Teacher openings remain high in South Dakota headed into summer

Over 500 teaching and administrative positions are currently unfilled, as districts are finding it harder to get applicants.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota school districts have plenty of open positions for teachers with the 2022-23 school year wrapping up for many.

According to Wade Pogany, executive director of Associated School Boards of South Dakota, there are 515 open teaching and administrative positions currently statewide. That figure does not include coaching positions. Pogany said this number is on a similar pace to last year, but overall is still much higher than previous years.

South Dakota school districts have been altering their recruiting and hiring plans to try and find more applicants for positions in response to the growing number of teachers leaving the profession or moving out of the state, as well as fewer students entering into college to become teachers.

Sioux Falls School District Human Resources Senior Director Becky Dorman said the district has been recruiting new applicants and teachers almost year-round at this point, just to keep up with demand.

“I feel like we are ahead of the pace, more so than we have been in the past years. But that was by design because we’ve really started recruiting and hiring year-round for positions. Even when it comes to student teachers, they’re not in our classrooms very long before we are hoping to offer them a job as soon as they’re done with their student teaching,” Dorman said.

It’s the same story up Interstate 29. Watertown School District Superintendent Jeff Danielsen said the district is in a busy season right now, hiring teachers while also figuring out who may be retiring, leaving the district or leaving the industry.

“We’ve had a number of openings this spring — had some retirements, had some leave for other professions, and then obviously the shuffling around of some going to other districts. That’s kind of the name of the game in the spring,” Danielsen said.

Watertown currently has 15 open teaching positions. Danielsen said every year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been competing with not only other districts, as well as staff burnout and retirements, but losing teachers to other industries with higher pay.

“I think people realized that teachers can do about anything, so they are good candidates for other fields. Everybody is short on workforce right now,” Danielsen said.

Certain subjects are also more in demand than others as well. Dorman said pretty much every school district in the country is in need of more special education professionals and said they’ve been working to include more benefits and pay for those individuals to attract and retain them.

“I believe if you asked any school district in the nation, they would say the same thing. So we have some strategies in place to help attract and retain our special educators, like hiring bonuses and tuition assistance. We’re optimistic that we’re headed down the right path,” Dorman said.

Sioux Falls has hired 88 teachers for next year, and Dorman said they still have 41 openings currently. That could tick up a bit in the coming weeks, as current teachers decide whether or not to sign another contract to stay with the district another year.

“Right now is a primary time for us to be learning about what our current teachers are going to be doing next year. We could see the number of postings still climb up just a little bit for next year,” Dorman said.

Both Dorman and Danielsen said that with every year, it’s getting more difficult to find teachers, and they don’t expect that to get easier any time soon. So districts will need to explore more options and look into potential incentives and hiring throughout the year when they can.