DPI Spokesman Mocks Common Core Critics As "Tiny Tribe" In Emails Not Turned Over As Open Records

Last week Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler apologized during an interview with me for her office’s handling of the Common Core issue. The apology came after it was revealed that a spokesman for her department, former Associated Press reporter Dale Wetzel, had been using an anonymous email to send information attacking Common Core critic Duke Pesta.

Wetzel also made a roughly two-hour appearance on the Jay Thomas Show as a spokesman for DPI that sparked much criticism for the dismissive and often condescending tone he struck.

But Baesler may have more apologizing to do. I put in an open records request for 30 days worth of emails from the Gmail account Wetzel set up – north.dakota.schools@gmail.com. Despite claims from Wetzel and Baesler that the email account was private, something Wetzel did on his own time with his own equipment, Baesler asked Wetzel to comply with my request.

Wetzel forwarded me a total of four email threads from the account in response, noting that he had just created the account on May 5th.

But Jay Thomas has sent me a half dozen emails which were sent from the account to his talk radio show, at least one of them insulting a Common Core critic who had called into the show, calling her a member of a “tiny tribe” of Common Core critics. Wetzel also questioned whether or not advocates for homeschooling had any expertise to speak on the Common Core issue:

“So a home-school parent is some kind of expert on Common Core?” Wetzel asks Thomas in another email.

I wrote about the issue at Watchdog.org today.

What’s particularly interesting is that Thomas didn’t know these emails were coming from a DPI spokesman. At one point Thomas asks the emailer if they have any connection to North Dakota public schools, something to which there was no reply.

That speaks to the problematic nature of a DPI spokesman using an anonymous email on the Common Core issue.

You can read the emails Thomas forwarded me below. Again, these were not provided by Wetzel when I made my open records request. I’ve filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. I believe this email account was being used explicitly for DPI business, and that a good faith effort to respond to a request for records from it was not made by Wetzel or Baesler.

Jay Thomas Emails

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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