Board President Michelle Bueltel congratulates Julie Alspach on her appointment to the Rochester Community School District Board of Education.

Board President Michelle Bueltel congratulates Julie Alspach on her appointment to the Rochester Community School District Board of Education.

Photo provided by Rochester Community Schools

Alspach joins RCS Board of Education

‘There is no secret that we’ve had some missteps and that we have wonderful people that are passionate on two different sides’

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 10, 2023


ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Rochester Community Schools Board of Education has selected Julie Alspach as its new trustee.

Alspach was one of five candidates — including Jayson Blake, Taara Donley, Chander Malhotra and Paul Wright — to be interviewed for the appointment May 2.

Alspach was appointed by the school board in a 4-2 vote to fill the trustee position vacated by Scott Muska, who resigned from his position April 10, noting in a statement, “The ferocity and pace of things in career and life have a gravitational pull that is preventing me from participating in a meaningful way. That is not deserving of our team nor the community in general.”

Alspach will serve on the board until Muska’s original term expires Dec. 31, 2024.

Trustees Andrew Weaver and Carol Beth Litkhouhi dissented.

Alspach is an RCS graduate and parent who has served as a student teacher and a substitute teacher and is currently the lead mentor of the Cyber Cats 5436 robotics team at Stoney Creek High School, where she has been volunteering for 10 years.

During the May 2 board meeting, Alspach explained why she would be an asset to the board.

“I have experience as a parent, as a student, as a student teacher, and a long-term sub in special education. I have a doctorate in educational leadership, so I’ve done a lot of work in the field of education. I am passionate about being on the board. I have campaigned and I have attended every board session and work session since then, so I have demonstrated my commitment. The reason I am so committed is because I love this town. I think it’s a great place to raise your children. I think we have a great school system, and I think I can add things to the board. I am very passionate about doing that work,” she said.

Alspach, who is currently the executive director of virtual learning for Detroit Public Schools, said she has “a lot of policy, operational and communication experience.”

“I do clearly understand that this is a different role, but having that experience gives me insight to what we can ask or what we can expect and how the school district should or can work — but I do clearly understand this is not an executive director position. This is a policy and board vision position,” she said. “The other aspect I bring to this board is I’ve spent years as a special education teacher, and I have a huge passion for students who are differently-abled. I choose to work with students in marginalized populations.”

Her top goals are to focus on student learning, on the district’s teaching staff and on working together as a community.

“Student learning is the reason I want to do the hard work of being on the board … and focusing on that student priority, that’s my biggest (goal),” she said.  “When we are supporting that student learning, we need to remember the teachers, the parapros, the bus drivers and the custodians who support that learning, and we always need to make sure that we are developing talent and respecting those professionals to make sure that they are able. You can’t expect student achievement if you don’t have the professionals in place to support that achievement.”

A big challenge the district is facing, according to Alspach, is “working together as a community.”

“There is no secret that we’ve had some missteps and that we have wonderful people that are passionate on two different sides. … I think that we need to bring our community together and heal it,” she said.

In appointing Alspach, board members cited her longtime commitment and involvement with RCS — which has included running for a seat on the board last November — as well as her professional background in education, including her experience as a special education educator.

“I appreciate that you have been committed to this district for years, the time you volunteer here, the fact that you’ve got experience in special education, as well as just the education field as a whole, and I think it’s important that you did run this last time, that you do take this seriously and that you have an interest in this district,” Board President Michelle Bueltel said during the meeting.

Vice President Barb Anness said she liked Alspach’s perspective as a professional educator and interest in focusing on students.

“I heard you mention students a lot, and for the work that we do at this table, that’s the center and that’s the focus of what we do. It’s a balancing act, and it can be challenging at times, but it is definitely something that we have to keep our eye on constantly,” Anness said.

Treasurer Kristin Bull said Alspach’s “passion” and “depth of experience in education” are incomparable, adding that she appreciates Alspach’s desire to focus on teaching and learning.

“I appreciate your perspective as a parent, and with your students and your focus on marginalized student populations, I think is really crucial right now,” she said.

Secretary Jessica Gupta said Alspach has demonstrated a commitment to the district through her ongoing volunteerism.

“She’s born and raised here. She’s highly invested. She ran for office in a tough election and was able to not let that get her down, in terms of her passion to do this work. She has been at every meeting since and stayed highly engaged. In addition, she brings a depth of knowledge and experience to the work and passion for our most vulnerable students and has put herself in challenging conversations and positions to be able to be the best version of herself for marginalized students. I think that is to be commended and something that I look for in a trustee,” she said.

Weaver, however, told the board prior to a vote that he would be opposing the motion to appoint Alspach.

“I think if our board is genuinely asking themselves are we adding a diverse point of view, do we not have someone on the board that basically brings the same thoughts, perspectives in many areas?” he said. “Those that have preached the loudest about DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), this would be a slap in the face to the entire community that you say you represent, so I will be opposing this nomination.”

Weaver said he preferred candidates Malhotra or Donley, who he said could step in and immediately provide resources to help with what he believes to be the board’s primary responsibilities — setting vision, policy and procedure for the district.

“I think he (Malhotra) expressed a lot of true diversity that no one on our board can bring to the table — to have that experience from outside our U.S. system and then from inside our U.S. system,” he explained.

Litkouhi also voted against the motion to appoint Alspach, noting that her top two candidates were also Malhotra and Donley.

“I do still think that the education perspective isn’t the perspective that we are lacking on the board right now. I think we really could use more help in terms of budget and legal help,” she said.

Litkouhi expressed that she was more interested in finding a candidate who could help the board with its “oversight issues,” the budget and someone who has a background in the sciences, data analysis and legal expertise.

“I think we could benefit from those skill sets, because as far as I know, we don’t have a lot of that on the board. I also appreciate some people coming from very different backgrounds that could add a different kind of perspective — that could add a minority voice that we might not have had before too,” she said.