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Tim Graf, Milbank School District
Superintendents of South Dakota:
I am honored and humbled to be writing this article as the President of the South Dakota Superintendents Association. I am starting my 34th year in education and 21st year as a school Superintendent. Our organization is composed of the leaders from diverse districts across our great state. Many of you wear additional hats and have other leadership responsibilities. With the time demands and stressors of your many responsibilities, we want our organization to help you advocate for education and to provide you with support and development.
Public education is the backbone of our democracy in America and educators are the backbone of public education. Research is clear that to have strong schools, we must have strong educators. To have strong educators we must support our teachers. We must adequately compensate them and equip them with the tools and support needed to allow them to provide a first class education.
South Dakota and the nation in general is in a tight labor market and the teacher shortage continues to be a concern as many of our baby boomers enter their retirement years. While I believe there has never been a more difficult time to be an educator, there has also never been a more important time. We must continue to work with our elected officials and advocate for the needed resources to remain competitive with area states. While we are proud to have worked with the Governor to increase teacher salaries and we made strides in this area, we must continue to devote resources if we are to retain and attract teachers to the profession.
Thomas Jefferson recognized the vital role of public education when he stated “an enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens”. I believe this is as true today as when he spoke these words.
SDSSA will also continue to support the Governor’s workforce initiative and the goal of SASD to advocate for supporting pre-school education in South Dakota. South Dakota remains one of the few states to not support pre-school education.
Finally, I would encourage our members to get involved in your professional organizations. Attendance at your regional meetings in addition to the many opportunities provided by SDSSA, SASD and ASBSD are great ways to develop professionally, build a network of support and promote education. Best wishes on a great school year.