RCS superintendent resigns following leave of absence

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 2, 2023

 Superintendent Robert Shaner has resigned.

Superintendent Robert Shaner has resigned.

Photo provided by Rochester Community Schools


Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner has resigned from his position, according to Board of Education President Michelle Bueltel.

The move — which Bueltel said was “effective immediately” in an Aug. 2 email — comes months after Shaner took a leave of absence in late spring.

At that time, Bueltel sent an April 3 email to district parents sharing that Shaner was “taking a temporary leave of absence.” The reason for the leave was not addressed by the district.

Deputy Superintendent Debi Fragomeni has served as acting superintendent in his absence.

The next time Bueltel addressed parents in an email regarding Shaner’s status of employment was on Aug. 2, when she announced Shaner’s resignation.

“I understand that this transition may evoke questions and concerns within our community. We have a wonderful team of administrators that will ensure continuity and stability. As the Board of Education begins to discuss the next steps in this transition, we will keep the community informed,” Bueltel said in the email.

Shaner has served as the district’s superintendent since 2013, receiving a $307,125 salary in 2022, according to Michigan’s Government Salary Database. 

Over the last 10 years, Bueltel said, Shaner oversaw numerous activities that “enhanced the quality of education in our district.” 

“He promoted a culture of inclusivity, diversity and belonging within our schools. Dr. Shaner also led bond and sinking fund initiatives that allowed us to update our buildings and the district's technology infrastructure and to implement important safety and security measures. His contributions will be remembered and appreciated for years to come,” she said in the email. “I am grateful for Dr. Shaner’s service and wish him the best.”

Bueltel said that Fragomeni will continue to serve as acting superintendent until further notice. 

Critics of Shaner have been asking the Board of Education to take disciplinary action against him, Fragomeni and others following litigation filed by district parent Elena Dinverno. 

Dinverno, of Rochester Hills, said district officials restricted her right to free speech after she “began advocating for the reopening of schools” in two Facebook groups during the 2020-21 school year. She said she lost her job after the district called her employer and reportedly claimed that Dinverno’s social media advocacy and criticism of the school district was “alarming, threatening and posed a danger to the district and the students’ well-being,” according to the lawsuit. 

In a court filing, the district acknowledged that Fragomeni made a call, but denied any wrongdoing. The district ultimately agreed to pay nearly $190,000 to settle the lawsuit, records show.

Lori Grein, the executive director of strategic communications for RCS, said in an emailed statement that the parties “mutually agreed to resolve the matter.” 

“They also agreed as part of the settlement that the only public comment they would make is that they agreed to settle the matter; consequently, the district is not able to discuss it,” the statement said.

While the reason for his leave was not disclosed, according to the district’s website, to be eligible for Family Medical Leave Act leave, employees must have been employed by Rochester Community Schools for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours during the 12-month period preceding the commencement of the leave. Employees, according to the district’s website, may take a leave of absence for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, and to care for a newborn, a spouse, a child or a parent who has a serious health condition; when the employee’s own serious health condition renders the employee incapable of performing the functions of his or her job; or Military Family Leave Entitlements.

If the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, the district’s website states they may request a personal or medical leave of absence. Medical and personal leaves of absences require the employee to follow the same instructions and provide the same documentation.

Shaner could not immediately be reached for comment.

The district’s first day of school for the 2023-2024 school year is Aug. 28.