Nicholas Russo selected as new RCS superintendent, pending negotiations

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 5, 2024


The Rochester Community Schools district has selected a new leader.

The RCS Board of Education voted 4-3 to offer the superintendent position to Nicholas Russo April 3. Board members Jayson Blake, Carol Beth Litkouhi and Andrew Weaver voted against the motion, all citing concerns with Russo’s lack of experience as a superintendent.

Later, in a separate motion, the board voted unanimously to put its full support behind the selection of Russo as its next superintendent, conveying “a willingness to come together as a board and commit to the success of the district’s future leader,” according to RCS officials.

RCS Board of Education Vice President Barb Anness said hiring a superintendent is one of the most important jobs of the school board. 

“As an individual member, I have my personal opinion and perspective regarding what is important when hiring one; however, our board tonight speaks as one, and that voice should always be focused on a positive direction with a future focused on all the students, educators and community we serve,” Anness said during the meeting.

Russo was selected from a pool of 20 candidates, which was eventually narrowed down to three finalists — including Russo, Bay City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Bigelow and Fraser Public Schools Superintendent Carrie Wozniak.

Russo brings over 26 years of leadership in education, most recently serving as assistant superintendent of human resources for Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. Prior to that, he served as a principal in the Bloomfield Hills and Utica Community Schools districts. Russo holds an educational specialist degree in executive leadership from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Wayne State University and a Bachelor Degree in education from Michigan State University. 

Anness said she appreciated Russo’s philosophical outlook, approach to building relationships, preparedness to use the strategic plan to address individual learning needs, experience in various educational settings, human resource experience and candid demeanor while interacting with students.

“I feel Mr. Russo is the one to provide the leadership and stability needed at this time,” said Anness.

Board Secretary Jessica Gupta said Russo offers a “dynamic combination of leadership,” having been a teacher, a principal and now an assistant superintendent of human resources, bringing a diversity of relevant experience to the superintendent position. 

“He has a demonstrated track record of improving literacy outcomes in lower elementary, experience in an (International Baccalaureate) environment, an interest in non-traditional secondary and post-secondary pathways, and a passion to build strong relationships to work together productively as a team, all of which would be great assets to our district in the future,” said Gupta.

President Michelle Bueltel said she found Russo to be “the most personable and relatable,” adding that he was “genuine,” had “a sense of humor” and a “desire to positively impact the district.”

“I liked that he has worked in larger districts, has been a building administrator at an IB school and has worked with and been successful with interest-based bargaining. As he visited buildings, it was surprising to see how many of the staff he already knew and how well he interacted with those he did not. Mr. Russo has a broad network that I believe would serve him well as he moves into the role of superintendent,” Bueltel said.

Former RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner resigned in August of 2023 after serving as the district’s superintendent since 2013. Since then, John Silveri, a retired superintendent from Waterford Public Schools, who did not pursue the Rochester superintendent position, has assumed the superintendent role on an interim basis.

The formal search for Rochester Community Schools’s new superintendent began in November of 2023 and was conducted by Ray & Associates. During the search process, the salary range for the positions was posted to be in the range of $225,000-$275,000, plus a comprehensive benefit package, although the district noted the final salary would be “based upon proven experience, qualifications and meeting Board of Education criteria.”

If negotiations are successful, the new superintendent’s contract will be brought to the board for approval.

“We look forward to having a contract that we’ll be able to approve in the near future,” said Bueltel.