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Take advantage of summer learning!

Summer learning programs are underway. Enroll now!

RCS students can strengthen academic skills through options that include:

  • STEAM and Lit Camp, grades K-5, July 15-Aug. 1
  • Summer Lit Camp, grades K-2, July 8-11
  • Middle school math, grades 7-8, July 29-Aug. 1; Aug 5-8
  • Secondary summer learning, grades 6-12, online June 27-July 12 and July 15-25 or in person July 1-12
  • Summer Music Theatre, grades 7-12 and 2024 graduates, June 12-July 21

CLICK HERE to learn more. 

Tri-High Charity Week raises over $93,000
Each year, Rochester Community Schools student council leaders from Adams, Rochester and Stoney Creek high schools organize a combined Charity Week to raise money for a cause that is important to them.
 
From March 1-8, 2024, RCS high schools participated in fundraisers and friendly competitions, raising $93,437.96 for Humble Design, a local nonprofit organization that changes lives by custom designing and fully furnishing home interiors for individuals, families and veterans emerging from homelessness.
 
“All of you working together are raising up our community,” said Chris Tull, executive director of Humble Design. “When we furnish a home for a family, we are not only impacting that family, we are impacting the block they live on, that neighborhood, and the whole community.”
 
Charity Week fundraising activities included school pep assemblies, spirit days, charity dinners, pancake breakfasts, a duck race, dodgeball tournament, semiformal dance, food auctions, raffles and more.
 
“It’s amazing to see how creative and passionate our students get when they are coming up with new ways to raise money for a great cause,” said Rochester High School Principal Josh Wrinkle.
 
Students from each high school pitch their charity ideas at a meeting of all three student government groups. They work together to do their research and vote on a winning charity. Students felt strongly connected to Humble Design and the opportunity to help people in need.
 
“Charity Week is one of the coolest events we organize,” said Hector Guzman, Stoney Creek student. “It’s an opportunity to put our rivalries aside and come together from all three schools for a common goal.”
 
Past Charity Week recipients include the Henry Ford Health Center for Living Donation, Yellow Ribbon Fund, ShelterBox USA, Common Ground and Neighborhood House.
 
Humble Design’s resources and services provide life-changing space, where individuals can experience safety, warmth and comfort. The Humble Design website notes, “We turn moving in – into moving forward.”
 
Tull stated that the RCS student contribution is the largest single donation of its kind that Humble Design has ever received.
 
“Nelson Mandela often used the word, Ubuntu, which means, I am because you are. When I see who our students and staff are and what they’ve accomplished and provided to our district, our community and Humble Design, I know that our future is in good hands,” said Debi Fragomeni, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning. “They are making a difference.”
Kelley Cusmano, Michigan Teacher of the Year!

Rochester Community Schools teacher, Kelley Cusmano, is the 2024-25 Michigan Teacher of the Year! State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice surprised Ms. Cusmano with the top honor during an assembly in front of approximately 1,600 students and her colleagues at Rochester High School.

“It’s important for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to recognize the outstanding work that our teachers do and to hear their voices as we work collectively to make our schools even better,” Dr. Rice said. “Ms. Cusmano is going to be a strong representative of our teachers.”

The MDE organizes the Teacher of the Year program to honor and elevate the voices of teachers. Honorees will have the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge as they work with stakeholders to strengthen Michigan’s public schools for students and educators.

“Kelley is truly deserving of the Teacher of the Year award, and we are proud of her for earning this honor. Kelley is passionate, nurturing and relentless in her efforts to support our students. She is always looking for ways to motivate her students to achieve more than they ever thought they could,” said Josh Wrinkle, Rochester High School principal.

In April, MDE announced that 10 Michigan educators were selected as Regional Teachers of the Year. Cusmano represented region 9. A panel of statewide education stakeholders then interviewed the finalists before selecting Cusmano as Michigan’s Teacher of the Year.

“We are excited to celebrate Kelley. As Michigan Teacher of the Year, Kelley represents what is best about being an educator. With an understanding heart, a passion for teaching and learning, and the ability to build interpersonal relationships with students, staff and the community, she is truly making a difference growing and developing our future leaders,” said Executive Director of Secondary Education Dr. Neil DeLuca.

Ms. Cusmano has been an educator for more than 18 years. She earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, a bachelor’s degree in English and an administrative K-12 certificate, all from Michigan State University.

Ms. Cusmano joined RCS in 2008 as an English Language Arts teacher at Rochester High School. The following year, she accepted the additional role as student council advisor – a position that she has embraced for the past 15 years. 

“As a student council advisor, Kelley influences our school culture and climate by building positive relationships that are the foundation for all learning,” said Mr. Wrinkle. "The future of education is strong because of dedicated teachers like Kelley.

According to MDE, the Michigan Teacher of the Year has a seat at the state board of education table as a non-voting member, attends several national conferences with fellow teachers of the year from other U.S. states and territories, and will be Michigan’s candidate for National Teacher of the Year recognition.

“Rochester Community Schools is honored to celebrate Kelley Cusmano as Michigan’s Teacher of the Year. In this role, Kelley has the opportunity to expand her reach when advocating for students and the teaching profession. We couldn’t be more proud,” said RCS Interim Superintendent John Silveri.

Welcome Superintendent Nicholas Russo!
The Board of Education of the Rochester Community School District voted on Monday, April 8, to approve the superintendent contract for Nicholas Russo.
 
Mr. Russo will begin his term as superintendent on Monday, July 1, 2024.
 
“As an experienced teacher, principal and executive administrator, Mr. Russo has a demonstrated track record of excellence. Through a steadfast commitment to serving all RCS students, a passionate approach to building relationships, an intentional focus on business operations, and an emphasis on our strategic plan, we are confident that Mr. Russo can lead our district to new heights,” said Michelle Bueltel, board president.
 
Mr. Russo brings over 26 years of educational leadership experience to Rochester Community Schools. Prior positions include serving as the assistant superintendent of human resources at Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, principal of Conant Elementary in the Bloomfield Hills School District, and principal of Beacon Tree and Jack Harvey Elementary in the Utica Community School District.
 
Mr. Russo earned an educational specialist degree in executive leadership from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree in education from Michigan State University. He is a graduate of the Michigan Leadership Institute’s SUPES Academy and holds a Michigan Central Office certificate, among others.  
 
Mr. Russo states that his leadership approach “prioritizes collaboration, inclusivity and responsiveness to the needs of students and the community,” and he is committed to “fostering environments where both students and staff can thrive, advocating strongly for inclusion and equal access for all.”
 
"I am deeply honored and excited to lead a teaching and learning community that values tradition, student achievement and excellence. Working alongside dedicated Rochester Community School District teachers, administrators, staff, parents, caregivers and community partners is an incredible opportunity,” said Russo. “Together, we can build strong relationships that lay the foundation for student success.”
District calendar for the 2024-25 school year

Rochester Community Schools complete calendar for the 2024-25 school year is available on the district website. A printable copy can be accessed by clicking on the following link: 2024-2025RCSCalendar.pdf

Dates for the district calendar are determined through a collective bargaining process between Rochester Community Schools and the Rochester Education Association. School-specific information will be posted on the district website as updates become available.

RCS transcends its history of excellence
Rochester Community Schools celebrates excellence while continuously enhancing programs and services to meet the needs of all district learners.

“Rochester Community Schools is an amazing district with incredible students, dedicated and talented staff members, supportive families and collaborative community partners. We work tirelessly to ensure students are consistently engaged in activities that stimulate their learning and enhance their overall experience, which includes a feeling of belonging,” said Interim Superintendent John Silveri.

The district continues to transcend its history of excellence by offering additional programs and services that enrich the teaching and learning environment. Some of the recent updates include investing in social-emotional supports, offering free pre-kindergarten programs, establishing a dual enrollment scholarship fund, enhancing curriculum, and utilizing state-of-the-art technology.

Investing in enhanced support services. A $1.7 million investment ensured seven additional school counselors and eight academic interventionists are available to help students overcome challenges and achieve their personal best. These qualified professionals work alongside teachers, administrators, staff and families to provide multi-tiered systems of support including individualized coaching, collaboration and intervention for students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12.

“There are many factors that can influence a child’s ability to learn,” said Cory Heitsch, assistant superintendent of early childhood and elementary education. “Expanded educational teams are working with classroom teachers and families to increase resources and design individualized supports to meet the needs of each student.”

Free pre-K for four-year-old students. Rochester Community Schools is announcing free pre-kindergarten services for four-year-old children through the Michigan Department of Education’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). For the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school year, the district will increase free pre-K slots; extend instructional hours to be consistent with full-day school calendar schedules; ensure a highly qualified and credentialed teaching staff; and potentially save eligible families up to $10,000 in tuition.

“RCS has a long history of providing high-quality pre-K programming for three- and four-year-old children,” said Heitsch. “The GSRP expansion will help increase access, affordability and instructional time, while supporting student growth and readiness.”

Dual enrollment scholarship fund. To provide students with additional opportunities to complete college courses while still in high school, RCS offers dual enrollment. Currently, more than 50 RCS high school students are enrolled in the program. The Michigan Department of Education administers the dual enrollment program across the state and provides a set amount of funding per student each semester.

Through a partnership with the Rochester Community Schools Foundation, a dual enrollment scholarship fund was established this past year to offset tuition costs at Oakland University and ensure even more students have access to these transformative educational experiences.

Bridges in Mathematics. Elementary students across the district are developing mathematical mindsets through the implementation of the district’s comprehensive K–5 curriculum resource, Bridges in Mathematics. This inquiry-based, student-centered curriculum helps young learners understand mathematical concepts and solve complex problems relatable to the world around them using visuals and hands-on manipulatives.

3D anatomy tables. Rochester Community Schools brings state-of-the art technology to advance studies in anatomy and biology, thanks to a collaborative effort between the RCS Foundation, career readiness and curriculum. Asclepius is a virtual dissection table that serves as a medical teaching aid, most often at the university level. Through detailed 3D anatomy structures, this tool provides students with the ability to visualize the complexities of the human body and perform dissections.

State of the district

It’s an exciting time for Rochester Community Schools as the district embarks on a new strategic planning process and searches for a new superintendent to lead the charge.

Fiscal stewardship. Maintaining fiscal stewardship is critically important to the district’s mission of providing a quality education. The Rochester Community Schools budget includes a balanced and equitable spending plan that is sustainable, promotes growth, and ensures high-quality student programming.

With modest state funding and the fourth-lowest school tax rate in the county, Rochester Community Schools maximizes opportunities to ensure students excel at the highest levels. To help provide additional resources, the district continues to pursue grant opportunities that support student and staff safety, elementary literacy and math education, mental health, and teacher retention.

For the seventh consecutive year, Rochester Community Schools was presented with the prestigious Association of School Business Officials International Meritorious Budget Award (MBA). The MBA recognizes excellence in school budget presentation and is conferred only to school districts whose budgets have undergone a rigorous review by finance professionals and have met or exceeded the program’s stringent criteria.

Rochester Community Schools was one of only three districts in the state of Michigan and one of 139 districts across the United States and Canada to be honored as a 2022-23 MBA recipient. The full listing for 2023-24 has not yet been released.

Superintendent search. The process of searching for a new superintendent is underway. Opportunities have already been provided for board input and stakeholder engagement. The position has been posted and the process of selecting applicants is progressing. Interviews will follow before the board selects the best person to lead Rochester Community Schools into the future.

“The superintendent plays a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of the community. We aim to find an individual who not only possesses the necessary skills and qualifications but also embodies the values that make our district exceptional,” said Michelle Bueltel, Board of Education president.

John Silveri is serving as the interim superintendent through June 2024. The goal will be to begin the 2024-25 school year with long-term leadership in place at the superintendent level.

“I have called Rochester home for the past 15 years, so it is even more meaningful to lead our school district, serving as a short-term bridge between your former and future superintendent,” said Silveri.

Strategic planning. Rochester Community Schools has a rich history of excellence that has been strengthened over time through the strategic planning process. Through a commonly understood path of action, strategic planning can create positive outcomes that ensure equitable practices, innovative work and engaged communities.

“We are excited to be fully engaged in the strategic planning process,” said Barb Anness, Board of Education vice president. “Through a shared vision and measurable goals and objectives, we will continue to build upon our world-class educational system at Rochester Community Schools.”

Non-homestead operating millage. To continue excellence in education, the district is grateful for the voters who overwhelmingly elected to approve a non-homestead operating millage proposal. This levy ensures the district can maintain its current full per-pupil revenue of $9,608. If the millage proposal did not pass, RCS per-pupil funding would have fallen to $8,060, which equates to a loss of approximately $24.5 million per year or 10.7 percent of current budgeted general fund revenues.

The community has demonstrated its commitment to education by approving the millage proposal.

“I believe there is nothing more important than the education of our children. It’s truly an honor to live and work in a community that places such a high priority on helping our students succeed now and into the future,” said Silveri. “Receiving our full per-pupil funding set by the state will help ensure resources are available so we can continue to provide the highest quality public education possible.”
RCS students participate in dual enrolled college courses

More than 50 RCS high school students are taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunities to advance their education and complete college courses at Oakland University, Oakland Community College and online—while they are still in high school.

Through these learning partnerships, students are able to maximize requirements, earning credits that count toward their high school diploma through the Michigan Merit Curriculum, while also earning college credits at the same time.

“Dual enrollment allows our students to engage in a more rigorous academic environment, experience higher education early on, and prepare themselves for future academic pursuits,” said Neil DeLuca, executive director of secondary education.

Typically, students access dual enrollment when they have completed all Rochester Community Schools course opportunities in a particular subject area. This semester, students are enrolled in college level courses including calculus III, oriented programming, French creative writing and advanced Spanish grammar.

“Dual enrollment offers the unique advantage of experiencing college-level coursework while still in high school, providing students with a head start on their academic journey,” said Taylor Antoski, an RCS teacher who helped develop a partnership with Oakland University to extend world language education from RCS to the university level. Some classes offer Oakland teachers onsite at RCS high schools and others have RCS students attending at the college campus in person during the school day.

RCS students who begin taking world language courses when first offered in seventh grade could complete

Advanced Placement® world language and culture in eleventh grade within the district. Additional dual enrollment options have been beneficial for individuals who continue to advance their world language learning and prepare for successful college work and careers.

The Michigan Department of Education administers the dual enrollment program across the state and provides a set amount of funding per student each semester, which is paid through Michigan Student Aid, free of charge to students. Semester-long courses at Oakland Community College are generally covered in full by this funding.

Additional Oakland University tuition costs can be offset through the Rochester Community Schools Foundation dual enrollment scholarship fund, which helps reduce financial barriers and ensure that more students have access to these transformative educational experiences.

“Dual enrollment allowed me to get a taste of what college-level Spanish is like and to understand if it’s going to be a good fit for me,” one high school senior said. “It has made me more well-rounded and better prepared for the future.”

New math curriculum for young learners

“It’s easier to learn math when I can see it, instead of just imagining it in my head,” said fifth-graders at Hugger Elementary. Their teacher, Deborah Grimes, agrees.

While calculating the area of rectangles and squares, elementary students use base ten blocks to physically build shapes. “I’m multiplying length times height, and I know how to do that,” one student said. “But the blocks are visual, so I can actually see what that means. It’s helpful.”

Manipulatives let students represent and interpret numbers, shapes and patterns to make sense of math. This is a key element of the district’s newly adopted Bridges in Mathematics curriculum, an inquiry-based and student-centered framework that helps young learners develop mathematical reasoning that is relatable to the world around them.

In talking about parts of the whole, RCS educators make lessons tangible and applicable. They teach fractions, decimals and percentages in terms of money. For example, half of a dollar is 50 cents; 20 percent of a hundred dollars is $20; and so on.

“Using make-believe coins and cardboard bills brings the lesson to life so we can understand,” one student said. “It makes sense to us.”

“The clock is also a useful teaching tool for fractions,” Grimes said. “Students can understand that 30/60 is half an hour and 15/60 is the same as 15 minutes. They have also gotten really good at multiples of 60 when calculating how long until recess.”

Across grade levels, the curriculum department continues to strengthen mathematics education, using calendar grids, Number Corner, challenge games, visual models and group activities that share multiple strategies for problem-solving.

Curriculum consultants, instructional coaches and interventionists emphasize that learning math is both an individual and social activity. Students often work in pairs and small groups to gather evidence, share results and explain their thinking.

“We are building fluency for each child and we sup- port productive struggle in learning mathematics,” said Mike Gittner, district math coach. “Our growth mindset is at work.”

During a recent professional development work- shop, elementary special education teachers partnered with general education colleagues to deepen learning about Bridges intervention resources to offer support and meet the needs of all students.

Kim Mroczek, district math coach said, “We are encouraging students and educators to pose purposeful questions and facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse to become better problem-solvers.”

Scholars take advantage of AP Capstone program

Highly motivated Rochester Community Schools scholars in the AP Capstone Diploma™ Program are developing critical thinking and research skills to prepare them for success in their academic careers and beyond. 

RCS senior Caroline Bull had a perfect score on the AP Research exam—an honor achieved by only 357 students across the globe.

AP Capstone is a two-year College Board diploma program that offers high school students two rigorous yearlong courses: AP Seminar and AP Research. These courses develop students’ skills in research, analysis, evidence-based arguments, collaboration, writing, presenting and college-readiness.

“AP Capstone students enhance their academic skills for college readiness,” said Kara Sears, Rochester High School teacher. “They learn to develop well-reasoned arguments and present their findings clearly and concisely for a smooth transition to higher education.”

Importantly, students have the freedom to explore personal interests through research-intensive investigations of real-world problems, perspectives and solutions.

“It’s empowering to explore our own passions and topics that interest us,” one student said. “I’m not just growing as a scholar; I’m growing as a person.”

Some of the research topics chosen by students include: deforestation, nanotechnology development and energy consumption in Rochester Hills, artificial intelligence in the music industry, political maturity of adolescents, homelessness, practices to curb overfishing and inefficient transportation infrastructure caused by suburban sprawl.

“AP Capstone offers exceptional personal growth and development,” said Adams High School teacher Allie Danielson. “Students have an understanding of their role as citizens of a global community who are empowered to make positive improvements.”

Topics of interest range across many fields to cover clinical research, behavioral studies, social sciences, economics, technology, popular culture and more. One student, who is studying data collection and privacy associated with the social media activity of adolescents, hopes the evidence he presents will help his own friends and class- mates think more critically about their actions.

The Class of 2023 celebrated its inaugural AP Capstone graduates. RCS had 91 students earn the AP Capstone Diploma, receiving scores of three or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP exams from the College Board.

This year, 145 students at all three RCS high schools are participating in the rigorous program.

Stoney Creek teacher Daniel Bliss said, “We are proud of our students for going above and be- yond to embark on this impressive pathway that makes college-level learning deeply personal and impactful.”

Kindergarten students develop a love for learning!

Rochester Community Schools is excited to welcome Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and Kindergarten students for the 2024-25 school year.

Transitional Kindergarten is for students turning 5 years old between June 1 and Dec 1.

For more information, families are encouraged to visit the district's TK/K webpage.

Free pre-K 4 programs for children in RCS

The Michigan Department of Education’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) has expanded to increase early education options for families. GSRP is the nationally recognized state-funded preschool program offering kindergarten preparation for four-year-old children.

With enhanced GSRP state funding for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school year, Rochester Community Schools will increase free pre-K slots; extend instructional hours to be consistent with full-day school calendar schedules; ensure a highly qualified and credentialed teaching staff; and potentially save eligible families approximately $10,000 per year in tuition costs.

“RCS has a long history of providing high-quality pre-K programming for three- and four-year-old children,” said Cory Heitsch, assistant superintendent of early childhood and elementary education. “The GSRP expansion will better meet the needs of families by increasing access, affordability and instructional time, while supporting student growth and kindergarten readiness.”

All GSRP programs work cooperatively with their intermediate school district and must adhere strictly to state standards for student-teacher ratios, early childhood specialist qualifications and classroom support plans.

Eligibility for free GSRP preschool is primarily determined based on family household income; thresholds have been lowered to allow access for more families. For the 2023-24 program year, GSRP eligibility is offered to households making up to 300% of the federal poverty level. The state determines income eligibility guidelines and families may find the federal poverty level calculator tool to be helpful when making estimations.

GSRP eligibility also requires that students reside in the state of Michigan, turn four years of age on or before Sept. 1 of the school year for which they are enrolling, and meet the household income requirements. Consideration is given to children with a qualifying IEP and children who are homeless or in foster care.

Families who believe they may qualify for free four-year-old preschool are encouraged to complete an INTEREST FORM NOW and can expect prompt follow-up. Click or copy and paste this link: https://forms.gle/6k4skBNU2434YYU67.

RCS GSRP programs for the 2024-25 school year are expected to be located at Hampton Elementary School (530 Hampton Circle, Rochester Hills) and Brewster Elementary School (1535 Brewster Road, Rochester Hills). GSRP registration is scheduled to open on Jan. 15, 2024, and remain open until all slots are filled. By completing an interest form in advance, families can complete documentation and have a better understanding of the program prior to registration.

RCS pre-K families with three- and four-year-old children can begin registration for the 2024-25 school year on March 4 for currently enrolled families and March 18 for new families. Additional information on RCS pre-K programs can be found on the district website or by visiting rochester.k12.mi.us, then selecting schools, district specialized, and pre-K.

Additional resources can be found below.

· Michigan Department of Education announcement: Expansions to GSRP will benefit thousands of children and families (Aug. 16, 2023)

· Families can visit www.mifreepreschool.org to find a GSRP near them, or they may contact their local intermediate school district.

· The GSRP program meets all 10 quality benchmarks recommended by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Quality benchmarks include having strong teacher credentials, low staff-child ratios, smaller class sizes, and having a research-based curriculum.

· The high-quality early education/GSRP has continued to support Goal 1 of the state’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan to expand early childhood learning opportunities.

Strategic Planning 2029 is underway
Strategic Planning graphic
Rochester Community Schools has a rich history of excellence that has been strengthened over time through the strategic planning process.
 
To ensure RCS continues to provide high-quality education and innovative learning opportunities for all students, the Board of Education selected G&D Associates to serve as the facilitator for the next iteration of the strategic plan.
 
G&D continues to collaborate with all stakeholders to provide a roadmap for ongoing success. The process includes community engagement; data synthesis; vision development; strategic planning; implementation and adjustment as the system evolves.
 
Community engagement provides a voice for all stakeholders. Opportunities are leveraged through a community survey; focus groups; and a community forum.
 
To date, more than 6,000 RCS students, staff, family and community partners have already participated in this segment of the strategic planning process.
 
“The main purpose of the survey was to identify themes from multiple perspectives,” said Scott Fuller, G&D Associates facilitator. “It’s important to remember that the information was a snapshot of perception and the data will be utilized as one of several inputs for the development of the district’s vision for the future and strategic plan.”
 
Data synthesis ensures common outcomes, expectations and actions during the development of the strategic plan to prioritize the work of the organization.
 
Vision development paints a picture of what the organization will look like in the near future and serves as an actionable document that articulates direction, mission and guiding principles.
 
The strategic plan is drawn from the vision and outlines prioritized goals and objectives, while detailing specific actions as to how the district would realize its vision in manageable and measurable ways.
 
Through a commonly understood path of action, strategic planning can create positive outcomes that ensure equitable practices, innovative work and engaged communities.
 
“We are excited to be fully engaged in the strategic planning process,” said Barb Anness, Board of Education vice president. “Through a shared vision and measurable goals and objectives, we will continue to build upon our world-class educational system at Rochester Community Schools.”
 
Increased support services help RCS students succeed
A $1.7 million investment in additional support staff is helping Rochester Community Schools meet the comprehensive needs of students and raise their level of academic and personal success.
 
With the addition of seven new school counselors and eight academic interventionists across the district, RCS educational teams are better equipped to help students overcome challenges in the classroom and achieve their personal goals. These qualified professionals work alongside teachers, administrators, staff and families to provide multi-tiered systems of support including individualized coaching, collaboration and intervention for students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12.
 
Research shows that learning is impacted by many factors including students’ health, environment, cognitive abilities and previous experiences,” said Cory Heitsch, assistant superintendent of early childhood and elementary education. “Expanded educational teams are working with classroom teachers and families to increase resources and design individualized support programs that best fit the academic and social-emotional needs of each student.”
 
Building connections
“It’s important to build connections in school,” said Jessica Book, Stoney Creek High School teacher and interventionist. “Experience has shown and experts agree that students who are more connected to school are more motivated and more likely to find academic and personal success,” Book said. “This goes beyond grades. We may help students complete club applications that suit their interests. We may suggest service organizations or volunteer opportunities that build peer relationships and give a sense of gratification in helping others. These activities outside the classroom can build self-esteem and self-reliance which are important to overall satisfaction and success.
 
“It’s not enough for students to simply show up each day. We want school to be meaningful and engaging. We want each student to know that we care about them; we want them to be here. We help them make concrete connections between their school work and life goals.”
 
Supporting growth in learning and well-being
Academic resource centers in RCS middle schools and high schools provide a smaller learning community for students who want some one-to-one support. This benefit is available to all students, whether they need temporary, drop-in, situational help or more permanent, scheduled support. 
 
Students may visit resource centers to catch up on homework after an absence, utilize tutoring on a difficult assignment, work with a paraeducator on time management, access testing accommodations to ease stress, have a regularly scheduled hour for academic support, and a range of other individualized services.
 
“Our middle schools are busy, dynamic places,” said Jennifer Windeler, West Middle School interventionist. “Some students just need a quiet spot between challenging classes to regroup. We provide that.”
 
Working closely with learning consultants, counselors and classroom teachers, Windeler and other district professionals advocate for specialized student needs. “We help students so they can access resources and close learning gaps. We review their schedules, check homework, ease stress, build life skills and most importantly, make sure that each individual is seen, heard and cared for.”
 
Counseling teams nurture potential
During these foundational TK-12 learning years, school counselors have a positive impact on students by collaborating with school staff, families and the community to create safe and respectful learning environments. RCS counselors enhance student learning through academic, career and social-emotional development.
 
“Hiring additional school counselors helps lighten caseloads, increasing the level of direct service that can be provided to students, including personalized guidance, academic planning, need-based counseling and crisis intervention,” said Neil DeLuca, executive director of secondary education.
 
Early interventions maximize success
By recognizing struggles and personalizing learning before a child falls behind, school teams help fill gaps to ensure that students are progressing and developing. This begins early in elementary school where educators help coordinate interventions to support core instruction and well-being.
 
“Even a little support can produce big gains in giving students the boost they need,” said Robert Zajac, teacher at McGregor Elementary. Zajac also directs a summer literacy and math camp, which served 140 students last summer in a flexible, small-group, hands-on learning environment.
 
“Sometimes we just need to help students remove old mental blocks so they can move to something more positive,” he said. “With additional time and resources, we are better able to provide individual attention to each student as needed.”
Achievement assessments and data inform instruction
 
The Rochester Community School District’s mission is to provide a quality education in a caring atmosphere for students to obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to become lifelong learners and contribute to a diverse, interdependent and changing world.
 
To ensure success, RCS uses the Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process (MICIP), which the Michigan Department of Education describes as “a pathway for districts to improve student outcomes by assessing whole-child needs to develop plans and coordinate funding.”
 
MICIP begins with identifying an area in need of improvement, such as an achievement gap or the need for social-emotional support, and then proceeds with developing a challenge statement to focus on the concern.
 
A team of highly qualified district professionals responds to the challenge statement by creating a plan that consists of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely goals to solve the issue; strategies that include evidence-based instructional approaches and/or interventions; and activities, such as professional learning, resource allocation and monitoring tools.
 
MICIP guides districts in the use of data to inform instruction. There are four types of data outlined in this process: achievement, perception, demographic, and process data.
 
Achievement data focuses on measuring student learning and assessment and can include standardized test scores, nationally normed assessments, classroom-based rubrics and college-ready assessments.
 
Perception data centers around attitudes and beliefs. This dataset addresses student climate within the school district, to include perceptions about academic standards, connections to the school and feelings about a variety of school experiences.
 
Demographic data provides information about the characteristics of the student population that can impact learning, such as economic status, disabilities, ethnic background and attendance.
 
Process Data can include policies and procedures, as well as parent and caregiver participation and professional learning plans.
 
“The process is fluid. Students, staff and families can change from year-to-year. We are also intentional about the need to continuously align methods, techniques and delivery of content with current best practices. As a district, MICIP serves as a guide so we can make the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of all our students,” said Cory Heitsch, assistant superintendent of early childhood and elementary education.
 
Leveraging MICIP, RCS teachers use both formative and summative assessments to determine where students are in their learning journey and tailor instruction to meet their needs.
Formative assessments are practices that allow teachers to gather information from classroom activities, so they can adjust their instructional strategies to meet the individual needs of the students. The feedback from a formative assessment is specific and immediate, allowing teachers to confer with learning consultants, interventionists and coaches and quickly adjust the method or approach of learning to meet the needs of the student.
 
Summative assessments evaluate student achievement against a benchmark, such as with tests, projects and essays. They can illuminate areas of strength, along with gaps in curriculum and instruction, particularly within student subgroups.
 
Mandated assessments: how RCS aligns with state standards
The state provides mandated testing to inform schools and districts about student performance and help detect the need for improvements in the level or rate of student achievement. Mandated testing includes the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), i-Ready or comparable testing platform, and the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test® (SAT) suite of assessments.
 
At RCS, mandated tests are part of a balanced approach that contribute to a student’s learning profile. They are used with other forms of assessments to ensure continuous improvement, such as the District Literacy Profile, Bridges Unit Assessments for math, checkpoints, observations and monitoring activity to inform instruction.
 
To measure student achievement using the Michigan academic standards, the M-STEP English language arts (ELA) and mathematics assessments are administered to students in grades 3-7. The science and social studies assessments are administered in grades 5, 8 and 11.
 
M-STEP identifies areas of strength, as well as areas where additional supports are needed to meet grade-level standards. However, it’s important to note that individual student reports for M-STEP are not used to make day-to-day program and placement decisions or determinations about continuous improvement goals. Teachers will continue to teach content standards, rather than teaching to the test.
 
M-STEP results. The spring 2023 summative M-STEP results indicated that RCS ranked as a top five school district in Oakland County. In both ELA and math assessments, RCS students outperformed the state average by 25 percent and the county average by 16 percent.
 
 “RCS is the largest school district in Oakland County, yet we receive some of the lowest per-pupil funding from the state. The level at which our students perform is a credit to our highly skilled teachers, administrators and staff, along with our family and community partners. We truly are grateful for their support,” said Heitsch.
 
The i-Ready diagnostic assessment is administered three times a year to all RCS kindergarten-through-grade-8 students. Similar to M-STEP, i-Ready serves as an indicator of grade-level proficiency in the areas of reading and math, while focusing on growth and performance relative to historical national norms. Data categories also consider English/multi-language learners, students with disabilities, student who are economically disadvantaged, and students who are of an identified race.
 
A key advantage of the i-Ready assessment is that teachers have the ability to progress-monitor the impact of their instructional strategies due to the multiple administrations within a school year.
 
i-Ready results. For the 2022-23 school year, RCS scores fell within the high-performance and high-growth quadrants, with room for continued improvement.
 
“We are always in the continuous improvement mode,” said John Silveri, interim superintendent. “Throughout the district, our dedicated staff members work tirelessly to ensure students are consistently engaged in high-level activities that stimulate their learning. They are also passionate about enhancing the overall student experience, which includes a feeling of belonging.”
 
The SAT is administered to all students in 11th grade throughout the state of Michigan in the spring. The SAT suite of assessments includes the Preliminary SAT (PSAT 8/9) for students in grades 8 and 9; the PSAT 10 for students in 10th grade; and PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), which is offered to all 11th graders in the fall.
 
SAT results. The Rochester Community School District’s SAT scores have increased from 2022 to 2023 in all areas, to include the mean SAT composite, math and evidence-based reading and writing sub-scores.
 
“This is a remarkable achievement for our schools and demonstrates the dedication and hard work of our students, educators and community partners. Every high school within our district has seen an improvement in their total mean scores,” said Neil DeLuca, executive director of secondary education.
2022-23 SAT data
 
Caring for the whole child.
Current curriculum provides wellness programs to assist students in making independent, informed decisions concerning their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This year RCS added new counselor positions at each of its four middles schools and three high schools, and hired additional behavioral interventionists to support its 13 elementary schools. These professionals join the district’s highly skilled educational teams who work with community stakeholders to meet the social-emotional wellness needs of all RCS students.
 
“Different students have different needs. What truly sets RCS apart is our team of caring professionals who build strong connections with our students, families and community partners. These trusted relationships and meaningful conversations play an important role in our students’ overall well-being, as well as our ability to ensure continual growth and development so all students can reach their full potential,” said Debi Fragomeni, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning.
 
Informed instruction ensures plans and strategies are in place for all students, including those with disabilities. The continuum of instruction begins with education in a general classroom and adjusts as needed to include co-teaching, team teaching, the addition of a resource program, and finally categorical classroom instruction.
 
“Assessment-based, responsive teaching is inclusive of our entire community. We constantly review the data and align our interventions and multi-tiered systems of support to meet the needs of the student. Monitoring and evaluating progress remains a continual process,” said Concetta Lewis, assistant superintendent of special populations, diversity, equity and inclusion.
 
RCS remains proud of student academic achievement and strives for continuous improvement.
The MICIP district improvement team continues to evaluate data and processes, implement appropriate instructional best practices, monitor current systems in place, and make necessary adjustments based on the needs of the whole child.
 
“At Rochester Community Schools, we believe that each and every student can learn at the highest levels,” said Silveri. “We are passionate about providing our students with the tools to be successful, not only while they are enrolled in our schools, but also when they graduate to pursue their life’s work.”
School funding basics - frequently asked questions
With modest state funding and the fourth lowest school tax rate in the county, Rochester Community Schools maximizes opportunities to ensure students excel at the highest levels.
 It is widely recognized that great schools are the bedrock of a great community, but did you know that public schools in Michigan are not funded equally?
 
The following information highlights some school funding basics.
 
How are schools funded?
Before 1994, local property taxes funded local schools; but that created challenges. People were concerned about high property taxes, and there were funding gaps between school districts across the state.
 
In 1994, legislation was placed on the ballot, called Proposal A. Michigan voters approved it, and school funding in Michigan changed dramatically.
 
After Proposal A, local homeowners’ property taxes no longer funded local schools. Instead, a statewide education tax of 6 mills on all property was established. Other sources like state sales and income tax, lottery revenue, tobacco and use taxes contribute to school funding.
 
Districts began receiving a per-pupil payment from the state, called the foundation allowance. This enabled the lowest funded schools in the state to receive a basic level of funding, which helped narrow the funding gap between school districts.
 
How does the state allocate funds to school districts?
Public schools in Michigan are funded on a per-pupil basis using the pupil blend count, also known as the State Aid Membership. Each district counts the number of students twice during a school year, once in October and once in February.
 
The pupil blend count is generally calculated by adding 90% of the current student full-time equivalence from the October count to 10% of the previous February’s FTE count. Different proportional weights have been applied over time. For example, the most recently signed state school aid budget included a two-year average for fiscal year 2022-23 and 2023-24 for schools with declining enrollment.
 
The state decides the amount of foundation allowance for each school district and multiplies that number by the number of fully qualified students in the district.
 
The foundation allowance has two components: state aid and local non-homestead property taxes. The state calculates their portion of the foundation allowance as if the district is collecting 18 mills, whether it actually does or not. If the voters do not approve the 18 mills levy, the district does not receive the full foundation allowance.
 
Here’s how the estimated FY2023-24 foundation allowance for RCS currently compares with some other districts in Oakland County. The numbers indicate that the Rochester Community Schools foundation allowance is quite modest. When considering the district with the highest foundation allowance and the approximate number of students in the Rochester Community School District, the difference totals more than $57.5 million.
Preliminary estimated foundation allowance 2023-24
RCS plans a budget for every fiscal year that is sustainable, promotes growth, minimizes impact on student programs, is team-based, open and transparent, and supports the district’s strategic plan. While the foundation allowance is the major source of funding for RCS, the district also gets a small amount of federal funding.
 
Inter-district funding comes from the County Act 18 special education tax. This revenue includes the renewable 18-mill non-homestead property tax, tuition from special programs, dues and fees, community services like preschool, and other miscellaneous sources.
 
With taxpayer approval, districts can also tax local homestead property to fund construction, technology and purchase of land.
 
How does the district spend its funds?
The general fund is the primary operating fund for the district and accounts for everything it takes to teach a child in a classroom, such as teachers, paraeducators, ancillary staff, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, and grounds and maintenance staff.
 
Rochester Community Schools budgets in four main areas: instruction; support services; community service; debt service and capital outlay. Instruction (60%) includes salaries for teachers to educate our students. Support services (38%) includes counselors, speech therapists, psychologists, social workers, athletics, transportation, operations and maintenance, and administration. Community service (<2%) includes recreation and enrichment programs and school-age care. Debt service and capital outlay (<1%) includes copiers, furniture and equipment.
 
Most of what school districts spend their funds on is salaries and benefits. For teachers and support staff, that makes up 82% of the total RCS budget.
 
“Our ability to accomplish the goals set by the strategic plan can be credited to our outstanding teachers, administrators and staff who partner with our families and community members to promote student success,” said McDaniel.
 
How can schools increase funds beyond what is allocated by state and federal sources?
Building and site bonds and a sinking fund provide an opportunity for schools to increase funds beyond what is allocated by state and federal sources.
 
Since the majority of school operating funds are spent on salaries and benefits, RCS has historically used the general fund and/or bond proceeds to protect its investment in facilities.
 
In 2019, voters approved a zero-tax increase sinking fund as a sustainable means to support critical facility and infrastructure needs with no borrowing or incurred interest involved. The sinking fund also keeps tax dollars local – every dollar of the sinking fund benefits every student and every school in the district.
Oakland County School District 2022 Bond and Sinking Fund Tax Rates
How do the RCS bond and sinking fund tax rates align with other districts in the county?
Rochester Community Schools continues to provide the highest quality education in safe, modern facilities with a modest tax increase. According to the Stifel public finance report for 2022, Rochester Community Schools has the fourth lowest school tax rate in the county.
 
How does Rochester Community Schools perform at such a high level with a modest foundation allowance and bond and sinking fund tax rates?
RCS carefully monitors the budget to make sure expenditures align with available resources. The district also maintains an adequate fund balance to make sure it has enough money to continue operations in case of surprise expenses or state revenue shortfalls. This is especially important since school districts do not receive the first payment of the year from the state until October, after school has already started.
 
“Maintaining fiscal stewardship is critically important to our mission. The district’s budget includes a balanced and equitable spending plan that is sustainable, promotes growth, and ensures high quality student programming,” said Matthew McDaniel, assistant superintendent for business operations.
 
The district also credits its outstanding teachers, administrators and staff who partner with parents and caregivers to inspire excellence.
 
“The high level of achievement within our district reflects the hard work, dedication, and tenacity of our students, along with the collaborative efforts of our community,” said Debi Fragomeni, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning. “Whether our graduates are pursuing their post-secondary education, the arts, athletics, the military, or industry apprenticeships, we are confident they have the tools to succeed,” said Fragomeni.
 
“It is with sincere gratitude that we thank our district colleagues, the Board of Education, and our community members for their continued partnership and support.”
2024 National Merit Scholarship Program

Rochester Community Schools celebrates 39 commended scholars and another 27 students who advanced to semifinalist status through the National Merit® Scholarship Program!

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a standardized assessment administered nationally through the College Board that measures knowledge and skills in reading, writing and math.

By taking the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of their junior year, students have the opportunity to meet the requirements for the esteemed National Merit Scholarship Program, an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955.

Out of 1.3 million entrants, approximately 34,000 with the highest PSAT/Selection Index Scores were designated as commended scholars. 

More than 16,000 of the highest scorers, representing less than 1% of the nation’s high school graduating seniors, qualify as semifinalists. According to nationalmerit.org, approximately 95% (more than 15,000) of the semifinalists are expected to become finalists in the competition, attesting to their distinguished academic performance.

This outstanding academic achievement is a tribute to the hard work and determination that is in keeping with the highest tradition of excellence within the Rochester Community School District.
 
Names of semifinalists 2024
Name of Commended Scholars 2024
 
Enrollment registration is available online

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Online enrollment is open for all new students from transitional kindergarten through grade 12.

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Career-readiness begins early

Career readiness is a kindergarten through grade-12 journey at Rochester Community Schools. Beginning early  in their education, students are introduced to a variety of vocations, industries, specialties and pathways to prepare for lifelong personal success.

In collaboration with educators and community partners, career-readiness counseling teams help RCS students learn about linking their personal values and skills to career aspirations.

From the very start, students get familiar with a K-12 college- and career-readiness software program that adapts as students develop, helping them explore options, build self-knowledge, inspire passions, create plans and reassess their interests.    

“Career development takes time and intention,” said Debi Fragomeni, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning. “RCS students have a strong foundation  that builds on rigorous literacy and math standards, which are essential components of success. Additionally, our educators use multi-tiered support strategies to ensure students are well-prepared beyond their K-12 years.”

The district helps guide and inform students so they can make wise choices for their future, whether that includes college, apprenticeship, military service, entrepreneurship, trades, or other pathways toward adulthood and independence.

Further building on career competencies in middle school, students have opportunities to explore many areas of interest. For example, students in grades 6-8 experience the STEMi mobile lab, financial literacy with the Junior Achievement Finance Park, community learning in partnership with the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, virtual field trips and meetings with guest speakers, nonprofit connections through charitable activities, Challenge Island engineering and design competitions, and more.

“At the high school level, career connections are embedded in curriculum areas,” said Karen Malsbury, director of career readiness, career and technical education and career-focused education. “For those who want more specialized training, CTE and CFE offerings prepare students for high-wage, high-skill and high-demand careers that don’t always require a college degree.”

In addition to its core curriculum classes, the district offers 11 state-approved CTE programs, five CTE credentials and nine CTE student organizations. Through classroom instruction, laboratory learning, work-based learning and student leadership, students acquire skills and knowledge that prepare them for successful careers and continuing education.

 

 

RCS earns Music Education designation

Rochester Community Schools has again been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from The NAMM Foundation for its outstanding commitment to music education.  For the 8th consecutive year, RCS has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation.  This award recognizes districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students.  RCS is one of only 16 districts in Michigan to be honored.  Rochester Community Schools earned this honor in 2014, then yearly since 2016.

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, we answered detailed questions regarding funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program and community music-making programs. Responses were reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas.

The award program recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education.  Designations are made to districts and schools that demonstrate an exceptionally high commitment and access to music education. 

Adult Education class information

Rochester Community Schools offers learning opportunities for people of all ages. Adult education programs may provide individuals with language proficiency, pathways for new careers, mastery of academic skills, and personal growth and satisfaction.

English As a Second Language (ESL) classes are provided for all learning levels, from beginner to advanced conversation. In-person classes are held in the morning and evening, two times per week, in Rochester Hills. Enrollment is happening now and students are encouraged to register for quick admittance.  

Adults who wish to earn their high-school diploma or complete GED skills classes can begin now. In-person and online, afternoon and evening, classes are available two times per week. Discounted GED exams and waiving of the registration fee, are available if you qualify.  

By advancing their educational achievement, adult students may find that learning more helps them earn more in the workforce. Others are simply interested in building personal skills to improve their quality of life.

Flexible programs are designed to meet the needs of busy adults who may have multiple roles and responsibilities.

Interested individuals may call 248-726-5950 to register. For more information on available classes and schedules, visit the Adult Education homepage.

Childcare enrollment open to nonresidents

Childcare enrollment open to nonresidents! Now enrolling curious, young learners! The RCS Caring Steps Children's Center provides outstanding infant/toddler care and year-round preschool programs. Our loving staff will serve your needs in a beautiful, spacious Oakland Township facility, specially designed for kids. Enrollment is open to neighboring communities. RCS residency is not required. For further information, please Talk to RCS