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How impartial is the impartial hearing officer?

In the next two weeks or so, Buffalo school officials should be getting a decision from the district's April 26 hearing in Albany regarding the legality of the state's suspension of school improvement grants.

Albany hearingIn the three weeks since that hearing, plenty of people have been wondering why the impartial hearing officer was someone who works for Commissioner John KIng.

Sharon Cates-Williams, an associate commissioner, made $147,000 in the most recent year available through payrolls posted at She will be the person issuing a decision on what was essentially her boss' decision to suspend $5.6 million in school improvement grants to Buffalo.

When King was in town this week, Mike Desmond from WNED noted the skepticism surrounding the impartial hearing officer and asked King why an outside party had not been tapped for the job.

"That’s another attempt to distract from a very important question: Was the law followed -- yes or no?" King said. "The (evaluation) agreements submitted were inconsistent with the law. It’s a very straightforward question."

- Mary Pasciak

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