Race for State Superintendent

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 7:46 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) -There are two candidates in the race for State Superintendent: Brandt Dick and Kirsten Baesler.

Baesler is seeking a third term; this is Dick’s first run for public office.

Brandt Dick is no stranger to education. He’s been a math teacher, administrator and activities director at a number of rural North Dakota schools for 26 years. He’s currently superintendent and activities director in Underwood. This is his first time running for an elected position.

“I felt like it is time for a change in the position,” he said.

Dick says his math background, along with his experience running school districts and his understanding of school budgets and funding make him the best candidate for the job of state superintendent. He says one of the biggest issues facing the department: attracting and retaining quality employees.

“My opponent, every four years she loses about 30% of her employees,” Dick said. “Thirty percent over four years and then another 30% the second four years. How do you build a team when it’s constantly changing?”

Superintendent Baesler says there has been turnover in her office but says it not unlike the turnover in other state agencies and small school districts. Under Baesler’s leadership, the Department of Public Instruction has gone from 101 employees to 82.

“We have reorganized over the last eight years and reduced the salary and operating cost of the agency by over $1million. That saves taxpayer dollars and allows our state to deliver funds to our school districts,” Baesler said.

Baesler says her two terms in office, she has changed the department from a regulatory office into an office that serves the states students, families and schools.

“I want to finish some objectives and indicatives we started,” she said.

At the top of her list: “choice ready,” family engagement and citizenship initiatives.

Dick says he has the real-world experience the office needs. He is the first active superintendent to run for the job of state superintendent since 1984. He cites ability, leadership and integrity as top qualities he would bring to the office.

“Part of leadership is leading by example. I understand that I wear that hat 24/7. I think you need to set that example on the job and off the job. My opponent, she’s had some challenges both terms. It wasn’t just this last term. It was both terms,” he said.

Baesler says her personal issues are just that: personal.

“I have committed to making sure that health issue of mine, it’s something I work on every day. I’m committed to working on it every day. I have to face that, I have to own that and I have to acknowledge that it is the work I have to do. It’s made me a better person,” Baesler said.

She urges voters to look past her personal life, and instead, focus on her experience: eight years as state superintendent, as well as experience as an instructional aide, library assistant, classroom teacher, vice principal and school board president – experience she says has prepared her for the job of state superintendent.

Both candidates say the pandemic has been a challenge for the Department of Public Instruction.

Baesler praised her team, saying they have risen to the challenge and that education did not stop when coronavirus hit the state. She says they’re already looking ahead to the challenges spring will bring.

Dick said he thinks local control is important during these uncertain times. He criticized the closing of all schools in March, when some counties didn’t have any coronavirus cases. He said the decisions should have been left up to the individual districts from the beginning.

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