U-46 board member who made controversial flag comments resigns
Elgin Area School District U-46 board member Traci O'Neal Ellis announced her immediate resignation from the board Monday night.
Referencing what she affectionately calls "flaggate," Ellis said the controversy last fall over her comments about the American flag have opened new doors of opportunity for her.
In her Sept. 24 Facebook post, Ellis likened the American flag to "toilet paper" while expressing support for NFL players who were kneeling during the national anthem last season. It prompted more than a 1,000 Facebook replies -- public and private -- and resulted in death threats against Ellis. Though she stood by her original comments about the flag, Ellis later apologized to fellow board members, district employees and the community for the "distraction" caused by the controversy.
"The intentionally stoked ensuing uproar caused quite a distraction to this district and to my life," she said Monday night. "There is no doubt that the vicious campaign of hate and the racist and white supremacist vitriol that followed was intended to destroy me. But, as it turns out, it worked for my good. Flaggate has created numerous opportunities for me to take my social justice activism to the national level."
Ellis said that after much consideration and prayer she reluctantly decided to step down from the board and pursue those opportunities.
"I am a fierce advocate for social justice particularly as it relates to racism, police reforms and equity. And it is those issues that I will continue to focus on," Ellis said. "It is not possible for me to work full time and continue all of my volunteer endeavors."
Fellow U-46 school board members and CEO Tony Sanders thanked Ellis for her seven years of service on the board.
"You are going to be missed in so many ways," school board President Donna Smith said.
While several board members gave Ellis a standing ovation, Phil Costello and Jeanette Ward, her most vocal opponent, did not stand.
Ward and Ellis butted heads numerous times on various issues, including over Ellis' flag comment, which Ward strongly condemned.
"I do wish you the best," Ward said Monday. "I hope you can learn as you go forward that disagreement is not hate."
Sanders acknowledged Ellis' contributions to U-46's roughly 40,000 students, especially the 6 percent who are black.
Ellis said while she is proud of the work U-46 has done, "based on our data we have a long way to go when it comes to black children."
Smith said the school board has 45 days to fill the vacancy and officials will begin accepting applications from interested candidates soon.