Cherry Creek school board won’t fill Willman seat vacancy

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AURORA | The Cherry Creek schools Board of Education won’t fill a seat left vacant by the sudden resignation of former board President Dave Willman for using a self-described “racist term” in a speech to teachers last month.

Cherry Creek School District announced the decision Friday that school board members will not appoint a new member to fill Willman’s seat until school board elections in November.

Dave Willman

“We had two exceptionally qualified candidates who both would serve the district well, therefore, the board opted to allow the democratic process to proceed by having our voters decide,” CCSD Board President Karen Fisher said in a statement. Fisher became president after Willman resigned.

“If more time remained before the election, the board likely would have chosen to appoint someone,” she added.

The board had spent recent weeks reviewing five applications from individuals hoping to fill the vacancy and whittled that list down to interviewing two finalists: Angela Green Garland, a volunteer coordinator for the district foundation, and CJ Whelan, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni association.

Those candidates can now challenge each other for Willman’s seat. Three of the board’s five voting seats are up for grabs this November election, including Willman’s.

That will be the first Cherry Creek schools election since 2015. The last round of elections, in 2017, were canceled because no one challenged the incumbents.

Willman penned an apology letter last month for using a “racist term” in his public remarks, but did not specify the term he used. He later resigned. 

District spokeswoman Abbe Smith said later that Willman said he and his classmates nicknamed a teacher “tar baby” when they were school children because the person’s first or last name was Tar.

Willman’s resignation ended his almost eight years serving on the Cherry Creek Board of Education. He served two four-year terms beginning in 2011, and would have been term limited in November.