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Over 1,600 South Dakota teachers await answers on certifications

A backup has formed in South Dakota’s teacher certification program. As a result, educators in your district could be walking into class without knowing if they’re certified for the coming school year.

The legislature’s Executive Board was faced with the reality of frustrations on behalf of educators anxious about the next step of their careers.

Department of Education director of certification Kathryn Blaha explained the logjam.

“They were unable to access any systems to make such an application until March 3," Blaha said. "That has created quite a backlog for our officers to get through – we have been working through that, but it is at a slower rate I do accept than they are traditionally used to.”

Then come the hard numbers: by the end of September, hundreds of teaching certifications are due to expire statewide. State education secretary Joe Graves explained why that might make some folks nervous.

“The rule is that you cannot be paid unless you have the certificate," Graves said. "However, what we’ve said this year is, look, we’re getting through these, you got a certificate, you submitted it by the June 30 application deadline – you’re covered – and that’s exactly what we’re talking about.”

Graves said once the system is caught up, they don’t expect to have such a severe backlog in the future. He compared the DOE system to the web rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

“Our system hasn’t been that bad, but we’ve had a ton of glitches, and some of the glitches are just about inexplicable and we’re trying to figure out why that can’t work," Graves said. "We have the new sign-on system, which is great and very important to do, but it also created more glitches for us. We’re working through those, once those glitches are all taken care of, I think we’re gonna be where we need to be.”

DOE representatives report over 1,600 unprocessed certification applications.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture
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