Our Voice
An Important Ask of South Dakota’s Educators

This has been a busy school year, and while that is always true for those of us who work in a public school, this year the workload seems to be overwhelming. There is a lack of substitute teachers, many unfilled classified and clerical positions, and more work to help our students get back on track from the disruptions of the last two years. We are clearly not back to normal.

I have had many conversations with our members who are becoming overwhelmed by the work they are taking on to fill the gaps. More times than not, educators are not being compensated for this extra work and are being told that nobody else is available to do this work, so you must do it. This environment is not sustainable for educators or our students. The question is what can we do about it?

The good news is that I believe we can change the current situation, but it means that all of us will have to find a little extra room on our very full plates to get more involved in the decision-making process for our schools and state. That’s a tough ask, I know, but if we don’t change it, who will?

At the local level, school board members must hear from educators about the conditions in the schools they oversee. Let’s be clear; unsustainable workloads are not good for our students. School boards must be open to a discussion about how we can make things better for everyone. This means that our local associations need to have members at all school board meetings. You can help your local leaders by offering to attend school board meetings.

If it doesn’t appear that your local school board is willing to listen to or address your concerns, maybe it’s time to engage parents and other community allies to talk about what is going on. Building partnerships with allies can be a very powerful tool in creating change. And if they still won’t listen, maybe it’s time to recruit and support candidates in the next school board election. Now is the time to start to organize and if we all take a little part, we can truly make a difference.

I know some of you are not comfortable with “politics” but the truth is that every single decision that is made about our schools, our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions is a political decision made by people who are elected. As educators, we must start engaging elected officials at every level to have meaningful conversations about what is happening in our schools. If we don’t, who will? I know this is a tall ask, but it is an important ask. Why? Because our students’ future depends on it.

It is truly an honor to represent the educators of our state. You amaze me everyday with your dedication and determination to help your students. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you soon.