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Former coach pleads no contest

Courtney Astolfi • Dec 13, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Former Perkins track coach Tracey Hiss pleaded no contest Thursday to drug charges associated with a May incident in which she gave prescriptionstrength pain patches to students.

Hiss was charged with one count of possession of a dangerous drug in September, after Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter conferred with the former teacher’s attorney and agreed to file a bill of information, rather than taking the case before a grand jury.

Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone ordered Hiss to serve one year in a diversion program.

She must abide by four conditions during that time:

• Submit to random drug and alcohol screens.

• Present proof of employment.

• Pay a supervision fee of $10 per month.

• Not leave the state without written consent from the probation office.

The deal comes almost eight months after the drug allegations came to light In early May, Hiss distributed Lidoderm patches to a handful of students, which contain the prescription-strength drug lidocaine.

At least four students tipped off a doctor and athletic trainer to Hiss’s actions at the time. The pair then took that information to Perkins Schools athletic director Mike Strohl.

When Strohl confronted Hiss with the allegations, she told him students stole the patches from her school office.

Strohl also informed Perkins police, who launched an investigation.

Hiss was placed on a paid suspension later that month. While her teaching position was later cut because of district-wide staff reductions, she was still first in line for a physical education position at Furry Elementary School at the beginning of this school year, pending the outcome of her case.

But in early October, Hiss elongated her legal process by entering a plea of not guilty.

Perkins administrators responded by filling that position with laid-off teacher Tim Zapadka.

“Should things change, we may need to lay off (Zapadka) and rehire (Hiss)” district superintendent Jim Gunner said at the time.

It has yet to be determined how Perkins schools will react to Hiss’ new “no contest” plea.

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