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April 11, 2013

Principal: Arrested, fired crossing guard was hired by city

NEW CASTLE — As school let out Tuesday, a crossing guard at John F. Kennedy Primary Center was arrested on drug charges

Tracy Lynn Padilla, 47, of 709 Blaine St., is charged with two counts of manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

Following her arraignment, she was released on $10,000 bond.

Padilla was arrested by detectives from the Lawrence County District Attorney’s office about 3 p.m., just before she began her shift as a crossing guard at the elementary school on New Castle’s North Hill.

The city police department’s narcotics division participated in the arrest with the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force.

Padilla had been a crossing guard at the East Laurel Boulevard/Highland Avenue intersection this school year only. She was known for her campaigns to slow morning traffic on Highland Avenue. These efforts included setting up a camera to film motorists as they drove by and the sign saying, “Smile for the Camera.”

She has since been terminated from that post.

“We felt this (arrest) had to be a priority,” Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said. “She had young children under her care.”

Building principal Dr. Carmen Nocera said he was shocked to learn of the arrest.

“With her signs and cameras, she was someone who went above and beyond what was expected of a crossing guard,” he said.

“I was dismissing students out the back door when the police came,” Nocera continued. “I didn’t see what happened.”

He added the police officer who filled in for the guard Wednesday morning didn’t have much information to give him.

Nocera noted the crossing guards are hired by the city and police department.

“They hire, screen and replace them if they don’t show up,” he said. “This is something that the school district can’t control.”

According to court documents, county detectives, using a confidential informant, purchased marijuana from Padilla on March 7 and again on March 13 at her Blaine Street home.

Court documents indicated Padilla kept her marijuana in a coffee can in her kitchen cupboard. Officers said a scale and plastic baggies also were kept in the cupboard.

New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem said the arrest occurred “without incident.”

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