Robert Shaner, the controversial superintendent of Rochester Community Schools, resigned on Wednesday, according to a social media post from RCS School Board President Michelle Bueltel.
“I am writing to inform you about an important development within our school district. RCS Superintendent, Dr. Robert Shaner, who has been on leave since late March, decided to resign from his position effective immediately,” Bueltel wrote.
Shaner became a controversial lightning rod for RCS after revelations surfaced that school employees were monitoring parents’ social media posts and compiling dossiers of parents and families.
School employees even called parents’ employers in retaliation for their opposition to the decision to keep RCS schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in one instance of a parent losing her job. The mother, Elena Diverno, sued the school and won $116,209.64 and $72,540.36 for attorneys fees.
Under Shaner’s leadership, RCS also prompted a lawsuit filed by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy that remains ongoing. Representing parent Carol Beth Litkhouli, the MCPP alleges RCS violated state transparency laws when it refused to provide gender and ethnic studies curriculum materials to Litkhouli’s Freedom of Information Act requests.
“Schools must make curricula available to parents under Michigan law,” Steve Delie, MCPP director of open government and transparency, said in March 2022. “Despite this, Rochester schools has repeatedly failed to fulfill this legal obligation. It shouldn’t take months of back and forth, hundreds of dollars and a lawsuit just to see what is being taught in your community.”
Last December, the Oakland County Circuit Court ruled that public school teachers are not considered public bodies and do not have to provide materials under FOIA requests. The MCPP is in the midst of an appeal to The Michigan Court of Appeals. MCPP Communications Director Holly Wetzel told The Midwesterner they anticipate an RCS response brief will be filed by Thursday, Aug. 3.
“We requested oral arguments and hope those arguments will be heard in the coming months,” Wetzel said.
Bueltel lauded Shaner’s 10-year tenure as superintendent.
“Over the last 10 years, Dr. 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.”
That assessment isn’t shared by many parents. Bueltel’s letter elicited many negative comments from irate parents.
“It’s about time that he resigned,” reads a post from an individual identifying herself as Jess Rene. “The inappropriate conduct under his leadership, as well as a few members of the RCS Board of Education, have reached all across the state of Michigan. It has significantly given a blackeye to the district. There needs to be more professional conduct, as well as collaboration, without isolation. In regards to the message from the board president and also some of the statements made here, why are we not seeing those members of the community coming to board meetings in support of Dr. Shaner and his action? It appears that the statement from the board president was done in isolation without collaboration. Shocker.”
Another post, from an account named Stephanie Williams VanDaele, was equally caustic.
“I have been asking for his resignation for over two years,” she wrote. “Now, I just hope that no other District in this nation has to deal with his brittle temperament and lack of understanding of parental rights. Hopefully, Bob Shaner will fade away, to a place where he can cause no more harm to anyone.”