Kirsten Baesler and Tracy Potter are vying for the state superintendent of public instruction seat.
Potter, executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, also has a background as a high school and college teacher and served as a state senator.
Potter said, if elected, he would put a lot of focus on dealing with the increased challenges to the education system related to the ongoing oil boom in western North Dakota and the flood in Minot. He said he has spoken with Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, and Ron Ness, North Dakota Petroleum Council president, about coming up with a game plan for the upcoming legislative session and addressing infrastructure needs that impact school districts.
Potter said he would want to take a very education-centered approach to the Department of Public Instruction and focus less attention on testing than on the quality of education, which he said would involve a focus on smaller class sizes, more individualized attention, and enabling schools to utilize best practices in education. Under his leadership the department would be a mentor.
Potter said he has not taught for a number of years but he has been in and out of classrooms while working with the foundation. He also noted that the superintendent of Department of Public Instruction is not a teaching job but an administrative position with more than 100 employees. He said his experience as executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation and in state government has prepared him for the role of leading a state agency in a way that Baesler's background has not. Potter also noted that Baesler's candidacy has been heavily promoted by the Republican Party and said one of his advantages is that he would come to the office "without a debt load" to any particular party or any obligation to make certain hiring or policy decisions. He said he would be able to work with both parties.
Baesler has a background as a teacher, assistant principal and library media specialist in the Bismarck Public Schools and as president of the Mandan school board and southwest director of the North Dakota School Boards Association. She said Monday that she is in the prime of her career and her background has given her a comprehensive view of education that Potter lacks.
Baesler said she has three main goals if elected to the office, including focusing on funding formula for schools to ensure that schools that need funding the most receive what they need; reducing the number of remedial courses that incoming college freshmen need to take in college, and increasing the number of students who have taken dual credit courses or AP courses by the time they graduate from high school. She would like to see 25 percent of this year's high school freshmen graduate from high school with one semester of AP or dual credit courses. That would involve making dual credit and Advanced Placement courses more widely available at schools across the state, she said. Baesler said she would like to attend a meeting at the capital Wednesday morning on proposed K-12 funding formulas as the incoming superintendent of public instruction.