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April 3, 2013

New RCS superintendent settles into role

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

Robert Shaner

ROCHESTER — New Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner has officially been on the job for a month and has been getting to know the district and the community since.

Shaner was chosen — from a pool of 26 candidates — as the successor to Fred Clarke, who resigned in September after 14 months on the job.
Shaner, who began his new post March 1, is no stranger to public education. He has served as executive director of instruction and technology for the Warren Consolidated School District for the past two years. Prior to that, he held various positions in the Warren Con district, including high school principal, middle school assistant principal, high school teacher and crisis coordinator.

“I think I’m always going to be a teacher at heart,” he said. “When you take a position like this, if you don’t have a passion for kids, it would be pretty hard to do the job.”
Shaner also served as a juvenile detective for the Troy Police Department for three years and served in the Marine Corps. He has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Oakland University, an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Wayne State University, a master’s degree in education from Central Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Detroit.

Shaner said he was drawn to the superintendent position in Rochester because of the reputations of the community and school district, which he said are both “outstanding.”
“The thing that’s most impressive about the greater Rochester community and the Rochester Community Schools is the commitment to trying to deliver the best educational product to the kids that they can get. Everyone is committed to it, is willing to advocate for the kids and is willing to do what’s best,” he said.

RCS Director of Community Relations Debbi Hartman said March is a great time for a new superintendent to begin because of the many school-related events and awards banquets. Thus far, according to Hartman, Shaner has hit the ground running.
“He was able to spend a little time here before his actual official start date to start to talk to people and get a feel for the district, so starting from day one, he was ready to go,” she said. “He has spent a lot of time out at buildings, getting to know the principals and staff.”

Over the past month, Shaner has spoken with various public stakeholders at community functions, met with the Board of Education, got acquainted with administrators and staff, and walked through the buildings in the district.
“People have been incredibly gracious and welcoming — from the Rochester Hills city government to the chamber of commerce, to the businesses community, to the school community,” he said.

Initially, Shaner said, his primary focus is to build relationships and trust.
“I want to make sure I build trust and confidence and get to know people,” he explained. “I think, until people get to know me and see that the words that come out of my mouth match my actions, that’s the most important thing.”

He is also in the process of working with the Board of Education to develop some entry goals.
“The first 90 to 100 days in a school district, for a superintendent — especially in an organization this large — are more about learning than action. Having said that, we do have to run the organization and move it forward, so I’m committed to doing that, as well,” he said. “People quite often ask me what my vision is for the school district, and my answer is it’s going to be our vision for our school community.”

To that end, sometime in the next three months, the district plans to begin working on a strategic plan — a process that officials said the public will be encouraged to participate in.

During his free time, Shaner said he enjoys spending time with his wife, their three children — who are 5, 9 and 11 years old — and his bird dog, Radar, named after the “MASH” TV show character Radar O’Reilly. Shaner describes himself as an avid outdoorsman and said he enjoys hunting, fishing and boating.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.