Simplified: The Sioux Falls School District had fewer teachers to hire for the 2023-24 school year, but even so finding special education teachers is proving to be a challenge, Human Resources Director Becky Dorman said. Here's a look at how the district is making it work.

Why it matters

  • The last couple of years, the school district has had to fill around 220 open teaching positions – not counting the 250 substitute teachers needed to start the year or the dozens of open jobs for education assistant and other paraprofessionals.
  • This year, only about 150 teaching jobs were open, which Dorman attributes to a combination of reasons, including fewer retirements, higher retention and about 14 teaching jobs that were cut due to the expiration of federal pandemic relief funds. The district was able to reabsorb those teachers into other jobs.
  • The toughest jobs to recruit for are special education jobs, and even with the district doubling the sign-on bonus for qualified teachers to move to those positions, special education jobs still make up about half of the 15 remaining open teaching jobs with about a month to go until school starts.
  • The district is also increasingly looking internationally to find teachers. Dorman noted an art teacher, elementary teacher and special education teacher that joined the district from the Philippines .
"We have no U.S. workers applying for those jobs," Dorman said. "So, as long as this teacher shortage stays as it currently is, I believe we will continue to look worldwide for our teachers."

Tell me more about how hiring went this year

One of the biggest changes was the increased incentive for teachers to take special education jobs.

  • Teachers who had the necessary qualifications were eligible for a $10,000 hiring bonus – an incentive only two existing teachers in the district took advantage of. Another five out-of-district teachers received that bonus, Dorman said.
  • A similar – but smaller – $5,000 hiring bonus was offered last year for the same people.
  • And teachers who agreed to get the necessary certifications to teach special education also received a smaller hiring bonus, and the district will pay their tuition.

Additionally, about one-third of the 133 teachers hired so far this year came from the district's existing pool of substitutes.

  • A handful of other new teachers had previously worked as education assistants or other non-teaching jobs within the district.
"We always love to promote folks and see people grow from within," Dorman said.

What happens next?

Dorman said she's confident the remaining teaching jobs will be filled before school starts, and soon she'll shift focus to filling about 40 education assistant jobs and 250 open substitute teaching positions.