The board of the controversial Lyons Township Trustees of Schools, better known as the school treasurer’s office or the Lyons TTO, will likely soon more than double in size.
A bill that would increase the size of the board that governs the Lyons TTO from the current three members to seven recently passed the Illinois General Assembly and is now ready to be sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker. The bill would only apply to the Lyons TTO and not any of the other TTO’s that exist in suburban Cook County.
The purpose of expanding the board of the Lyons TTO seems to be to appease school administrators and school board members who have complained that they have little knowledge of what the TTO does even though the TTO invests their money.
Although the bill was sponsored by State Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) in the House and Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago) in the Senate the bill was largely the creation of State Sen. Steve Landek (D-Bridgeview).
Landek has been the main protector of the Lyons TTO in the state legislature. He developed the idea for expanding the board of the Lyons TTO after meeting in 2019 with superintendents and school board presidents from the school districts that the TTO serves.
“They were the impetus for it,” Zalewski said. “I think it’s a good piece of legislation. It’s not 100 percent what everybody wants which is, you know, disbandment, but the township trustees office serves a very disparate group of school districts. You have very wealthy, high wealth school districts and you have very poor school districts and there’s just things that we have to be mindful of when we’re trying to disband it so I think it’s a good compromise.”
The Lyons TTO, which invests the reserves of member school districts and handles check writing for local school districts, has been under fire for years. Last year Lyons Township High School District 204, which had been the largest and wealthiest district in the TTO, left the Lyons TTO after a verdict in the long running lawsuit the TTO brought against LTHS. The verdict was a major victory for LTHS as Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jerry Esrig awarded the TTO only about $765,000 in damages from LTHS, far less than the nearly $6 million the TTO was seeking. The TTO spent more than $4 million on legal fees for the lawsuit. Following the resolution of the lawsuit LTHS withdrew from the TTO, as a state law passed a few years ago allowed it to do.
The legislation expands the current board from three to seven by adding one additional member who will be elected by the voters of Lyons Township and adding three appointed members who will be selected by the school boards of the districts that the Lyons TTO serves. The new appointed members must be members of school boards of districts served by the Lyons TTO. Currently all three members of the TTO are elected by the voters of Lyons Township and serve six-year staggered terms.
The districts are divided into two groupings divided by the Illinois and Michigan Canal. One appointed member would be chosen by the boards of school districts of Western Springs School District 101, LaGrange School District 102, Lyons School District 103, LaGrange School District 105, LaGrange Highlands School District 106 and Pleasantdale School District 107. Another appointed member of the TTO board will be a board member from, and appointed by, the school boards of Argo High School 217, Summit School District 104, Willow Springs District 108 and Indian Springs District 209.
The third appointed member will be a school board president. In odd numbered years that third appointed member must be a school board president from a feeder district of LTHS. In even numbered years that school board president must be from a district that is a feeder district for Argo High School.
“I think it’s going to be good for everybody,” Landek said.
Landek said that the having local school board members on the TTO’s board will give school districts input and insight into how the TTO operates.
“It’s adapted to local needs,” said Landek when asked why the bill only affects the Lyons TTO and no other TTO’s.
Neither Mike Thiessen, the president of the TTO board, nor TTO treasurer Ken Getty responded to requests for comments about the bill.
Although Landek was the driving force behind the legislation he did not sponsor the bill saying that he doesn’t feel the need to have his name on bills.
“I try to keep under the radar but I’m not successful all the time,” Landek said.