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Contact between 3 teachers, murder suspect being investigated

Three teachers in the Cheektowaga Central School District most likely won’t be in the classroom at the start of this school year – as district officials investigate their conduct during a murder investigation involving one of their students.

The teachers, whose names were not released, were all placed on administrative leave, with pay, after Cheektowaga police met with the School Board last Wednesday.

Police wanted district leaders to know about telephone conversations the high school teachers had with Dontre Jones as he awaited trial in the May 31, 2011, shooting that occurred in Cheektowaga Town Park.

“I just can’t comment on it,” said Dennis Kane, Cheektowaga Central’s superintendent.

“The board was justifiably shocked … appropriately shocked,” Police Chief David Zack said Tuesday. “They promised swift action.”

Zack has scheduled a meeting with local media for Thursday, at which time he intends to disclose the contents of those monitored telephone conversations, which occurred when Jones called the teachers from behind bars.

The phone calls between Jones, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, and his teachers took place between February 2012, when he was charged with second-degree murder, and this June, when he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter by Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka. Sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Police said no laws were broken. “The minimum is that they are inappropriate,” Zack said.

The conversations, along with the atmosphere in the school, impacted the department’s ability to investigate the homicide, he said.

Ira Watkins Jr., 19, of Buffalo, died when he was caught in gunfire near the basketball courts in the park. The shooting stemmed from an argument earlier that day between rival gangs, prosecutors had said. Neither Jones nor Watkins was involved in the dispute, however.