JOLIET – Joliet Township High School District 204 officials have a new procedure to check on driver education instructors’ backgrounds after finding they can’t rely exclusively on the Illinois State Board of Education.
District 204 officials plan to run vehicle background checks on driver education teachers each semester in addition to submitting their names into a state system required by ISBE that verifies whether they’re approved to teach driver education.
The new procedure comes after Nestor Nowak, a Joliet Central High School driver’s training instructor, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in May.
On May 16, district officials said they weren’t aware of a DUI charge in 2014 that Nowak pleaded guilty to and that they would determine why they weren’t aware of the incident.
District 204 Spokeswoman Kristine Schlismann said in an email Friday that the district knows Nowak was approved in a state system required by ISBE that’s connected to the Secretary of State. The system allows the district to see whether an instructor is approved to teach driver education.
“Since we have found that we cannot rely on the ISBE system, we have set a new procedure in place in addition to the ISBE system where we will run a motor vehicle background check on driver’s education teachers each semester,” Schlismann said.
She said the procedure began this summer for summer school and the upcoming fall semester.
When reached Friday, ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said the system is not public and that she is unclear about what information she could share without the agency’s Freedom of Information Act officer, who was not available. She said more information could be available Monday.
According to ISBE, the agency verifies whether driver education instructors hold a valid license. The license is considered not valid or in good standing if it is revoked, suspended, expired, canceled or if restrictions have been placed on driving privileges.
ISBE transmits a weekly file of all driver education instructors and their license numbers to the Secretary of State to verify whether the license is valid. District superintendents are notified by ISBE if the license is valid.
If an instructor is removed from their teaching position because of an invalid license, they’re not allowed to teach in a driver education program for three years after the reinstatement of a valid license.
Schlismann said Nowak was hired in August 2000 and an initial background check was conducted at the time. Nowak was employed as a special education teacher with an extra assignment as a driver education instructor after school and in the summer.
Court records show Nowak pleaded guilty to a DUI after an arrest in New Lenox in 2014 and was sentenced to a year of court supervision.
Nowak currently faces two DUI charges. He pleaded not guilty June 7, and his case is set for pretrial July 5.