September 17, 2019

Area schools have few staffing issues - Daily Leader Extra : Top Stories

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Area schools have few staffing issues

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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2019 1:37 pm

The Associated School Boards of South Dakota, still has 34 openings listed on its teacher placement website, including seven coaching positions, according to Executive Director Wade Pogany. However, apart from a few support positions, area schools are fully staffed.

Last spring, Chester School Superintendent Heath Larson was looking at four openings for the 2019-20 school year -- an instrumental music teacher, a physical education and health teacher, a cyber math teacher, and a cyber social studies teacher. However, he had no trouble filling the openings.

"We had a good number of applicants," he said.

Larson reported some content areas are difficult to fill, especially in some parts of the state, but he believes Chester's location, less than 35 miles from Sioux Falls, is an asset. Not only can teachers enjoy the amenities offered by South Dakota's largest community, but they can also commute if they choose to do so.

"I think location matters quite a bit," Larson indicated.

Chester began the year fully staffed. However, on Thursday, he did receive a letter of resignation and will be advertising for a special education paraprofessional.

Superintendent Michael Fischer said Oldham-Ramona started the school year with all teaching and paraprofessional positions filled as well. He indicated their second-grade teacher retired at the end of last year, but the district was satisfied with the pool of applicants they had for that position.

"Elementary positions are a little easier to fill," Fischer explained.

A challenge for the Oldham-Ramona School District was finding a speech-language pathologist. He said the district contracted with Madison Regional Health System last year but hoped to find someone with more school experience thisĀ  year, primarily due to the amount of paperwork involved with with IEPs (individualized education programs).

Because the school was not seeking a full-time employee, Fischer explored options, hoping to find another school interested in sharing an employee. While doing so, he contacted Northeast Educational Services Cooperative (NESC).

"They actually had someone who was providing services to Iroquois two days a week and was willing to take on an additional two days a week," he said.

The district contracts with the NESC for those services, which Fischer said is working out well.

However, Oldham-Ramona is advertising to fill a number of support positions, primarily for extracurricular activities -- assistant boys basketball coach, assistant girls basketball coach, head play director, assistant play director and co-head golf coach. The school is also seeking to hire an assistant cook and concession stand supervisor.

Some of the positions are open because one teacher had been handling four or five different extracurricular activities. This involved giving up Fridays, a perk most teachers enjoy as part of having a four-day school week, and showing up early most mornings.

"She was looking for ways to cut back," Fischer said.

However, other positions were open because they are newly-created positions. These include the assistant play director and the golf coach; golf is a new sport for the school district.

Too, the school has openings because it did not advertise the extracurricular positions in the spring.

"Because there wasn't a teaching position to tie it to, it wasn't necessary to advertise in May," Fischer said.

However, he recognizes the importance of extracurricular activities to the students and the school. He knows that he can assign the duties to staff members, if necessary, but he hopes community members or college students will indicate interest in helping out.

"You want people in those positions who want to be there," Fischer noted.

Although Rutland Superintendent Peter Books wasn't available to comment, a staff member did indicate the school does not have any openings as the year starts. The school did have three positions open -- school counselor, journalism with English/language arts, and Title I.

Of these, the Title I position is a new position. The district did not have any trouble filling any of these.

The Madison Central School District has four openings listed on its website, all for support positions: playground supervisors, bus drivers, substitute teachers and weekend custodian.

Larson said schools nationwide are struggling to find enough bus drivers, both because of the effort it takes to become qualified and because of the work schedule. In Chester, bus drivers have one-hour routes at 7 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., which makes the schedule difficult to coordinate with another job.

"We're always advertising for a bus driver," Larson said. "It's open 24/7 365 days a year."

This is consistent with Fischer's experience as well. Last year, the school opted to use a minibus for one route because the driver does not need to be CDL certified.