Audio: Superintendent Kirsten Baesler Apologizes For Attacks On Common Core Critic

As I wrote earlier this week, the Common Core debate in North Dakota has become pretty ugly and while both sides of the issue share some blame, Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler took responsibility for a member of her staff putting gas on the fire during an interview with me yesterday while I was guest hosting the Jay Thomas Show on WDAY.

Specifically, she apologized for the behavior of Department of Public Instruction Public Information Officer Dale Wetzel’s behavior during an interview on the Jay Thomas show this week (audio here) as well as emails Wetzel had been sending to lawmakers and members of the media attacking the credibility of Common Core critic Duke Pesta.

Pesta visited North Dakota this week, speaking at events in Bismarck and Fargo, and Wetzel appeared to be trying to undermine Pesta’s credibility ahead of those events, though both Wetzel and Baesler claim the emails sent from a non-public Gmail account were something he did on his own.

Baesler told me during the interview that she her office has a very specific review protocol for all communications and that Wetzel’s efforts fell outside of that protocol. When I asked her if the materials Wetzel had been sending – which claimed, among other things, that Pesta’s anti-Common Core efforts were just a money making scheme – would have been approved by her if she had seen them, she told me that she would not have.

I put in an open records request for the last 30 days of emails sent to or from the Gmail account Wetzel was using and I received just a handful of emails in response none of which revealed anything new.

Wetzel says he had just created the account on May 5th.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Ratbite

    I still say it’s time to start circulating the Recall Baesler petitions.

    • happyhappyhappy

      I would be fine with that. It’s alot of work, but it would send a clear message.

  • kjuu

    Looks like The Fargo Forum is a Wezler fan, though. Lots of vitriol in their editorial Friday.

    • schreib

      Fargo is libby Minnesota west

    • Rob

      When are their editorials ever not full of anger, condesencion and vitriol?

      • sundshine

        How do you know all the emails from the Wetzel account were turned over to you? Also, can you get Baeslers’s emails from DPI for the two weeks leading up to the Pesta event? Wasn’t Jay Thomas told that the best way to contact Baesler was through her personal Facebook? (Per what Jay said on his show) Why is Baesler doing official business through her personal Facebook? Finally, can the DPI email records be asked for?

        • whowon

          Her personal FB page is a joke. It let’s you post but somehow your post only shows up from the person posting…

          • sundshine

            OK, I hear you. Well, her emails need to become public record to see how deeply she is involved in the targeting of Stop Common Core ND and Dr. Pesta. I hope someone in the press makes that happen.

  • schreib

    Our kids were ready back in the 50’s and 60’s. Our education system was good back then. Why not go back to what worked.? We focused more on education of the important 3 R’s, history, civics, phy Ed, music and electives while in HS. Go back to it. Every time the so-called education “experts” mess with how things are taught the standard test scores drop again and again.

    • banjo kid

      Yeah , I feel things were good when I was in school and can not figure anything out about why we needed to change. I guess it created new job descriptions and hired people that did not need hired . Create a new job for your nephew kind of thing . The greatest loss is our American history and common sense math work .

  • SportsDoc

    Actions then of a disciplinary nature should be forthcoming from Supt. Baesler. If not, she loses credibility as to her words. In fact, no discipline is a tacit agreement from her towards Mr. Wetzel’s actions, in my world.

  • schreib

    Commie .core . Mr Pesta is a lot better informed than Wetzel. I have not met a teacher who likes this big government crap And common core DOES effect home schooled children. Remember the lies regarding healthcare. They lied about it in order to sell it to the public. We are seeing the same regarding common core.

  • schreib

    Wetzel is not being truthful. What folks will do for money

  • whowon

    Yet…had only listened to bits and pieces of what Wetzel SAID? Shame on Kirsten, people are rightfully angry with her. Our children are watching us? Yes, too bad you allowed the department of destruction you head to continue with this nonsense.This apology does not cover her NOT answering questions and pretending she has been transparent. She said in one interview this week that 10’s of thousands had responded to a survey…quickly changed that to thousands. Dale said he would end those survey results to Jay Thomas, haven’t seen that yet. She is unavailable for so many important things and interviews. The ONLY survey that we have seen was 134 teachers and 4 parents. So many lies. Dale was texting her through the Dr. Pesta talk…zero respect.

  • whowon

    “60 plus” teachers said we should adopt the standards”…seriously, we have over 8366 teachers in ND but these 60 who apparently said yes must be the smartest people in the room. We have HUNDRED’S of parents saying no and she will not listen. The fact that Sanstead HAD accepted these before any surveys were done makes her statement even more laughable. Again, she didn’t listen to Wetzel yet thinks people were mean or nasty? GIVE ME A BREAK.

  • Anti-NCAA

    Wetzel should receive a written warning for his egregious violation to circumvent policy and open records communications. Then, he shouldn’t be given a salary increase on July first and these things should reflect in his performance evaluation. All of this can be validated through open records requests also.

    Let’s see how serious Kristen is based on her upcoming actions, or if she’s just providing lip service to the public.

    I plan on contacting her office also.

    • camsaure

      I think he should be terminated. After all it is “for the children”.

  • sundshine

    Wetzel needs to come clean and tell us that Baesler ordered him to send the attack on Dr. Pesta IF she did. Isn’t it a crime to send official communication from an email address other than one’s state email address? The email address was crafted to look official. That is how they planned to make the “credible” attack on the Common Core opponents. A lawyer needs to look into this. Why isn’t the Forum checking this out? If Jack Zaleski wasn’t in cahoots with Baesler, the Forum would be all over this. That sycophantic editorial on May 8th speaks volumes about Zaleski’s love fest with and for Baesler.

  • Paul

    This reminds me of a question that I had some time ago:

    How many of the Common Core fanatics couldn’t pass a rigorous test based on CC standards unless they were given weeks to prepare and the test were administered and graded by people biased in favor of Common Core?

  • JoeMN

    Remember that these bureaucrats now spending their days attacking opponents of Common Core are the very same people who have utterly let down North Dakota students by failing to perform their duty of implementing world class educational standards themselves

    Shouldn’t THEY be taken off the public payroll ?

  • ec99

    Ad hominems appear to be the only way some can deal with their opponents. Anyone remember when the former director of the Alerus called critics “morons?” That was before he had to take a powder due to embezzlement.

  • ObservingTheProcess

    I really cannot figure Ms. Baesler out. When she ran for Superintendent, I specifically discussed “Every Child Left Behind Policy.” She was against such at the time as her response was (paraphrase) that the Federal Government cannot have a cookie cutter approach for every state’s education policies. yet she “drank the Kool-Aid” for “common core,” which is just another Federal cookie cutter approach to education.

    • JoeMN

      It’s not so much what she is against, rather it is what she is “for”
      And in this case it’s likely the federal funding which comes attached to CC

      • Waski_the_Squirrel

        How much federal funding does the state of North Dakota get which is attached to Common Core?

        • JoeMN

          ND applied for, and then withdrew it’s No Child Left Behind waiver.
          However as I understand it, should ND Decide to seek a waiver for the 2015-16 school year (even though we both know ND has approximately 0 interest in performing it’s responsibility of developing it’s own rigorous standards) it likely risks a penalty on Title I funds received for failure to adopt it’s own higher standards. ( low performing school funding) ???

          Would it be a lot of money ?
          Likely not.

          But bureaucrats are well known for jumping through some awfully tall hoops for the promise of federal chump change

          Talk about a reverse incentive.
          Full payment for mediocrity.

          Instead, how about financially rewarding those states which exceed these national standards ?
          But that’s not the federal behemoth way, is it ?
          Or better yet, how about relegating the failed model of public education to the dustbin where it belongs ?

        • RHE

          According to the Dept of Ed website, ND received over $104M from the
          State Fiscal Stabilization Fund “in exchange for a commitment to advance
          […] college- and career- ready standards and […] assessments”.
          Connect the dots.

  • Clairvoyant

    Rob, you need to do one of two things next time you guest host on this radio show. Either don’t speak so loud, or ask the producer to pod your volume down. You’re clearly in “the red” on the VU and it came across that way.

    • Rob

      Actually, it’s not that at all.

      I recorded this straight from my home soundboard. I sounded just fine on the radio, but I had the volume control for the line out to my computer up a little too high.

  • sundshine

    An open records request needs to be filed for Baesler’s DPI email for the last 30 days. The public needs to know if she communicated with Wetzel. He, after all, sent the Common Core emails from a North Dakota Schools fake email address. This is very serious business. Can the request for Baesler’s email be made? The attacks on anti-Common Core folks is threatening behavior by DPI. This needs to be taken seriously. DPI is a public institution. These are public employees. Should they get away with their lies and deception? NO.

  • Drain52

    Rob, you do well on the radio. You have the media knack.

  • sundshine

    Who can make an open records request, just the media?

    • Rob

      Yes, anyone in the public can make an request for open records. You can do it in person, by phone, via email, via fax and via letter.

      Basically, you just need to contact someone at the agency or department from which you want the records and tell them what you want.

      Some important tips:

      1) Mention that it’s an open records request so that you’re clearly invoking the law governing such requests.

      2) Be as specific as you can be about what you want.

      3) Understand that if your request is too broad they can charge you an hourly fee and copy costs to comply with it.

      4) If they deny your request, ask that they cite the specific legal justification. The law requires them to do that.

      5) If you need help, up to and including filing a complaint, go to the Attorney General’s office. They do a great job of helping people get records. And under state law, citizens are allowed to request an AG’s opinion on suspected open records/open meetings violations.

      • sundshine

        Thank you for your thorough response, Rob. I appreciate this. You spell this out succinctly.

  • BroadwayJoe

    3 in 10 need remedial instruction in college and we spend how much in govt edumacation. what the hell are we paying teachers for now?

    • ec99

      “3 in 10 need remedial instruction in college”

      At UND it’s more like 3 in 10 don’t need remedial instruction.

  • camsaure

    I did not hear her apologize for her own deceptions. She may be cute on the outside, but she is very ugly on the inside.

  • Julius Henry

    This just in, Baesler, decided to not decide. Put off ANY leadership decisions til the next session, no moving forward on any curriculum decisions. Sad. (June 25th, 2014)