How Sioux Falls is navigating a shortage of special

Simplified: The Sioux Falls School District has had to get creative this summer to fill open positions, especially when it comes to special education. Here’s a look at what they’re doing.

Why it matters

  • The district has hired more than 200 teachers for the coming school year, including about 45 special education teachers, according to HR Director Becky Dorman.
  • But by the end of May, Dorman said she realized she had exhausted the entire pool of certified applicants for special education openings.
  • To help bridge the gap, the district has added a few financial incentives to entice teachers with special education certification to take those positions. It was enough to convince several – including Lowell teacher Allie DeJong – to move from a regular classroom to a special education job.

“If that pay increase hadn’t been there, I don’t know that I would’ve gone back quite yet,” said DeJong, who worked several years in special education before switching to teach kindergarten in 2020.

What incentives are there for special education teachers?

Every special education teacher will receive an additional $2,000 bonus this year and the two years after that, Dorman said.

Additionally, a $5,000 bonus was offered to teachers like DeJong who had previously taught special education or had the right certifications.

The other side of the coin, Dorman said, was to build up the pool of special education teachers for the future.

  • To that end, the district will pay for a general education teacher to take the credits necessary to receive a special education certification. Those teachers will also get a one-time $5,000 bonus and the three years of $2,000 bonuses.

Is it working?

So far, it’s looking promising. Dorman said they had more than 50 openings to fill for the coming school year, and they’re down to seven openings now.

“We’re pretty proud of the progress we’ve made, though we’ve got a little more to go,” Dorman said.

What about hiring in other areas?

It’s too soon to say what the pool of substitute teachers will look like in the fall, Dorman said, but she’s hoping to find at least 250.

When it comes to support staff, Dorman estimates about 25 openings for paraprofessionals or education assistants.

  • Those positions have a lot of competition, she added, noting that many employers in town are looking for the skillset and the type of help someone in an education assistant role provides.

And when it comes to hourly positions like custodians, Dorman said there’s no room to let up in recruiting. It’s all about continuously getting the word out about available jobs.

Education