Parents pay $39,475 for their children to be educated at The Branson School, a tony private high school in Marin County that's produced such notables as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley, Julia Child, and Edie Sedgwick. But now the school has a new claim to fame, as its headmaster is allegedly at the center of a sex and drug scandal.
Since 2007, Thomas Woodrow Price, known as "Woody" to all who knew him, had been at the helm of the prestigious school. And he wasn't the only leader in his family: his wife works as the head of El Cerrito's private Prospect Sierra school, the Marin Independent Journal reports. But a bizarre incident Friday suggested that the community didn't know the real Woody Price.
Sacramento County Sheriff spokesman Sgt. Jason Ramos told CBS5 that officers were called to the Hyatt Place Hotel in Rancho Cordova this past Friday, when a man, Ramos says, “called our communications center and was concerned about a girl he referred to as his girlfriend...He basically told us that she was in the company of an older guy and he was concerned that this guy was either giving her drugs or doing drugs with her and he didn’t think it was a good situation for her to be in.”
Police responded to the hotel room, which had been registered under Price's name, There they found Price and 21-year-old Brittney Hall of Elk Grove, KRON4 reports.
Hall was unconscious and unresponsive. "He initially told us she was fine and there was nothing to worry about,” Ramos told KTVU, but "that clearly wasn't apparent to the officers due to the fact that she was unresponsive. They shouted her name several times from the doorway, (and) that was unsuccessful."
The room, Ramos says, contained a "large amount of drugs in the room, inducing heroin, cocaine, meth and prescription drugs - amounts that were more than can be considered for personal use."
Price, who had turned 54 the day before, was forthcoming about his name and occupation, Ramos told the Marin IJ. He told deputies that Hall was a "casual hookup," but according to KTVU, "Investigators say it appears as if Price and Hall had been carrying on a causal relationship that involved both sex and drugs for the past couple years." Once Hall was shaken awake, both were arrested at the scene.
On Monday, Branson sent the below letter from David Golden, chairman of the Board of Trustees, to students and parents:
We have recently been made aware that our head of school, Thomas W. Price, has allegedly been arrested. We have not been able to confirm that report. The alleged incident did not occur on campus and did not involve any students at our school. As of this afternoon, Dr. Price is not on campus and has tendered his resignation.
We are deeply troubled by these developments. We want you to be assured that our school leadership team and our board of trustees are fully committed to the health and well-being of your children. We thank you for your patience and understanding during this difficult time. Once we have more information, we will be communicating with the school community.
Both Price and Hall face three felony drug counts, including possession for sale due to the large quantities of the drugs, ABC7 reports. Price was released on bail on Saturday, and Hall remains in Sacramento County Jail. They're both expected to return to court on November 24.