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Bowen to Retire from Grosse Pointe South Choir Instead of Fight Tenure Charges

Grosse Pointe South's longtime choir director Ellen Bowen has signed an agreement to retire from the district rather than fight expected tenure charges, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board president says.

Instead of again, Grosse Pointe South choir teacher Ellen Bowen has signed an agreement to retire from the district effective Aug. 31.

Superintendent Tom Harwood and other administrators had been working on writing official tenure charges against Bowen to seek her termination following her recent administrative leave.

near the end of the school year because of an encounter with a student she discovered was using a cell phone during class. She took the cell phone away and then struck the student in the head with the phone, according to a police report filed on behalf of the student by Principal Matt Outlaw.

Bowen has been with the district for decades. She is well-known for her work with the choir, often .

Grosse Pointe Public School Board President Judy Gafa said Friday that an agreement was reached between the attorneys representing the district and Bowen in which she will retire effective Aug. 31. Bowen was represented by an attorney with the Michigan Education Association.

Bowen will have her full retirement plan and will be listed on the monthly Human Resources Report for the next regularly scheduled board meeting, which is Aug. 27.

Assistant Superintendent Jon Dean said Bowen's retirement will be similar to any retirement that happens within the district as far as her benefits. She will essentially be taken off administrative leave and placed into retirement.

She will not be returning to the classroom. The first day back for teachers is Aug. 29.

Her retirement plan, which is administered through the state, will be fully intact as well as any benefits guaranteed to her through the Grosse Pointe Education Association teacher contract, Dean said.

Patch left a message with Bowen seeking comment.

Gafa said she believes this is a good resolution not only for Bowen but also for the district. The retirement means neither will have to go through court proceedings with the Michigan Tenure Commission, which is not only expensive but also lengthy in time.

Dean estimated the savings on the legal fees, her salary and benefits to be about $250,000. Gafa also highlighted that fact that Bowen would have earned her normal salary for the entire length of the tenure process, meaning the agreement saves the district from having to pay her when she is not in the classroom.

Since the agreement was reached before the board officially approved any tenure charges, the district has stopped that process, Gafa said.

Bowen fought to maintain her full unrestricted teaching certificate before the Michigan Tenure Board in 2006 and won following an encounter she had outside of school involving another motorist.

According to the tenure commission outcome legal documents, Bowen's license was originally suspended with the exception of being allowed to continue teaching in her current district, Grosse Pointe Public Schools. That decision was reversed, however, by the Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael P. Flanagan.

Bowen's history with the school district outlined in the tenure appeal documents included warnings related to: 

  • Use of profanity.
  • Inappropriate communications with co-workers on district email.
  • Inappropriate comments to students.
  • Arguments with co-workers.
  • Cutting a student's hair for a choir performance without first gaining parental permission.

Bowen's leave, the pending tenure charges and the situation involving the student and the cell phone have drawn strong community reaction. She is well-known in the community, and those in the community who have expressed an opinion feel strongly one way or the other.

Her supporters have said her passion is what drives the success of the choir, while others have said her behavior is not acceptable and the success of the choir is not solely dependent on one person.

Meanwhile, following a quick search this summer.

GP For Life August 17, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Good move, E-Bo! Good luck in retirement!
Diane Smith August 17, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Bye!
Bob Carr August 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM
The loss of Ms. Bowen's passion is a loss for Grosse Pointe music studies. It is unfortunate that she was unable to achieve in herself the discipline she demanded of her students.
Leslie August 18, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Amen
Diane Steinberg Lewis December 10, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I read about Ellen Bowen years ago and hrea her response to an ex-student who had long graduated and was now a very successful teacher. She was indeed, a professional but a person who needed some help with how she related socially perhaps. As a music teacher with a performance in film, radio and a recording career background, I believe my job is to teach the material, help others realize their dreams, be honest with them but not leave children broken. I have thrown a chair or two in the classroom. That's why I left the profession for a while. I was told by my mentor, Gif Richards of Battle Creek Central High School's Choir Dept. that "Your students should be afraid of you...afraid not to please you!" He did not mean getting smacked in the head, punched or demeaned. If you do that early on as a teacher and start getting older and grumpier, it is not good for anyone. I'm sure Bowen knew her stuff. And I am SURE that if any of her students went to New York for Broadway they were tough enough to "take it" and totally prepared. But then there are the others. If there are too many, and apparently there has been a few, I am not surprised to hear that her retirement is being characterxzed as a "Swan Song" and she is bowing out on a sour note.

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