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Port: Superintendent challenger questions incumbent Baesler's qualifications for office

"She is not qualified to be a principal or superintendent in any school in North Dakota," Brandt Dick says.

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Superintendent of Schools Kirsten Baesler and Underwood Superintendent of Schools Brandt Dick.
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MINOT, N.D. — The race for North Dakota Superintendent is heating up, with challenger Brandt Dick taking a shot at incumbent Kirsten Baesler's qualifications.

In a recent Facebook post, Brandt questioned Baesler's descriptions of her résumé and education experience.

"If my opponent applied for a Principal or Superintendent job in any ND school district, she could not be hired as she does not have the credentials to serve in that capacity," he wrote in a Sept. 14 post which also included screenshots of both his and Baesler's teacher licenses. "I would also question how she had 24 years of education experience before 2013 when she got her initial ND Educator's License in 2001?"

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"As a former classroom teacher, vice principal, school board president, and committed mother of three, I would stack my credentials up against my opponent's any day," Baesler told me when I asked her about Dick's post.

Asked, specifically, about Dick questioning her assertion of having 24 years of education experience, she noted that some of it came as an instructional aide and library assistant before her time as a licensed teacher.

"As far as 24 years of service, I was proud to serve as an instructional aide and library assistant at Bismarck's public schools before becoming a classroom teacher, media specialist, and district technology integration specialist," Baesler told me. "I worked to improve my skills by earning a master's degree and completing the Harvard Education Leadership Program."

"I extend my gratitude to all of the professionals who come to work every day to help make our schools successful," Baesler continued.

"That's great, and I appreciate that clarification, but that's not what we always get. When she communicates, she talks about her classroom experience and administrative service," Dick said in response to Baesler's explanation. "If that's her experience, then own it. It took this post before we got that clarification."

Baesler campaign spokesman Dale Wetzel suggested Dick believes contributions from education workers who aren't required to be licensed "does not count as 'educational experience.'"

"That's not it at all. It takes everyone to run a school, and I know that first hand," Dick said in response but maintained his argument that Baesler's work experience isn't good enough.

"She is not qualified to be a principal or superintendent in any school in North Dakota," he said.

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"What I mean by that is that she does not have the credential," Dick said when I pushed back on that claim. "When we hire someone, they have to have the credentials to be in that position. A teacher has to have a teacher license. A principal, you have to have a principal's credentials. As you look at my opponent's teaching license, she has not earned any of those credentials in her career."

Wetzel pointed out a 2007 reform made by the Legislature removing the requirement that the state superintendent holds a teaching license. "Legislators decided it was more important for the superintendent to represent all constituents and perspectives relating to K-12 education," he said.

"Yes, they did change that. I never said she wasn't qualified to be the state superintendent," Dick said. "She keeps talking about, and the governor keeps talking about, her administrative experience when she is not credentialed to be a principal."

"For state superintendent, experience does matter and should matter. Whoever is elected in that position, leading and guiding school districts, it helps to have that experience," he added.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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