The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education filled out its new administrative team last week, voting unanimously to hire a business manager on June 11.
Zack Zayed is the district’s new director of finance and operations, a post created by the prior school board in April.
For the past four years, Zayed has served as the coordinator of business services at Grayslake Community High School District 127, which consists of two high schools and approximately 3,000 students.
“I’m very excited to work with the school district, the school board and to be in the community,” Zayed said.
Previous to working for Grayslake, the 43-year-old Zayed worked as a certified public accountant and auditor at the accounting firm of McGladrey and Pullen where, among other things, he audited school districts. That work spiked his interest in working for a school district.
“Zach has been a great asset to District 127,” said Michael Zelek, associate superintendent for business services in Grayslake. “He … has established relationships with many staff members from principals to teachers, and he’s very well respected.”
Zayed was one of 11 candidates interviewed for the position and was the unanimous choice of the interview team. School board member Michael O’Brien participated in Zayed’s second interview.
“I liked his background with the accounting firm that he was with,” O’Brien said. “He had a strong knowledge about how the budgeting process works. What stood out the most for me was his willingness to meet our commitment to be transparent with both the school board and the community about finances as far as what is being spent and where the money is going.”
Zayed will begin work at District 96 next month.
School board members expect to be better informed about finances as a result of Zayed’s hire. For the past eight years former Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson handled financial matters.
“I’m looking for more decision-making information out of him and also more information for the public,” said District 96 school board President Mary Rose Mangia.
Board member Randy Brockway is also looking for more transparency.
“I would expect a new era of financial information,” Brockway said at the June 11 meeting. “I have great expectations for this new hire.”
Zayed, who holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from DePaul University, received a one-year contract and will be paid an annual salary of $100,000. Zayed is enrolled in a master’s degree program in educational administration at Governors State University.
Zayed’s hiring completes the new administrative team at District 96, which will take over next month.
While many had thought replacing Lamberson, whose salary in the final year of his contract was about $288,210, would result in savings on administrative salaries, the new three-person administrative team will cost $380,000 in combined salaries or about $100,000 more than what the district was paying Lamberson.
The district will continue to employ four non-certified staff members, who handle duties such as payroll and accounts receivable.
District 96 will save about $75,500 with the retirement of Central School Principal Janice Limperis and the resignation of Ames School principal Colleen Lieggi, as their successors will be paid less than what those two were making.
“We are saving a lot of money on principals,” Mangia said.
Mangia said that she expects the district to be better managed with the new administrative structure. Under Lamberson, principals had district-wide responsibilities they will no longer have.
For example, in addition to serving as the principal of the district’s largest elementary school, Limperis served as the district’s director of learning systems, doing some of the work that will fall to the new director of academic excellence.
Mangia rejected the contention that it is taking three people just to replace Lamberson. She said that she expects to get greater output and performance from the new administrative team.
“I don’t care what we paid him, one person can’t do the work of three people,” Mangia said. “It is more people and more administrators, but I think we did it effectively and we’re getting more value, more of their time and an organizational structure that makes a little more sense.”