last year, St. Paul’s School went through a wrenching process over questions of inappropriate behavior involving teachers and students. In May, it issued a lengthy report that disclosed names of previous teachers who had been accused of boundary crossing. Pook was never named, but some instructors weren’t identified by name.

Under subpoena, St. Paul’s supplied records to MacDonald’s investigators. They showed that as early as May 2002, a school dean had heard complaints about Pook’s “boundary issues.”

In class, he threatened to stick his tongue in a girl’s ear to create an example of a moral dilemma. He invaded private space when speaking to female students. At the girl’s dorm where he was the head of house, Pook entered private rooms after check-in and spoke to girls, sometimes in their pajamas, the personnel file showed.

He was advised against long bike rides with a girl. And girls said they smelled alcohol on his breath.

Pook had been warned about “going into the girl’s dorm after drinking late in the evenings, even when he was not on duty and to keep his love for martinis and Scotch to himself (not share this passion with students),” the personnel file reads.

In February 2008, a school official wrote St. Paul’s rector, William Rankin Matthews Jr., “I can’t help but cringe just a little when we so publicly describe him as the ‘master teacher’ we want all our teachers to emulate.”

The Union Leader could not reach Pook on Wednesday. No one answered when a reporter knocked on his Newmarket Road house in Warner. An email sent to his Derryfield School address was returned as undeliverable, and just about all mentions of Pook have been stripped from the school website.

The relationship with the female St. Paul’s student and Pook is disclosed in a slew of emails that began in February 2008.

Saint Paul’s found out about the relationship once the student told a fellow student, who disclosed it to an adviser.

The girl initially thought she would have to break off the relationship, the friend said. But when nothing happened to Pook after the disclosure, the girl believed things were OK and she continued the relationship, her friend told authorities. But she also said she did not believe the relationship was sexual.

The names of the former St. Paul’s student, her mother and confidants are redacted from the affidavit, which Young released Wednesday. She said the release was part of MacDonald’s effort to inform the public of his office’s work. Young said she also hopes victims come forward once they realize they will be protected.

“Ultimately, we are trying to protect some of the most vulnerable populations of our society, which is our children,” she said.

Glowing recommendation

The Pook personnel file also includes a conversation he had with St. Paul’s Matthews after he was fired. He had applied for the Derryfield job, and wanted the school to say he left for personal reasons. Matthews eventually agreed and said Pook was brilliant, as good a teacher as St. Paul’s had had in 10 years, an excellent coach and a good adviser.

Matthews told Derryfield he would hire Pook back if given the opportunity.

In a statement issued Wednesday, St. Paul’s current rector stressed the school is cooperating with MacDonald’s investigation.

“We have strong boundary policies in place. We train faculty in those policies, and we enforce them. Today, we would never provide a recommendation or reference for any faculty member who violates these policies,” Hirschfeld said.

Believing that Derryfield was unaware of Pook’s history, MacDonald’s office took the unusual step of asking a judge to allow prosecutors to disclose the St. Paul’s personnel file, which was obtained under grand jury subpoena. Such evidence is usually sealed, and authorities are barred from disclosing it.

“Specifically, the state made its request ‘to protect the welfare of the students at Derryfield and to enable the Derryfield School to make informed decisions concerning whether Mr. Pook’s continued employ with Derryfield is compatible with its obligation to protect the welfare of the students,’” the affidavit reads.

Perjury, witness-tampering

In late October, a judge approved the release, but in November Pook’s lawyer attempted to block the release to his employer.

In that effort, Pook claimed he counseled the St. Paul’s girl about how to handle her sexual orientation.

The affidavit does not say whether a judge eventually allowed the Attorney General to release the information about Pook’s St. Paul’s behavior to Derryfield. Young said she could not discuss the outcome, and the New Hampshire court system said grand jury proceedings are not available.

Inquiries left with Derryfield spokesman Annie Branch and lawyer Robert Carey were not returned. In a statement, Derryfield stressed that the charges against Pook do not involve Derryfield students.

Pook faces two charges of witness-tampering and two charges of conspiracy to commit perjury. Each is a Class B felony punishable by 3 1/2 to seven years in state prison. He was arrested Wednesday and released on $5,000 cash bail.

Meanwhile, Granite State College said Pook has worked as an adjunct professor there since 2006. The college suspended him upon learning of the charges, a spokesman said.; Union Leader Reporter David Solomon contributed to this report.

Documents in the case can be viewed below:

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