School districts scramble to fill administrator jobs

School districts will be busy this summer trying to fill an ever-growing number of teacher positions. But this spring, it’s administrator jobs that are in need.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota school districts have been looking to fill positions in every area constantly for some time now. That includes those that oversee schools and districts themselves, as school administrator applicants continue to become harder to find.

School districts will be busy this summer trying to fill an ever-growing number of teacher positions. But this spring, it’s administrator jobs that are in demand. To date, there have been 27 superintendent jobs that have opened up across the state. 26 of those have been at public schools. While the hiring process for those positions usually take place in December or January, some districts are still searching for applicants due to some late notices of leaving.

Tom Oster has been a teacher, principal and superintendent in South Dakota throughout his career in education. He was also the state Secretary of Education for some time. Oster helped form Dakota Education Consulting as a local search firm to help find applicants for administrator jobs. He says their method of conducting searches has changed over the years since they formed in 2011.

But for the school districts that retain Dakota Education Consulting, it’s become an intense one-day process. School boards select a handful of candidates from those that apply, and DEC sets up interviews that take place over a few hours.

“The school boards that we work with, they see every single candidate that applies for a position. They see their entire application, their resume, letter of application, their reference letters.” Oster said.

After that, an offer is made to a candidate and the board expects an immediate answer.

“The supply and demand of school administrators has gotten so tight that it’s risky for boards to do that. If they wait, they may lose a candidate, or their existing school board may offer them a big raise to stay. And so it’s risky. So we’ve changed our process to all in one day, bring in all of the candidates,” Oster said. “The board deliberates and makes a decision that day. Because honestly, if they waited a couple of days, they wouldn’t have any more information than they do on the day of the interview.”

That change comes from the need of districts to lock down a candidate to a job offer, instead of having to wait days to hear back. Oster said since making that switch in interviewing methods, it’s worked out.

The biggest factor that’s affected the number of administrator applicants, Oster said, has been location, pay, and timing. He said applicants have been drawn to districts along I-29 and I-90, with less looking out into areas in central and northern South Dakota. Pay, like teacher salaries, also varies by location and district size. The last point, timing, comes when a job opens up. Oster said it’s easier for districts to start looking in December or January, instead of waiting until spring or if an administrator leaves late in the year. By that time, many looking for a new job have already locked down a new contract somewhere else.

Overall though, Oster said teachers and administrators will be harder and harder to find with each year. That also extends to all of the support staff that districts need to operate as well. It’s a problem that he said isn’t going away any time soon.

“School districts can’t find custodians, they can’t find cooks. They can’t find bus drivers. And so it’s not just teachers. It’s every field in education.” Oster said.