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School administrator shortage coming?

A survey of area schools shows no superintendent or high school principal vacancies as the school year ends, but some in the education field are predicting problems with keeping administrative positions full in the future.

A survey of area schools shows no superintendent or high school principal vacancies as the school year ends, but some in the education field are predicting problems with keeping administrative positions full in the future.

"Within the next few years here, there's going to be a shortage of people," said Stickney Superintendent Bob Krietlow. "Just like there's going to be a shortage in all teaching areas, there's going to be a shortage in administrative areas as well."

The average age of administrators is rising, Krietlow said. Also, he says he isn't seeing as many people going into what he calls the "administrative end" of the education field.

Money is a factor, Krietlow said, since neighboring states can sometimes offer the same job, but with $15,000 more in salary. Some states, he said, offer signing bonuses and moving expenses.

"A lot of different places are trying to attract people to their states," he said.

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Calls to 44 public and private school districts showed there are no openings for superintendents or high school principals in the region.

However, Rick Melmer, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Education, said Friday that his office has noticed a decline in administrative applications over the past two years.

"We started realizing that vacancies that normally would receive 20 or 30 applications were getting 10 or 15," he said. "Now, they're even lower than that."

In response, the DOE hosts a workshop for aspiring leaders twice a year. The weekend-long meeting encourages select teachers to consider administrative positions and learn the steps that interested candidates must take.

In addition, a school administrators retreat -- one is taking place this weekend in Rapid City -- encourages current administrators to continue their efforts.

"On one hand, we're trying to build a little strength with younger administrators and we're also trying to keep the ones that we have on board through renewal opportunities," Melmer said.

Christena Schultz, a principal at two schools, Bridgewater and Emery, and also vice president of the South Dakota Association of Secondary School Principals, said she is concerned about a future shortage of both administrators and educators in South Dakota schools.

"I just have a fear about education in general, all the way from teachers to administrators," she said. "I do worry that there is going to be a shortage."

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As the workload and expectations of a school administrator increase, the interest in pursuing such a position declines, she said.

"There are a lot of hours and a lot of stressful situations to deal with," she said. "As we ask administrators to do that and take on those demands, I worry that there are going to be a significant number of people that say 'I'm not going to do this.' "

Schultz splits her time between Bridgewater and Emery, schools located eight miles apart.

This type of increasing workload is one of the reasons educators are losing interest in pursuing an administrative position.

"In a lot of our schools, (administrators) are either superintendent and principal of their K-12 school or, like me, principal of two schools," she said. "I think as we see the pressure of administrators having to do multiple duties, it is very distracting for people."

The increase in responsibilities also has taken a toll on teacher numbers, said Schultz, who said the average teacher has six to seven classes each eight-period day.

"I think with all of the demands have come more responsibilities and more tasks that they have to accept," she said. "We recognize as administrators in small schools that our teachers are overloaded."

Shultz said there is a simple solution to the shortage concerns: money.

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"I think the Legislature is tired of it, but I think it comes down to the fact that we need to be able to pay our teachers more and hire specialty people like curriculum directors to take some of the load off of the administration," she said.

Krietlow, the Region 2 representative of the South Dakota School Superintendents Association, said he expects his organization and others to discuss the issue in the coming months.

"The shortage is something that is very real," he said. "I only see it becoming more of a problem as the years progress."

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