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ND task force zeroes in on teacher recruitment

Submitted Photo When North Dakota lawmakers reconvene in 2025, they are expected to consider ideas from a task force about getting more teachers into classrooms. The panel is just beginning to hold discussions. Photo from Adobe Stock.

BISMARCK – This coming Thursday, a new task force will meet to advance discussions about boosting teacher recruitment and retention in North Dakota.

The panel was announced by Gov. Doug Burgum last fall as stakeholders noted that, like other states, North Dakota continues to deal with an educator shortage.

One task force member is Bret Dockter, an elementary school teacher from Harvey and the 2022 North Dakota Teacher of the Year.

He said when he was starting his career, an opening for a job like his often attracted many candidates. But he said schools, especially in rural areas, aren’t as lucky these days.

“Now, we have jobs that we maybe get one applicant for, or we don’t even get applicants for,” said Dockter. “And so, I think we all are looking for a way to promote this great profession that we have.”

He said it’s a tall order because, from his perspective, he still sees a lot of burnout among colleagues, related to the pandemic.

Dockter said he hopes things like teacher pay are brought up in the discussions, but he said he’s excited to hear ideas from other task force members.

The panel is required to submit recommendations later this year.

Ahead of any long-term solutions, Dockter said smaller districts will continue to see educators take on extra duties.

“I have a bus license, and I’ve been subbing once in a while after school,” Dockter said, “just because they have such limited resources there.”

Dockter also is a member of North Dakota United, the state’s largest teacher’s union.

Beyond better pay, union leaders hope the task force looks at things like adequate staffing levels and less burdensome pathways to teacher licensure.

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