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Ellis resigns from District U-46 board
By Seth Hancock
Board member Traci Ellis has resigned from her post in School District U-46 effective immediately as she made the announcement at the end of the Board of Education meeting on Monday, April 23.
Ellis, who was elected in 2011 and reelected in 2015, cited “numerous opportunities for me to take my social justice activism to the national level” as her reason for leaving before her term was set to end in 2019. She said she will continue to reside in the district.
Donna Smith, the board’s president, said the board now has 45 days to appoint a new member to fill the remainder of the term. The last appointment came after Frank Napolitano, who was elected in 2013, resigned because he moved out of the district.
Ellis, who gave no specifics on the opportunities, said her controversial social media post last September where she said the American flag “means nothing more than toilet paper to me” was what led to the opportunities.
“The intentionally stoked, ensuing uproar caused quite a distraction to this district and to my life,” Ellis said of her post. She called those opposed to her comments on the flag as “racist and white supremacist… intended to destroy me, but as it turns out it worked for my good.”
At a subsequent meeting after her post was publicly shared by board member Jeanette Ward, who opposed Ellis’ remarks, Ellis gave an expletive-laced speech claiming she received “over 1,000 private messages” of hateful messages. At the time, she ignored a request by The Examiner to provide evidence of such messages.
Ellis said she recently informed Smith and U-46 CEO Tony Sanders of her decision to step down as well as a few other board members.
“My biggest regret… is that I could not announce my resignation ahead of time and that I could not call all of you to personally tell you,” Ellis said. “I am so sorry that you all had to learn this way, but I hope that you trust that I could not go around announcing my future resignation. I only recently shared my decision with Donna, Tony and some of my board colleagues.”
During her time on the board, Ellis has shown disregard and disdain for anyone who expressed an opposing view to hers. She has personally attacked and maligned members of the public and fellow board members, with Ward being her leading target, at public meetings while Smith has not shown any visible efforts to check that behavior.
Ward recently told The Examiner, regarding a separate issue, that when she was first elected in 2015 she’s been able to speak with all other board members but “Ms. Ellis does not speak to me.”
“You’ve done so much for this district, you really, really have…. We can’t even begin to list them all,” Smith said of Ellis.
Ellis said: “People should know that Donna did her level best to try to keep me in line…. For better or worse, I was not going to be bossed on this board and was going to do what I felt in my heart I was called to do.”
In 2016, Ellis equated members of the public to racism, including four black students in the district, for opposing a change in bathroom/locker room practices in the district allowing students to use the facilities of their choice based on preferences rather than biological sex. She said “that word Christian has some ugly connotations behind it” and “you did not elect me to do what you say.”
Also in 2016, Ellis organized an effort to have people come to a board meeting to scold Ward for making a social media post quoting conservative black author Jason L. Riley. Ellis emailed U-46 teachers during taxpayer hours claiming Ward has made “disparaging comments” about minorities without providing evidence while, in contrast, Ward recently said during an “equity” presentation that “I hate dividing people up by ethnic groups.”
Board member Melissa Owens said Ellis was “instrumental in getting me on-boarded,” and board member Veronica Noland said she’s “been impressed by your leadership.”
Ellis thanked the board and despite Ward being a target for personal attacks by Ellis, Ward said: “I wanted to say that I do wish you the best, and since you said thank you then I’d say you’re welcome. And I hope you can learn as you go forward that disagreement is not hate.”
Despite the examples of Ellis personally attacking people who disagree with her, Sanders said she’s always acted “in a respectful manner” and he started a standing ovation for her. Costello and Ward were the only board members to not stand, and Sue Kerr was not in attendance at the meeting.
“Traci, thank you for being more than just a boss,” Sanders said. “Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for letting me into your family.”
In March, Ellis called U-46 staff incompetent and racially biased, Sanders agreeing to those assertions, but neither provided any evidence of one instance of such biased incidents occurring. Sanders has also admitted the administration was doing “equity” work solely for Ellis despite a board discussion being necessary to direct staff work.