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Supporters for both sides of the Rochester School Board election take to the street as the clock winds down

The Nov. 8 election will determine the course of RPS for the foreseeable future.

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Campaigners gathered outside Rochester Public Schools' Edison Administration Building to support the school board incumbents and their challengers on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2022.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — With just a week before the election, supporters for Rochester School Board candidates took to the street Tuesday evening.

The crowd, which amounted to roughly 40 people, lined the sidewalk outside the school district's Edison Administration Building, hoping to raise support for what they see as an important crossroads. Supporters for opposing candidates stood side by side in some cases, waving signs at drivers passing by.

Among them was Simon Glaser, a longtime member of the Rochester Education Association, which is the local teachers union.

"I just can't believe that important decisions about what happens with our children come down to whether somebody remembers a name they saw on a sign for a second as they were driving up Sixth Street," Glaser said. "If that's the way it works, I'll stand out here with a sign."

The incumbents running for re-election include Jean Marvin, Cathy Nathan and Julie Workman. Outgoing school board member Melissa Amundsen has endorsed the candidate Justin Cook.

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The challengers include John Whelan, Elena Niehoff, Rae Parker and Kim Rishavy. Although school board candidates are elected as individuals, the four challengers have banded together as a bloc and have campaigned together as a group with shared values. If elected, the four challengers would represent a majority on the seven-member governing body.

Supporters for both sides say they see this as a pivotal election. And each side seems equally as apprehensive about the candidates they don't support.

Jan Throndson was among the supporters for the bloc of four challengers. He said the school district needs new leadership to help it overcome from its streak of sliding academic performance.

Although most of the supporters were there for school board candidates specifically, Throndson considers that election just one piece of a larger picture.

"We want to take America back," he said.

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Meanwhile, Chuck Handlon was at the event supporting the incumbents, several of whom he knows personally from his 20-plus years as a teacher in the district.

And just as supporters for the bloc have expressed concern about the current status of the school district, those supporting the incumbents have expressed concern about the challengers.

"Why are they running as a slate? Because they have a political agenda that wants to get in and push ideologies," Handlon said. "If they were elected, especially as a slate, there would just be a year of dissension."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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