RCS narrows superintendent search to two finalists

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 16, 2013

ROCHESTER — After interviewing four semifinalists, the Rochester Community Schools Board of Education has chosen Dave Richards and Robert Shaner to move forward as finalists in the superintendent search process.

“We have two outstanding candidates,” said Board President Beth Talbert.

Before beginning the search process, the board developed a list of desired attributes for a new superintendent that they used to help select finalists during the interview process.

“The list is fairly long, but, in a nutshell, I think we are all looking for a visionary instructional leader — someone with very high integrity who embraces high standards. I think all of us are interested, and believe it’s important, that this person have an ability to help develop effective strategies for addressing achievement gaps, and of course, we always want someone who is a skilled communicator and visible in the schools and the broader community. Ultimately, to sum it up, I think we want someone who will challenge and inspire our staff to drive the district forward, and I think we have two finalists who are both capable of doing that,” Talbert said.

Richards and Shaner are “well credentialed,” according to Talbert — both have Ph.Ds, and have experience as building principals and administrators. She also noted that both finalists have records of being able to “successfully implement new initiatives,” which the board liked.

For the past two years, Richards has served as superintendent of Fraser Public Schools, which has an enrollment of 5,356 students and a $51 million budget. Before that, he was a high school principal in the same district from 2005-2010. He was the director of educational technology and information systems for Rochester Schools from 1995-2005. In his application, Roberts cited his reason for leaving Fraser as an “opportunity to return to Rochester.” Richards has a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Oakland University, an educational specialist degree in curriculum and instruction from Oakland University, a master’s degree in educational technology from Grand Valley State University and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Central Michigan University. He lives in Clinton Township.

“In the case of Dr. Richards, in his current district, he won an award for his double-block algebra program. He developed a performing arts academy and a one-on-one iPad initiative, so there is a demonstrated ability to not just have an idea, but to get it implemented and to get the resources to make that happen,” said Talbert.

Shaner has served as executive director of instruction and technology for the Warren Consolidated School District — which has an enrollment of 15,600 students and a $160 million budget — for the past two years. Prior to that, he held various positions in the Warren Consolidated School District, including high school principal, middle school assistant school principal, high school teacher and crisis coordinator. He also served as a juvenile detective for the Troy Police Department for three years and served in the Marine Corps. In his application, Shaner cited his reason for leaving Warren Consolidated as “seeking new opportunity.” Shaner 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. He lives in Shelby Township.

“In the case of Dr. Shaner, he had been a principal of a high school that was on the Michigan Department of Education’s high priority schools list and then was able to move that high school to where it met the Adequate Yearly Progress for three consecutive years, so again, clearly an ability to have a vision and to move something and be successful in doing that,” said Talbert.

The finalists’ complete applications, including their backgrounds, are can be found at www.rochester.k12.mi.us under “Superintendent Search.”

The board conducted reference checks and site visits to the two finalists’ districts during the week of Jan. 14, after press time.

“The board is looking forward to moving the process along,” said Debbi Hartman, community relations manager for RCS.

The next step in the process will take place Jan. 22-23, when the finalists will spend the day in the district, touring schools and meeting with parents, the community and staff members.

Community members will have an opportunity to attend an open house to meet both the candidates 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 22 in the Harrison Room.

“The community is welcome to come and talk to the two candidates informally,” Hartman said.

Final interviews for both candidates will be held from 5-9:45 p.m. Jan. 23.

The Board of Education will make its final decision Jan. 24 and will vote on entering into contract negotiations with the final superintendent candidate during the meeting that night.

“The contract negotiations will take a certain amount of time, and then that person will have to make arrangements in their district, so the start date is speculative at this point,” Hartman added.

Whoever is chosen will replace former RCS Superintendent Fred Clarke, who resigned in September after 14 months on the job to pursue his “true passion” — working to close the achievement gap in challenged districts, he said. Clarke’s annual salary was $172,000.

Since then, Tresa Zumsteg, former Oakland Intermediate School District deputy superintendent, has been acting as interim.

West Bloomfield School District Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Robert Martin and Durand Area Schools Superintendent Cindy Weber also interviewed for the position as semifinalists, but they were not chosen by the board to move forward.