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Cheektowaga School Board votes to uphold ruling in disciplinary hearing

The Cheektowaga Central School Board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to implement the recommendation of the hearing officer in a disciplinary proceeding against Sharon Campbell, a high school math and computer science teacher.

But it was not clear what that recommendation was.

In a statement issued following the vote, the board said, “Although the Board of Education is disappointed with the hearing officer’s determination as to the appropriate consequences for the conduct at issue, the board by its resolution tonight will implement that decision as required by law.” No other details were offered.

Campbell was one of three teachers put on paid administrative leave last August after they were accused of having inappropriate phone conversations with a former student in jail on murder charges.

The other two teachers were not named.

The former student, Dontre Jones, now 20, was convicted of manslaughter for firing a gun into a crowd near the basketball courts in Cheektowaga Town Park on Harlem Road on May 31, 2011, and killing Ira Watkins Jr., 19, of Buffalo. Jones is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

The School Board announced in March that it had reached a resolution with two of the teachers. They reportedly returned to their classrooms, although district officials did not confirm it.

The three teachers were suspended after town police met with the School Board about communication – mostly phone calls – between them and Jones while he was in the Erie County Holding Center awaiting trial.

In one conversation, a teacher identified someone who “snitched on” Jones, according to audio recordings and transcripts released by police.

Police said the contact, while “inappropriate,” did not break any laws.

Campbell’s attorney, Kevin P. Shelby, said last August that her conversations with Jones were “small talk” and that her interaction with him was “purely teacher-student.”

The board did not indicate what action was recommended by hearing officer Robert J. Rabin following a disciplinary proceeding under terms of State Education Law Section 3020-a. Records of rulings are public if charges are sustained.

Rabin issued his decision June 9. The special meeting Tuesday, which lasted less than five minutes, came at the end of the 15-day period that Section 3020-a gives the School Board to implement it.

In its resolution, the board directed Superintendent Dennis Kane to implement the ruling.

The board, at the conclusion its statement, said, “The district will make no further statement regarding this personnel matter.”