Kirsten Baesler is the state superintendent of schools for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Baesler and her 88-person team oversee the education of more than 121,000 students in nearly 500 buildings across the state. She was elected as state school superintendent in November 2012 and re-elected to her second term in 2016 with 75 percent of the vote.
She serves on more than a dozen boards, including the Education Standards and Practices Board, the Career & Technical Education Board, the Teachers’ Fund for Retirement board, and the Board of University and School Lands, which manages state land holdings and oversees a $4.2 billion trust fund that benefits North Dakota’s public schools.
Kirsten is committed to working with families to provide each child what they need to reach their highest levels of success. She has made preparing students for life after graduation a top priority. She works to ensure all students graduate Choice Ready: with the knowledge, the skills, and the disposition to do whatever they choose to do after high school, whether it be college or university, the workforce, or enlistment in the military.
Before taking office in January 2013, Superintendent Baesler had a 24-year career in the Bismarck public school system – the state’s largest school district - as a vice principal, library media specialist, classroom teacher and instructional assistant. Superintendent Baesler also spent nine years as an elected member of the Mandan school board, serving as their president for seven of those nine years. She worked for a time as the North Dakota School Boards Association assistant director.
Baesler earned two associates’ degrees from Bismarck State College, a bachelor’s degree in education from Minot State University, and a master’s degree in library and information technology integration from Valley City State University. She has earned the Valley City State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Rising Star Award from Bismarck State College and has completed the Graduate School Educational Leadership Program at Harvard University.
She is one of the nine directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers, an organization that represents state education organizations across the nation working to defend states’ rights to lead education.
Superintendent Baesler is one of 25 women leaders chosen from across the country for the Governing Institute’s 2019 Women in Government Leadership Program, which provides participants leadership development and the opportunity to serve as mentors and advisers for other prospective female leaders.
She is an advisory board member for several Civic education organizations committed to advancing citizenship elements of respect, responsibility, courage, compassion, integrity and contribution in our schools.
Superintendent Baesler is a native of Flasher, N.D. She lives in Mandan, N.D., and has three adult sons. Her sons are all graduates of the North Dakota public schools and university system and all have returned to North Dakota to work and make their homes. She enjoys spending time with them and her 90-year-old father.