BY FREDA MIKLIN
Former Cherry Creek (CCSD) school board president Dave Willman inexplicably used the term “tar baby” when speaking to a room full of teachers, community members, and district personnel at an awards banquet on Tuesday, April 30. While the term has a technically different meaning, it has been viewed as a racial slur targeting African-Americans for over a century. Although Willman did not repeat the term in subsequent messages, it was confirmed by Abbe Smith, CCSD executive director of communications as having been used in a story Willman told about a teacher from his childhood whose name contained the word Tar. A CCSD teacher who was in the room heard the same thing.
Willman, who has served on the board for eight years, would have ended his time there in November due to being term-limited. Instead his tenure concluded abruptly last week. A letter of apology issued the day after the banquet said, “I will do what it takes to repair the damage I have caused and to work toward an inclusive culture that values and respects all.”
Apparently, that was insufficient because it was followed two days later by his resignation, which was effective immediately. In a May 3 letter to district staff and the community, Superintendent Scott Siegfried said, “I respect Mr. Willman’s decision and thank him for putting the best interests of our students and community first.” Pages on the school district’s web site referencing Willman have been removed as of May 5.
Karen Fisher, CCSD board vice-president, said, “We appreciate Mr. Willman’s years of service and dedication and all he gave to the Cherry Creek schools.” She told us that the board will outline the next steps to fill the vacant position of director from school district C at its next regular meeting on May 13. According to the district web site, it will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Cherry Hills Village Elementary School.
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