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Pasco teacher convicted of DUI is arrested again

WESLEY CHAPEL — A Wiregrass Ranch High School teacher convicted of driving under the influence in May was arrested again Tuesday, this time on charges of speeding without a license with three students on board.

Leah Zachewicz, an English teacher and the girls swim coach, was driving to swim practice when a Pasco deputy pulled her over about 3:45 p.m. Zachewicz, the deputy said, had been going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone near State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

When the deputy asked for her information, Zachewicz, 26, handed over her registration, insurance card and a purple folder holding an order that had revoked her license, saying, "This will explain."

Zachewicz told the Times on Wednesday that she had been approved for a hardship exemption last week, allowing her to drive for work. Transportation officials, she said, had told her it would be enacted immediately.

But the deputy could find no proof of a hardship license, an arrest report states, and charged her with driving without a license and cited her for speeding. The students, who were not named, were picked up by a school administrator.

Zachewicz did not have permission from the school to drive the students to practice, said Summer Romagnoli, a Pasco schools spokeswoman. Teachers wanting to drive students must submit a license and proof of insurance. Zachewicz had neither on file. School Board officials are investigating and could bring disciplinary action against Zachewicz.

Zachewicz told the Times she believed she did have permission, after signing school paperwork at the beginning of the season.

In May, Zachewicz was found sleeping in the driver's seat of her red Kia Sportage in the parking lot of Dr. John Long Middle School, near Wiregrass Ranch, about 2:30 a.m. one Sunday.

Zachewicz had a blood-alcohol level of 0.116, above the 0.08 threshold that presumes impairment, having drunk six glasses of wine earlier in the night, an arrest report stated. When a deputy awakened her, she tried to start the car without a key before opening the door to vomit.

Zachewicz said after the arrest she addressed every class and told them what happened.

"I told them, 'I made a mistake,' " she said. " 'Take it from me, I'm not a bad person. Bad things can happen to good people if you make stupid mistakes.' "

Zachewicz was verbally warned about her conduct after that arrest but not disciplined, Romagnoli said. The county reported the case to the state Department of Education, which also declined to take action. Court records show Zachewicz was convicted of the DUI last month.

She was hired in 2007 as an English teacher at Wesley Chapel High School before transferring to Wiregrass Ranch in 2008.

"I go into my job and put everything into it every day," she said. "I made one stupid mistake in my life, and I can definitely tell you, I regret it."

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Pasco teacher convicted of DUI is arrested again 10/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 8:07pm]
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