Nearly a month after a Chicago Sun-Times report revealed ties between Morton High School District 201 Board of Education President Jeff Pesek and two convicted felons, outrage and calls for his resignation continued at school board meeting Wednesday.
Students handed in a petition for Pesek's resignation they say has more than 1,500 signatures, and others went as far as calling for dismantling the board and allowing the state to take over control of the district.
The situation was exacerbated by the board’s 6-1 vote to re-confirm Pesek's position as president in April and Pesek's absence from Wednesday's meeting.
“You guys should be ashamed of yourself. Out of all of you guys, only one of you voted against Jeff Pesek for president.” said Consuelo Hall, a Morton East student. “You guys need to understand that we want change and you guys aren't doing anything. You guys have to start with your president. “
Some have become so fed up with their perception of a corrupt district that they believe the board should be dissolved.
“People in the community think of this board as a joke,” said Jamile Abdul-Rafia, a Berwyn resident who said he has four students in the Morton district. “I'm begging that every board member after this school board meeting turn in their resignation and let the state take over.”
The meeting was also rife with accusations. Several people lambasted Pesek for dealing drugs, which has never been alleged or revealed in testimony.
Others spouted an unconfirmed rumor that Pesek lives in Westchester, and another man charged that the board would not allow a TV news crew into the board meeting.
District spokesman Eric Kohn denied that claim after the meeting.
The Chicago Sun-Times published a copy of Pesek's testimony in federal court online, in which he admits to having silent partners in Ontourage, a Chicago nightclub owned by his brother, Craig.
Jeff Pesek, who has served as manager of Ontourage, also admitted to buying liquor outside of licensed suppliers. Pesek, however, was given immunity for his testimony.
In a separate trial, convicted drug trafficker Enrique Rendon testified that he was a silent partner in Ontourage and a Cicero drug store owned by Jeff Pesek. Pesek has denied having business ties with Rendon or knowing that Rendon was a drug trafficker. He did tell the Sun-Times that he grew up on the same block as Rendon and was good friends with Rendon's brother.
Pesek also is a childhood friend of a ranking member of a local motorcycle gang, Mark Polchan. Polchan was convicted of being involved in the bombing of a Berwyn business in 2003. Pesek testified that he bought several flat-screen TVs for Ontourage at Polchan's pawn shop. Although the pawn shop has been known to sell stolen goods according to the Sun-Times, Pesek said he had no knowledge of the store's reputation. Pesek has not been charged or formally accused of any crime by prosecutors on any level.
While the exact facts of Pesek's ties remain murky, the community has held on to its anger over their school board president, and some students said they will continue to pressure Pesek for his resignation.
“Hopefully, deep down inside, we know that this is very wrong,” said Victor Amigon, a Morton East student. “I just want us to all cooperate and please, I'm begging that Jeff Pesek please step down. Myself and several other students will be here again and again and again and wait until he resigns. We won't stop until he's gone.”
Board members Mike Iniquez and Laura Martin-Salazar also were absent from Wednesday’s meeting. The board made no comments on the controversy surrounding Pesek during the meeting. Kohn also declined to comment.