Waukegan Board Member “Truly Sorry” For Losing Temper

As strike negotiations resumed Wednesday, a Waukegan school board member issued an apology for telling a crowd to "shut up" at Tuesday night's hostile board meeting.

"The tensions of the past few weeks, as well as the personal attacks on my character, my family and my actions, have been nearly unbearable," Victoria Torres said in a statement. "In the chaos of the Board meeting, where we couldn’t even hear the person next to us, I felt attacked and lost my temper. As a leader, I realize I set a poor example for the students of Waukegan Public Schools, and for the community, and I am truly sorry for how I acted."

About 17,000 students have been out of class since teachers walked out on Oct. 2. Teachers and school officials have reported some progress but have failed to agree on salary, health insurance and the duration of contracts.

Emotions reached a boiling point Tuesday between officials and angry residents, forcing a board meeting to end almost immediately after it started.

Torres walked off the stage during the meeting to address the shouting crowd.

“Alright, let’s go. I’m a parent too,” she said. “Sit down and shut up. Yeah, shut up. You want to hear what this board’s got to say.”

Board president Anita Hanna said the board doesn't condone disrespectful behavior by anyone, including board members.

"We hope the progression of events that transpired last night will never happen again," Hanna said.

Michelle Standridge, representative for Illinois Federation of Teachers Lake County Local 504, said some hope the school board will call for her "immediate resignation."

"The reaction of the board, especially board member [Victoria] Torres, her behavior was abhorrent," Standridge said. "We try to set a good example for our students and for the community, and we think that her actions were just unacceptable."

While many in the crowd blamed the board for the meeting’s hostility, others said the rowdy residents were at fault.

"They came in here and disrupted the meeting," said Melvin Bobo, who supports the school board. "It’s not the board, it’s the teachers. They have refused to come in here to work."

Parent Dilcia Campos told NBC 5 on Wednesday that she doesn't side with the teachers or the board.

"The teachers really need to get their act straight, and so does the board," Campos said.

Negotiations resumed Wednesday. Gov. Quinn sent Gery Chico to Waukegan to talk to both sides.

"There is nobody in this community who wants this strike," Hanna said. "Not the students, not the parents, not the Board and not the Teachers. We are committed to negotiations and our team has been back at the table since this morning, focused on getting a deal done and putting our children back in the classrooms."

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