On Monday, one of the five Savage Elementary School teachers that had been on paid leave for 87 days was put back to work. Four more teacher remain on leave.
It is being stated around the community that the four remaining teachers are waiting for an apology from the school district and are hesitant to sign the non-disclosure/no law suit agreement.
Cristen Belloni was allowed to go back to work after the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education reached an agreement with her through her Michigan Education Association union representatives.
The substitute teacher that had been in her classroom was to be in class on Monday also, so there would be a smooth transition, according to a letter to parents from the school district.
A special meeting of the board of education was held at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 14, at the administration building to approve the agreement with Belloni. Although the meeting announcement was not announced prominently on the school district home page, about 25 people were present in the audience, informing each other by word of mouth of the meeting.
School Board President Brent Mikulski said there was a seven-day revocation period in the agreement so they had to approve it at a time when Belloni could get back to work by April 18. Otherwise, either side could back out of the agreement, he said.
He apologized to the Independent for the district not informing the local paper of the special meeting and secretary Pam Johnson, who is charged with announcing meetings in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, said she “forgot” to inform the Independent.
In a story published on the Michigan Education Association website on April 15, the situation with Belloni was explained. The story, submitted by mgarcia, is titled “Van Buren Teacher vindicated in M-STEP investigation with MEA assistance.”
With the help of MEA, a third- and fourth-grade teacher from Van Buren Public Schools is poised to return to her classroom facing no discipline after being cleared of wrong-doing in an investigation into M-STEP procedures during last spring’s test administration.
“I’m glad to be going back,” said Savage Elementary School teacher Cristen Belloni, a Belleville native who once attended the school where she’s taught now for nearly 14 years. “I think the students are going to be happy to see me. I’ve gotten a few messages of ‘We miss you.’”
She’s missed them too.
Belloni, who holds two Master’s degrees, values doing the unheralded work behind the scenes to develop connections with students. “I chose to come to work in this district, because I wanted to give back,” she said. “I had a good experience going here as a student, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Since 2002, Belloni has volunteered for all sorts of extra assignments, including coaching, sponsoring an after-school math club and yearbook. She has coordinated the district’s summer school program and participated in numerous school improvement teams and initiatives.
Former VBPS Superintendent Michael Van Tassel initiated the investigation into M-STEP scores he deemed “anomalies” at Savage Elementary. Van Tassel was removed from his position in February following an ongoing and sizeable public outcry over the issue.
“Our community really rallied behind us,” she said. “I’m going back with my head held high to say ‘I was vindicated.’”