New school superintendent starts March 1

The Rochester Board of Education and Robert Shaner have reached agreement on a contract that will make Shaner the district’s new superintendent of schools starting March 1.

The board approved the three-year contract Feb. 4. It will pay Shaner a base salary of $182,800 per year. His performance will be reviewed annually.

Shaner, who lives in Shelby Township, brings experience that includes stints as a police officer and investigator and in the Marines. He is currently employed as executive director of instruction and technology at the Warren Consolidated School District, which has an enrollment of 15,600 students and a budget of $160 million, both similar in size to Rochester.

Shaner earned a Ph.D. from Oakland University.  His education career includes time as a high-school principal, middle-school assistant principal, history teacher and school crisis coordinator. In 2006 he was named the Michigan Association of Student Councils Principal of the Year.

Married with three young children, he said he plans to be very visible in the community and “do a lot of listening. …  A shared vision is very important.” After 13 years in the Warren district, he said he was interested in coming to Rochester because it’s a community he felt he could serve and become fully invested in.

“Rochester is one of those outstanding communities that has a great reputation with a school district that has an outstanding reputation,” he said.

This brings to an end a tumultuous year for the board of education, which saw the resignation of the previous superintendent, Frederick Clarke, after just one year. At the Jan. 24 meeting, board President Beth Talbert said that this time around, they did a lot of digging.

“Truly we have seven people here who could go into the spy business. We were not going to make a mistake,” she said. “We understand that this is the most important decision we make as a board.” She went on to praise retired Berkley school superintendent Tresa Zumsteg, who has been filling in as interim, “for showing us what an extraordinary superintendent looks like.”

Trustee Jane Pierobon said the past year has been stressful. She was a member of the committee that visited Shaner’s current district to learn more about him. “We’ve dug in really deep,” she said. “There was never a negative. … He’s almost like a superhero in disguise. He’s really what we need for our district.”

Though some questioned Shaner’s unconventional road to the top, board members found it refreshing and were not troubled by his lack of previous experience as a superintendent.

“Last year, when I served as board president, I really got a picture of what that job is,” said Trustee Jennifer Berwick. “I really got to see first-hand the strength that the superintendent has to have, and the importance of communication skills. …

“Ultimately, I think Dr. Shaner has the heart of a superintendent. I think his commitment to doing whatever it takes to make sure students reach their potential speaks to his passion. … I appreciate his diverse background because I think it gives him a little different perspective than somebody who’s only been in education their whole career.”

Trustee Pat Piskulich said he was moved by Shaner’s philosophy of servant leadership and his belief that “Every day you’ve got to do the right thing, because that’s one day out of a kid’s life.”

Talbert said she saw in him a quiet visionary. “I think he’ll help us put the past behind us. I think he’ll help us harness the talent of our staff. And I think he wants a world class education for every student, and that’s absolutely what I want as a board member. I was impressed and I would welcome the opportunity to work with him. “

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