Public schools spokesman mocked Common Core critics as ‘tiny tribe’

By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

PERSONAL OR PUBLIC: Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler has said that an email account set up by a spokesman for her office for use on the Common Core issue was done so on his own time, but also ordered that emails from the account be provided in response to an open records complaint.

BISMARCK, N.D. — A schools spokesman belittled Common Core supporters in more emails that surfaced in recent days, calling them a “tiny tribe.”

Last week, Dale Wetzel, a spokesman for North Dakota Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler, sparked controversy when it was revealed he was using an anonymous email account to send out material to lawmakers and members of the media attacking Common Core critic Duke Pesta.

Now, more emails provided to Watchdog.org show Wetzel responding to, and in one case mocking, Common Core critics calling into a Fargo talk radio show. These emails weren’t turned over in response to an open records request for the last 30 days of emails from the account filed last week.

Wetzel told Watchdog he created north.dakota.schools@gmail.com on May 5 using his personal time and personal equipment, saying he didn’t want to “clutter up” his other email accounts with Common Core communications. He used the email to send communications attacking Pesta’s motivations and rebutting his case against Common Core.

Baesler also said Wetzel’s use of the anonymous Gmail account was personal, but directed Wetzel to comply with an open records request for emails from the account.

Wetzel seemed to comply with the open records request filed by Watchdog, forwarding three email threads last week, but now other emails from the account have surfaced that weren’t turned over.

The emails, sent to Fargo talk radio host Jay Thomas last week, are responses from Wetzel to callers and guests critical of Common Core on Thomas’ show.

In one email, Wetzel or someone using the Gmail account names a citizen who called from Bismarck and describes her as “another one of the tiny tribe that call in on talk radio.”

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

All together there were a half dozen email threads initiated by the north.dakota.schools@gmail.com account with Thomas.

Thomas responded to some of the emails encouraging the emailer to call into the radio show. He also asked in one email if the emailer was associated North Dakota’s public schools, a question for which he received no response.

Thomas said he wasn’t aware the emails were coming from Wetzel until after Watchdog’s previous report on them. He said the emails came in while his show was airing and were comments on callers and guests on the show.

Last week, Wetzel appeared on Thomas’ show addressing the Common Core issue.

Watchdog has filed an open records complaint with North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office regarding the emails not turned over by Wetzel.

You can reach Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org

Category: North Dakota, Common Core, dale wetzel, duke pesta, kirsten baesler

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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