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Further your personal and professional growth with the SDAO Academy. This professional development program is designed specifically for special district employees looking to advance their careers in local government management.

The SDAO Academy offers current, in-depth training and education opportunities in three specialty areas including district management, human resources and personnel management, and risk management and operations. Knowledge and skills in these subjects are critical elements required for success as a leader at a special district.

Participants will develop their leadership and management skills and will be better prepared to take on more responsibility at their district.

The benefits are numerous and will help participants:

• Better understand the regulatory and risks associated with every day operations
• Develop leadership and management skills
• Improve chances for promotion and advancement
• Build confidence in skills and proficiency of job duties

Benefits for the District
• This is an opportunity for employees to assist in succession planning and will develop future district leaders’ managerial skills.
• The program is a way to reward employees through training to help advance their career and subsequently motivate them in their current roles.
• The net impact to the district is the mitigation of liability, property, and workers’ compensation claims.


A curriculum of study has been developed for each of the specialty areas and will be delivered through SDAO training programs (annual conference, stand-alone regional seminars, webinars, and online courses) and in coordination with affiliate organization offerings. Courses must be specifically identified as SDAO Academy credit eligible to apply. Training courses or conference sessions for both SDAO and affiliates will be marked with the SDAO Academy logo to indicate eligibility

SDAO Academy is based on a credit system earning five credits per training and achieving program completion at 100 credits. Participants are required to complete four training topics in each specialty area in-person by attending the annual conference and/or stand-alone regional seminars.

District Management - 30 Credits (6 Courses)
• Board Relations
• Contract Management / Risk Transfer
• Elections
• Ethics
• Financial Management and Audits

        • Insurance Coverages 
• Intergovernmental Affairs/Agreements
• Public Meetings
• Public Relations
• Strategic Planning 

Human Resources/Personnel Management - 30 Credits (6 Courses)
• Discrimination
• Drug & Alcohol Reasonable Suspicion
• Internal Investigations
• Managing Employee Leave

          • Hiring Practices / Performance Management /
Documentation / Discipline / Discharge
• Harassment
• Social Media
• HR Audit / Compliance Audit
• Wage & Hour Compliance

Risk Management/Operations - 30 Credits (6 Courses)
• Accident Investigation / Reporting
• Bloodborne Pathogens
• Confined Space
• Cyber Risks
• Driver Training
• Electrical Safety
• Emergency Response Planning
• Ergonomics
• Facility Maintenance / Property
• Fall Protection
• First Aid & CPR

              • Hazard Communications
• Injury / Illness Prevention Program
• Lockout / Tagout
• LP Toolkit for Workers’ Comp Members
• Respiratory Protection
• Return-to-Work
• Safety Committees
• Safety OR-OSHA Inspections
• Trenching & Excavation Practices
• Wellness

Electives - 10 Credits (2 Courses)
Program participants may choose electives based on individual interests and/or job requirements. Outside sources such as seminars and webinars can be used.

To receive credit for non-SDAO elective courses, the following information must be included when a course is being submitted for approval:

1. Proof of attendance – a certificate or card of completion
2. Course title
3. Name of the affiliate organization that sponsored the course
4. Course date
5. Small description of the course material that was covered

Individuals who are interested in enrolling in the program will need to fill out a program application that must be signed by the applicant’s direct supervisor or the district manager and submitted to SDAO

There is no obligation to complete this program. However, once enrolled, all requirements must be completed within three years in order to receive a certificate of completion.

• Complete the self-tracking worksheet
• Attach copies of certificates of completion for SDAO or SDIS trainings
• Attach copies of the certificates of completion and course descriptions for any non-SDAO course information being submitted for evaluation
• Forward all documents to

Upon completion of 100 course credits, participant will receive a certificate of completion, recognition at the annual conference, and a spotlight on SDAO’s social media and in the newsletter.

Enrollment Form
Tracking Worksheet
Program Brochure

SDAO Academy Frequently Asked Questions