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Small Rural Private School Superintendent Discusses Teacher Recruitment

August 15, 2014, 5:02 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Small Rural Private School Superintendent Discusses Teacher Recruitment

Even administrators at the biggest public school districts are saying there's a teacher shortage in South Dakota and they're seeing fewer applicants. So we decided to visit a small, private school in rural South Dakota to see how it's affected.

Sunshine Bible Academy in rural Hand County doesn't sit in a town. In fact, it doesn't even sit next to one.

"It is very rural and especially if you're not from South Dakota," superintendent Jason Watson said. "I moved here from the east coast, and to be honest, when I first came out here for the interview I was thinking, 'I don't know if I want to live way out here.'"

Watson knows potential teaching candidates could have that same reservation. Being a private school, Sunshine Bible Academy doesn't pay a lot and it doesn't offer a retirement plan like public schools.

Those are all factors that could dissuade a person from pursuing a career at the school, so working to recruit teachers is nothing new for Sunshine Bible Academy.

"I guess we just try to cast a wide net and not necessarily focus on just recruiting from within South Dakota," Watson said.

That effort shows, with staff at the school from the east coast to the west.

Watson reaches out to candidates that might be drawn to perks the school can offer. As a Christian school, it teaches the Bible, which is what some teachers want to do. As a boarding school with teachers living on site, they can get to know their students really well.

To find those candidates, Watson contacts 15 to 20 Christian colleges with education programs and posts on Christian education job boards seen worldwide.

"We look for opportunities like that, that's going to reach a wider audience and try to maximize the reach for the cost," Watson said.

Still, he says there are certain subject areas, including art currently, which are difficult for him to fill.

A couple other factors help Sunshine Bible Academy. It sees little turnover so administrators replace about one teacher per year and can focus on that position. It also successfully recruits alumni. They make up about a third of the school's staff, Watson said.

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