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D89 Board Member's Wife Quits School Job after Tribune Inquires

Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported on nepotism in school districts in the Chicago area.

A recent Chicago Tribune report shows millions of taxpayers' dollars across the Chicagoland are used to employ school board members' relatives. And Glen Ellyn's Community Consolidated School District 89 was mentioned.

District 89 Board Member and Glen Ellyn resident Frank Zak's wife was hired in 2008 to work at as a special education aide despite lacking experience two other applicants had, the Tribune reported. 

District 89 Superintendent John Perdue told Patch the two other applicants were certified teachers seeking a position that paid $10 per hour, requiring 60 semesters of college credit.

"The position paid $10 an hour so licensed teachers could easily make more than that even substitute teaching," Perdue said. 

Perdue said records do not indicate whether the other applicants were offered the position before Zak's wife. 

Illinois law does not prohibit school districts from hiring relatives of school board members and Perdue said District 89 job-seekers are not asked to disclose their relationships with board members. To his knowledge, Perdue said no other board members' relatives work in District 89. 

Zak's wife no longers works for the district, Perdue told the Tribune. She resigned March 9, which Perdue said was unrelated to the Tribune's investigation published today, March 16. The Tribune reported that the resignation occurred after the newspaper requested her hiring records.

Zak is the vice president of District 89's school board and his term is set to expire in 2013. He has served on the board since 2005, according to the district website.

Glen Ellyn is home to two other school districts. Glen Ellyn School District 41 spokesperson Julie Worthen said the district does not currently employ any relatives of school board members. 

"It's always best to avoid any appearance of a conflict," Worthen said. District 41 does not have explicit policies in place governing nepotism but the issue is addressed in the board members code of conduct manual, explained Worthen. 

Patch has reached out to Glenbard Township High School District 87 to see if any board members' relatives work in the district and what policies are in place governing nepotism.

Samantha Liss March 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
What do you think, Glen Ellyn? Should job-seekers have to disclose their relationship to school board members on applications?
P March 16, 2012 at 08:43 PM
It must be a slow news day.... If Mrs. Zak was making 100K I could see where there would be room for concern. She was a special education aide making $10.00 an hour. Are you serious!!!!
J March 17, 2012 at 05:20 PM
P-A clerk steals $20 from the register, no biggie, it was just $20? From what I'm reading, there are questions about her being hired in front of more qualified people. On top of this, there is a superintendent's statement that is contradicted by the Tribune. Hmmm. For a quarter million dollar salary and benefits and PENSION, the people should expect more than deflective statements from Mr. Perdue. It's not about the $10 an hour. It's about right and wrong and public trust. If you haven't noticed, P, that is a commodity in short supply in a state full of scoundrals, including at the local level. If everything was above board, why did she quit? Samantha, YES, to your question. Also, school board members should disclose any relationships with ANY teachers' unions,present or past, so that the general public can decide who these board members really are representing, us or them.
Steve Seaney March 18, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I find it hard to believe someone who is willing to volunteer to their time for a school board would risk their reputation and the district's reputation for a $10.00 job. The Zak's are probably very innocent of doing anything intentionally wrong. I am concerned, however, that the unintentional influence of a school board member, or even the appearance of unintentional influence, sets a very poor precedence. I would hate to have been the administrator or teacher who had to interview or ultimately hire the spouse of a school board member. At the end of the day, the district should have a very clear policy regarding hiring of 'friends and family' of school board members to ensure such hiring is purely 'above board' and transparent. IMO it should be outright banned, but that may not be reasonable. I do not live in district 89, but if there is any doubt the hiring process met the highest standards, it would be best of the school board members involved voluntarily stepped down. There are many venues in the community who could use their time and energy, but their presence on District 89 will risk hurting the overall reputation of the schools and community. Steve

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