Earlier today I posted a police report from an alleged domestic violence incident in Florida between Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and her fiancee Todd Tschosik. The details of the incident aren’t pretty – Baesler and one of her sons allege that Tschosik was “straddling” her in bed with his hands around her neck (full police report here) – but I wonder what the circumstances of the trip to Florida were.
Turns out Baesler was in the state on official business.
“Kirsten attended a summer institute in Orlando, Fla., put on by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which is an organization that represents the top education officials in the states,” Department of Public Instruction spokesman Dale Wetzel told me via email this afternoon. “The conference began July 9 and ran through July 12, 2014.”
One point many of you readers have made to me – and which my contacts in Florida volunteered as they helped me locate records there – is that the Grand Floridian Hotel is an expensive place to stay. One of the most expensive in Orlando, I’m told.
So who was footing the bill for the travel and lodging? The taxpayers, though the expenses seem more reasonable than the resort’s reputation implies.
“Kirsten’s expenses totaled $1,680.59,” Wetzel told me. “Airfare was $784, meals $39.20 (most of the meals were provided at the conference), hotel $656.64, and miscellaneous expenses, such as parking fees and taxis, $200.75.”
“The state money spent on the trip was for Kirsten’s attendance at the conference, her lodging, airfare and some meals. There was no taxpayer money spent on her sons or Todd Tschosik,” Wetzel added.
Another issue I’ve been wondering about is Baesler’s duty to report the violent activity she alleges Tschosik is guilty of given that the latter is a teacher in the Bismarck Public School System.
“An argument escalated to the point where I was concerned for my safety,” Baesler said in a statement she released regarding the alleged February 15 assault on Tschosik which resulted in her arrest. “Unfortunately, this incident was not the first situation where I felt I was at risk. In fact, the problem has been escalating in recent months.”
If that’s true, should Baesler have reported Tschosik’s behavior to other school officials? He was, presumably, working in classrooms full of kids throughout this.
I asked Wetzel if Baesler did anything to report the activity she’s alleging. He didn’t directly answer the question.
“The authority to review, investigate or discipline a teacher lies with an independent board, the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board, and its director,” he said. “The Department of Public Instruction and its superintendent have no authority to do this.”
I’ve asked Wetzel to clarify if Baesler made any sort of report about Tschosik’s behavior to the schools. I also put in a request yesterday for Tschosik’s personnel file from the Bismarck Public School System.
Here’s the police report for the Florida incident: