GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – State Senator Mike Ellis apologized Thursday, for referring to Preble High School as a “sewer.” The remark was caught on video earlier this week at a bar-restaurant in Madison.
“Green Bay East is fine, West is fine, Preble is a sewer. They’ve got the poverty possum,” Ellis can be heard saying on the internet video.
Ellis admits it is his voice in this video. He said he was speaking with other lawmakers about the possible expansion of the School Choice Program Wednesday night at the Best Western Inn on the Park in Madison. The Neenah republican told Local 5 he’s sorry, it was wrong and the comment was taken out of context.
“I’m not going to make any excuses, I said it. I didn’t mean it, and I’m sorry about it because I’m trying my hardest to protect the public schools,” Ellis explained. “The voucher program bill that we got through the senate will help do that.”
Ellis said he was using Preble as an example, when describing a model he’s proposing regarding School Choice. He said he didn’t mean any disrespect.
But parents, staff and students at Preble are taking the comments to heart.
“I was completely offended and appalled to hear how they are describing my sons,” commented Preble parent and teacher, Patti Grobarchik.
Hundreds turned out Thursday afternoon to rally support for a school, they say, they’re proud to be a part of.
“This was a blatant, disrespectful comment that was made towards us,” Sophomore Priyanka Navani said to her peers. “And we are not some poverty ‘possum’ as he called it. We are one united and we are all proud to be Hornets today.”
“I was extremely, actually appalled, that someone could speak so negatively about students in a school environment that I’m not sure he necessarily knows anything about,” Preble Principal, Natasha Rowell, commented.
Senator Ellis said it was a dinner conversation, recorded without the group’s knowledge. He sent an apology letter to the school, and hopes both sides can move forward together.
“Obviously, I have hurt a lot of people’s feelings and attitudes at Preble and, again, I’m deeply sorry for that,” he added.
Rowell said she read the apology letter and doesn’t see it as sincere.
To view the video, click here.
You can read a copy of the letter below.
One night this week while having dinner in a restaurant with other legislators, someone who was not a part of that group secretly recorded our private conversation.
During that conversation, I misspoke and erred by using a term I should not have used and did not mean. Although my statement was made in the course of a private conversation that was never meant to be a public pronouncement, it was simply wrong and should not have been uttered at all.
I believe in the integrity and have the utmost respect for the students, faculty, and administration of Preble High School. I have no doubt Preble is a fine high school in the excellent school district of Green Bay.
I sincerely apologize for any comments or terms that could be construed negatively toward Preble High School or the Green Bay School District.