Outcry helps Orange Park teacher charged with financial crime keep job
Dozens speak out on behalf of art teacher Michael Bowman
Michael Bowman addresses the Clay County School Board asking to be reinstated.
ORANGE PARK, Fla. - Over 20 speakers backed up Orange Park High School art teacher Michael Bowman's reinstatement to the school April 5.
Bowman was dismissed from the district after being charged with a financial crime involving a type of work scheme. The details of the nature of the crime are unclear because of the school district's human resources confidentiality rules.
Bowman commented on the crime at the April 5 board meeting and said over 300 people made the same mistake with the same business.
“It was an error in judgment, I trusted the wrong people," Bowman said. "I accepted a job that I thought was legitimate, and to my surprise it turned out to be a mistake instead of an opportunity.”
Heartfelt pleas from Bowman's mother, co-workers and former students convinced the Clay County school board to see his side of the story. They commended his ability to connect and care for his students, and called his involvement in the scheme an honest mistake.
Kathy Brennan taught at OPHS for 43 years and worked with Bowman. In her address to board members she said OPHS needs Bowman as a teacher because of his dedication to helping students.
“Mr. Bowman has taken students, especially those who are challenged -- academically and socially and emotionally -- and shown them how to be successful,” Brennan said.
Following the pleas of those close to Bowman, Superintendent Addison Davis' recommendation to dismiss Bowman was denied, a motion initiated by board member Janice Kerekes.
After deliberation with the board attorney, Kerekes suggested rescinding her motion, to see if another board member would pass Davis’ recommendation.
Chairman Carol Studdard called for that motion, which died due to a lack of support.
The decision was celebrated with hugs and applause.
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