Over 180 open teaching positions statewide, down from last year

As of Monday, the ASBSD Teacher Placement Center estimates that there are 183 open positions in the state.
Published: Aug. 7, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Headed into the 2023-2024 school year, school districts and administrators had a tall order to fill. By around the middle of May, the Associated School Boards of South Dakota estimated that there was around 515 open teaching positions in the state, not including coaching positions either. But with only weeks to go before a new year, that number has been cut significantly, and is trending down from last year at this time.

As of Monday, the ASBSD Teacher Placement Center estimates that there are 183 open positions in the state. While it’s not an exact number, ASBSD Executive Director Doug Wermedal, who stepped into the position this year for the retiring Wade Pogany, said it’s a good estimate when taking into effect who advertises with the organization.

“Schools are not required to advertise with us. So they may have things in their local media, local newspapers and local radio stations, and maybe don’t list with us. Also, when a positions is delisted, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s filled,” Wermedal said.

While Wermedal said the state is very much still in a teacher shortage, as is much of the country, that number of open positions is an improvement both compared to earlier this summer and last year. Only a week ago at the end of July, there were around 250 open positions, meaning that hiring has ramped up to fill around 70 jobs statewide. Compared to last year at this time as well, those 183 open positions are down over four percent as well.

Some of those open positions were consolidations, meaning that school districts either cut programs entirely, or covered classes with existing staff to keep options open for students. Wermedal said that year-to-year improvement, and even the improvement over the last few months, is thanks to districts and school administrators exploring every option possible when trying to fill positions, and keep classes and sections open for students.

“I give high points to the school boards and to the superintendents. Those folks are the ones really in the trenches identifying the creative ways to respond to what is still a teacher shortage. Particularly in special education and elementary education,” Wermedal said.

One thing to note though is that those open positions are not spread across the state equally. For years, larger school districts in the state have had a comparatively easier time finding applicants, while smaller districts have struggled. Those larger districts have usually been able to offer higher salaries and more competitive benefits with their larger budgets. So Wermedal warns that while overall the state is in a better position, that doesn’t mean that every district in the state is having an easier time filling jobs.

That’s especially true when filing special education positions, where even larger districts in the state have struggled to find applicants.

“We do know that we do see quite a bit of openings, particularly a couple of districts around the paraprofessional position. So there is still some hiring to do,” Wermedal said.