Rochester School Board candidates aim to remove political ideology from classroom

In addition to falling academic test scores, many parents and teachers have also expressed concern about a lack of safety in school, according to the candidates. 

From left to right, Elena Niehoff, John Whelan, Rae Parker, and Kim Rishavy.

Four candidates vying for school board positions in Rochester said they will replace harmful policies and political agendas with higher academic standards, restored discipline, and a balanced budget.

They attribute the rise in violence and fall in academic standards to the policies and leadership of the current board.

“Common sense has been replaced with social-emotional learning (SEL), a sense of belonging, social justice, and equity,” said Kim Rishavy, one of the candidates. “Throughout the campaign, parents and potential voters have made it very clear that the schools need to get back to teaching academics and remove … social justice, gender ideology. Schools are not the place to promote social or political agendas.”

Rishavy, along with candidates Elena Niehoff, Rae Parker, and John Whelan, hope to become the majority on the seven-seat board. But the teachers union is fighting hard to protect its preferred candidates in what has turned into a spirited local election.

According to Whelan, the current school board fosters a “toxic politicized atmosphere and  pushes every radical leftist ideology currently in vogue.”

“Everything going on nationally in public K-12 schools is in Rochester. It is heartbreaking to watch my hometown descend into chaos academically, behaviorally, and fiscally,” he said.

“Our children are being subjected to the indoctrination of lifestyles and social agendas that not everyone believes in. When the current school board states ‘equity means all children,’ that only includes students, parents and staff that agree with their liberal mindset,” Rishavy added.

“There are those with different morals and values that are not taken into consideration and those are the Judeo-Christian values and other religions that do not want to be subjected to the liberal lifestyles, equity, belonging, gender ideology and liberal political views that are being promoted and embraced in the schools. This is unacceptable. Lifestyles, agendas and political views must stay out of the classrooms and schools,” she continued.

These are huge problems that can and must be fixed, according to Whelan.

He said “The 4” plan to institute policies to correct the disastrous course that Rochester Public Schools has been on for the last decade and return it to its previous high position of competence and proficiency.

RPS is lagging behind its surrounding southeast Minnesota school districts and has “fallen precipitously” statewide, according to Whelan.

Rishavy said Rochester is the “world famous city of Mayo Clinic” but the academic statistics do not reflect that.

After COVID, math proficiency went down to 39.5%, according to Rishavy. Reading and science are also spiraling downward, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.

Niehoff said the education system currently uses “grading for learning,” which does not motivate students to learn because they are allowed to retake exams up to 10 times during the 10 days after the initial test date.

Parker said she decided to run for school board after hearing from parents about the incredible amount of violence happening in the schools. She has three grandchildren enrolled in RPS and is concerned by the “horrendous academic scores.”

“According to the Minnesota Department of Education, these competency scores have been dropping for around 10 years and are now almost at rock bottom. The push of schools to plant seeds of confusion with gender fluidity and oppressor and oppressed is something that needs to be addressed. The dismissal of parental concerns over family values is not acceptable,” she said.

“Many parents seem to have forgotten how to stand up for their rights and the rights of their children. The school district is failing them right now, and we need them motivated and involved to help change the course of their children’s education,” Niehoff added.

“The school district should put no pressure on a student to accept a particular viewpoint that violates their conscience or family values. Instead, some parents, teachers and students are being bullied by activists in the public schools,” she said.

In addition to falling academic test scores, many parents and teachers have also expressed concern about a lack of safety in school, according to the candidates.

“The students are well aware of the fact that there are no consequences for misbehavior, skipping classes, fighting, or swearing at teachers. This is unacceptable and when the 4YourChildren candidates are elected and become the majority on the seven-seat school board, we will implement new policies that set standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior and consequences,” Rishavy said.

It’s much easier to sit and complain about what needs to be changed rather than get up and try to do something about it, she explained. “It takes a lot of time and energy to stay the course to do everything possible to get elected in order to stop the disastrous direction the current school board is taking students.”


Sheila Qualls

Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.