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Issue 49 – April 2005

Nope, ol’ Andy here hasn’t been “on vacation,” although that’s never a bad idea! If you’re a regular reader, you know that our Website’s server “died” and our estimable and stalwart Webmaster, Mike Bowman, needed to find a replacement and then get it up and running. He’s been successful (in large part thanks to readers who helped this not-for-profit website with some tangible contributions to the cause! So, here we are, and I’ve been answering a whole bunch of questions from folks around the country – that’s never stopped, and everyone who’s written has heard from me personally, as always. So, without further ado, let’s rock n’ roll…

Dear Andy,

Are there rules to follow in selecting/appointing a committee chair? Does someone just step forward and take the position, or should there be a nominating process and democratic vote? I’m asking because our Committee Chair has become increasingly dictatorial and there are other willing and able volunteers with better management styles ready to step up, but the CC has no intentions of stepping aside. By the way, the CC has also said it would be better to “Ask Jeeves” than to “Ask Andy.” (“J”)

Hey, ask Jeeves, too! The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to deal with your situation. But, unarguably, your best sources will always be the materials and information presented to you when you all took your training for the positions you hold, and the Cub Scout Leader Book (BSA No. 33221A). Here’s what these have to say about Pack leadership:

– The SPONSOR (also called CHARTERED ORGANIZATION) is ultimately responsible for selecting and appointing the adult leaders of the Pack, and has the final word on who holds what positions.

– The CUBMASTER is responsible for leading the Pack meetings and is supported by the other Pack leaders (this includes the Den Leaders and the Pack Committee).

– The PACK COMMITTEE is responsible for such things as record-keeping, finances, leadership (i.e., finding other adults willing to hold direct youth-service positions, such as Den Leaders), and re-registration. (Note that these are all SUPPORT responsibilities, and not POLICY or PROGRAM responsibilities.)

– Among the responsibilities of the COMMITTEE CHAIR are these:

– REPORT to the chartered organization

– CONFER with the Cubmaster

– SUPERVISE Pack Committee by presiding at committee meetings,

assigning duties to committee members, training committee

members, planning for youth recruitment and re-registration

– Take job-specific training

– Manage finances

– Etc.

ONLY when the Cubmaster is unable to, does the Committee Chair

assume active direction of the Pack.

(THIS IS TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM THE CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK)

Each and every Pack Committee manages itself. If a volunteer isn’t fulfilling his or her responsibilities, it’s the obligation of the committee as a whole to either “rehabilitate” this volunteer, or, failing that, to replace him or her. But the BSA doesn’t dictate “policy” on what to do with a “problem leader;” instead, the BSA assumes you’re all adults and knows you’re all volunteers. This means that (a) you will have the maturity and good sense to solve your own internal problems and (b) as volunteers you always have the right (and obligation!) to say “No” to dictatorial behavior. Moreover, it is understood that no adult leadership position in a Scouting unit is “life-tenure.”

Regarding the first point (above), an open discussion conducted with reason and without accusations or rancor might well contribute to resolving the problem; grumbling behind the scenes and talking behind peoples’ backs will solve nothing. Personally, I encourage you to have a frank and honest conversation, with everyone involved present.

Regarding the second point, suppose (I’m going to deliberately be ridiculous here) the chair dictated that all Den Leaders and the Cubmaster are to wear clown suits at Pack meetings from now on. To this, you’d simply say “No.” (At least I’d hope you would!) So, if the chair is trying to dictate other things that run against the grain, you can say “No” to those, too. If you do this, he’s really pretty powerless to “enforce” anything — Heck, what’s he going to do? Cut your pay?

Regarding the third point, if everyone else is stepping forward with their left foot, and the chair’s stepping forward with his right, it’s pretty obvious who’s out of step. It’s even obvious to the chair, whether he admits this to you or not. So, if your chair doesn’t “get it” that his methods of management are not working, and he refuses to change his ways, the committee has the absolute right to simply tell him that his services as chair are no longer desired, BECAUSE THESE METHODS AREN’T NOT WORKING. He can’t “refuse” to “step aside” because the committee can simply appoint a new chair and that’s that!

As you do what it is that you believe you need to do, pay close attention to the need to RESOLVE THIS AMONG AND BETWEEN YOURSELVES and do not turn this into a “Pack Civil War.” Do NOT let it reach the level of the Cubs or their parents — this is an internal situation that you MUST resolve among yourselves.

Finally, never let this thought go far from your mind: The ones who are really “in charge” here are the CUB SCOUTS. All of what you’re doing is for them, and the quality of the program you’ve committed to delivering to them.

Hi Andy,

I’m the Roundtable Commissioner for my district and I’m working towards my Arrowhead award. My question is about one of the requirements—number 5—which is “supervise the staff in conducting these roundtables or huddles.” How many do you have to supervise? What is customary? (Gary Katz, RTC, Appalachian District, Northeastern Pennsylvania Council)

My references show three requirements for a RT Commissioner to earn the Arrowhead Honor: (1) review the appropriate ROUNDTABLE PLANNING GUIDE, (2) Review all material in supplemental aids (Woods Wisdom, etc.), and (3) recruit a roundtable staff.

For the Commissioner Key, requirement 4 states: “Lead staff (meaning RT staff) in preparing a 1-year roundtable…outline.” Based on how your district and council operate, this would be 10 or 12 roundtables in a one-year period. Next, requirement 5 states: “Supervise the staff (meaning RT staff) in conducting these roundtables…” So, since requirement 5 follows and makes direct reference to requirement 4, it would seem that either 10 or 12 roundtables are involved here (or whatever number your district usually holds in a one-year period).

Dear Andy,

I’m a mother of a Tiger Cub. There are only three Tigers in our Den, and we’ve been with a six-member Wolf Den all year. Now they want us to go on our own, but none of the three sets parents will make the commitment to become the Den Leader. The other adult volunteers in the Pack have told us that we need a Den Leader, and they make announcements at the Pack meetings, but no one’s come forward to be the Den Leader for these Tiger Cubs. Personally, I’m feeling very guilty that I started my son in this program, and that it may fall apart if I don’t step up, but I’ve gone over my schedule and life and I just can’t do it (much less do it well!), which is what the boys deserve. I’ve researched and planned an outing to a radio station for the Den (the Tigers and Wolves, combined), and I made sure we made our Pinewood car and earned beads. We go to all meetings and outings. Meanwhile, there’s another Pack in our town, and the other mothers are thinking that we should ask them if we can join them instead of one of us stepping into the Den Leader position. For myself, I know I can’t be a Den Leader, but my son really loves Scouting, and passive aggressive pressure I feel is making me want to quit—if this was just for me I would. Would it be a big mistake if we leave this Pack and join another one? I don’t want to be the mom that’s the “problem mom,” but whose responsibility is it to get a Den Leader? I don’t blame the Wolf Den Leader for not wanting a dual-Den, but what’s the protocol if none of the parents will do it? Any help in explaining this would be helpful. (Tiger Mom)


If I understand your situation correctly, you’re saying that you’ve basically been doing the work of a Den Leader but don’t want the job “officially,” and that the other parents in this Den of three are sort of hiding in the shadows, hoping “somebody else” will take the job. And, if no one steps up to the plate, then you and they are prepared to walk away from the Pack that this Tiger Den is a part of and go to another Pack, in the hope that a Den Leader there will be willing to take you all in. If this is about right, then here are some thoughts for all of the parents of these three boys to consider…

Scouting, and especially Tiger Cubs and Cub Scouting, is led by adult volunteers who make the program happen for their sons. So, unless one of you is willing to take on the primary role of Den Leader, and the other parents are equally willing to make the commitment to help that Den Leader, your sons will not have a Scouting experience. This would be a pity, because there is no other youth program available that quietly teaches family bonding, self-reliance, honoring God and country, helping others, and improving oneself, all while having fun.

When parents dodge responsibility — in this case, run to another Pack and Den so that they don’t have to do the job themselves — they teach their own children a “life-lesson.” Is this really the sort of life-lesson they want to teach to their children?

If you and the other parents simply can’t work out shared responsibilities between yourselves, then I suppose your sons will simply not be a part of Scouting for at least the next four years.

I was once a Den Leader. Two families came to me, requesting that their sons be admitted to the Den I led. I sat down with the parents and explained how the Den worked and described the commitments I needed from them in order for me to be able to take on two new boys. Neither family was willing to commit, and I was obliged to say “No” to their joining, because I couldn’t have two families doing nothing while the other six families in the Den were working hard to help me make the program go. That’s life, I suppose, and life is made up of lots of difficult decisions.

And Tiger Mom writes again…

Andy,
You don’t have the situation right so I’ll try to be clearer in my explanation. No, I’ve not been the leader. From the start, we were told by the Pack’s leaders that they were hopefully going to recruit more Tigers and, until we got a leader, we would be with the Wolf Den, with their Den Leader handling our sons, too. All three boys, and their parents, were told the same story. We have all been doing all of the things asked of us as parents. We’ve done the homework with the boys and done all that’s been asked of us. Now, if I was told the only way my son could be a Scout was for me to be the leader, I could not have signed him up, and if that’s what’s expected from all new boys and their families, wouldn’t you have too many leaders? But the way you read my letter and your response makes me wonder what type of organization I’ve gotten involved with. I’m not a leader, and I resent the implication that the only way my son can be involved is if I lead. I’m a great support person, but due to my job I can’t take on the full responsibility of the daily running of a Den. Now what “life-lesson” is that teaching me and my son—to overextend myself and not do a good job for all involved! Obviously, you can’t help me, but we can’t be the only parents who’ve been in this situation. What I thought I was asking is, is it possible to change Packs, or should I just scrap the idea of Scouts since this Pack can’t help us with a Den Leader? I understand that this is a volunteer organization, but I’m at a loss as to what to do and what my options are other that taking on the job myself, which I can’t do, which I believe is an important life lesson too—to realize your limitations and to work with them. People overextend themselves too much today and sometimes you just need to say “No.” Little did I know there’d be so much drama involved with Scouts! (Tiger Mom)

I’m very happy that you wrote again, and I can see that I didn’t have your situation 100% right—only about 95%. So, what I’ve already said stands. That said, here are some further points that might help you…

You’ve told me of the contributions you’ve made, and that’s wonderful. In fact, that’s exactly what makes the Scouting program work! But, even with a second opportunity to sing their praises, you’ve said nothing about the contributions of the other two boys’ parents, and this may be significant. No Cub Scout Pack is under any obligation whatsoever to provide a Den Leader to you. This responsibility falls entirely on the parents of the boys who wish to join. That’s the way the Scouting program has worked since 1910, and there’s been no change. Worldwide, there are some 28 MILLION youth involved in Scouting, and all of them are led and guided by parents who have come forward as volunteers. In the council I live in, we have some 20,000 youth supported by 7,000 adult volunteers, and only about 40 paid people who handle the administrative and camp-related stuff. Those ratios are true across America, including your own home council, town, and Pack. Yes, your son can join any Pack you and he choose, and if you’re willing to provide backup to a Den Leader in exchange for your son being a member of a new Den in a new Pack, I’m sure you and he will be accepted with open arms. However, I’m now going to recommend that you do this by yourself and with just your son, and—this may be difficult—allow the other boys and their parents to find their own ways. I’m suggesting this because I continue to get the very strong feeling that while you are willing to be a worker bee, the other parents aren’t. Stick by your own son, and make this work for him, first and most important of all. Then, if the other parents are willing to stand by their sons and likewise offer to be significant contributors to a new Den and Pack, so much the better! But, consider this: If you all stay with the Pack you’re in right now, and all of the parents of this Tiger Den agree to share the load rather than toss the burden on just one, maybe you can be successful right where you are! How cool would that be?!

Dear Andy,

Can the current Scoutmaster be one of the ‘other’ folks on letters of recommendation for an Eagle Scout candidate? I can’t find anything that would prohibit this, but it seems that the SM’s signature on the application is his/her letter of recommendation. (Bruce Stohlman, Bellevue, NE)

Logic tells us that, since the Eagle candidate is turning the requirement materials over to the adult leadership of the Troop, including the Scout-master, who will ultimately give approval (see UNIT APPROVAL signature lines on page 2 of the application), it would be redundant to ask the Scoutmaster to write a letter to his own Troop’s leaders. Besides, Requirement 2 asks for the names of people who can attest to the candidate’s daily life; that is, his life outside of Scouting, and this would pretty much indicate that the Scoutmaster is “exempt” from this list. Besides, the options for “other” are very broad indeed—This can be an aunt or uncle; godparent; a second minister, priest or rabbi; a sports coach; neighbor; another teacher; or even best friend.

Frankly, the line most often left blank is “employer,” because folks seem to forget that permanent, full-time employment is not required here—anyone for whom the Scout’s ever worked for pay, including lawn-mowing, babysitting, paper route, and so on, fits this category! The other thing that’s often forgotten is that the Scout should have contacted each of his references in advance of submitting their name, explaining the circumstance and requesting that the person act as a reference for him.

A Note From The NetCommish: Please be aware that the people listed as references will be asked to give a letter of recommendation. Letters from the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmasters, and other BSA leaders are normally NOT permitted. The people listed should be from outside Scouting (neighbors, church members, friends, coaches, etc. ) who know the candidate as an individual and who of the candidate’s strength’s and weaknesses as a person. If there are exceptional circumstances, a letter from a BSA leader may be permitted, but before the application is submitted, you should take this up with the Council’s Scout Executive and Advancement Chairman. Source: Eagle Scout Advancement Worksheet PowerPoint Presentation with acknowledgment to Mike Walton who design the presentation.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been in Scouting for nearly three decades, and very proud to still be involved in our great organization. I’m currently the Advancement Chairman of a Troop and a member of our District Operating Committee. I’m a true believer in continued training, and I expect to be receiving my Wood Badge beads very soon. Here’s my question: How to get our Troop’s Scoutmaster to continue his BSA training. Some years ago, with another Troop, he completed Boy Scout Leader Essentials, but he’s never taken Scoutmaster specifics, and even though he claims to have taken Wood Badge training, I know for a fact that he never completed his ticket. I have two concerns. First and foremost, our Troop would obviously benefit from having a more thoroughly trained Scoutmaster. The other issue is more of an emotional one—I sort of resent that he goes about saying he is Wood Badge trained. I’ve worked hard on my ticket items for Wood Badge, but I know I haven’t yet competed my obligation to the Wood Badge training experience. I think his claim of being Wood Badge trained takes away from everyone else who’s finished the process. Any advice on how I can handle this without creating alienation? (B.S.)

First, congratulations on aiming to complete your Wood Badge training! Wood Badge, as you’ve come to learn, has two distinct but connected parts: The practical training itself, and the creation and completion of your “ticket.” In order to qualify, nowadays, for Wood Badge training, a Scouter is expected to have completed New leader Essentials and then the specific supplement for his or her position… Scoutmaster/Cubmaster (or ASM/ACM), unit committee, etc. But, it wasn’t too many years ago that there was only one course available…no “modules.” It was either Scoutmastership (or other names for virtually identical training), or Cub Scout Leader Basic (it was never called “Cubmastership”). So, I’m wondering if it’s possible that your Troop’s present Scoutmaster took a course prior to the current version, which might account for his not having taken (or being interested in taking) the current course or module. Going a step further, you know you have 18 months to complete your Wood Badge ticket, and after that, it’s pretty much history. You’ve still been exposed to the training, of course, but no ticket, and consequently, no McLaren neckerchief (scarf in the UK), woggle, or beads (which are, in fact, the “badge-of-wood” or Wood Badge). And, not everyone completes their ticket, just as not every Scout makes Eagle, or OA Brotherhood (think about how many times you’ve seen Ordeal sashes at Eagle courts of honor!). So, does this SM wear Wood Badge beads? I’m guessing he doesn’t. Consequently, he’s not actually “illegal” when he says he’s “Wood Badge trained.” My suggestion on this? Here it is: Let it go, my Scouting friend. I can guarantee you that folks who know have figured him out a long time ago, and those who don’t know about the two parts of Wood Badge wouldn’t understand, anyway. It takes an Antelope, or Bear, or Bob White, Eagle, Owl, and so on to know, and I can assure you: They do!

Now, your other point: How to get him trained. When someone’s as reluctant and set in his ways as he seems to be, the way that’s worked for me in similar situations is to—believe it or not!—get him into a staff position on a course! Yes, that’s right–It’s the same way you handle a Scout who has some behavior problems: You put him in charge of Troop or patrol discipline. Get this fellow on staff, if you can, of the next available course, by first describing the situation to the Course Director (who should understand perfectly!), and then appeal to this SM’s ego and pride in his skills by asking him to take the training segment on whatever his special skill might be. The result will be that he’ll be exposed to the training in spite of himself! For yourself, focus on what the task actually is: It’s getting this chap exposed to the training materials; it’s not to “get him to take a training course.” Want an alternate (just in case this suggestion doesn’t work, or can’t happen quickly enough)? Suggest to him that it’s time to run a Troop Junior Leader Training Course, and offer to work with him is setting it up and making it run. Through the act of teaching the Troop’s youth leaders, he’ll get exposed, himself, to just what he needs to know!

(“I used to be an Owl, and a good old Owl, too…”)

Dear Andy,

My son is a Weeblo and he and his Den are working very hard to accomplish their requirements. Our Den Leader mentioned that they’ll be taking one or two trips over the summer in order to accomplish this. Someone from our pack told us that we can’t do this, because Cub Scouts isn’t a year-round program. I’m confused about this because the boys do complete belt loops and requirements at camp over the summer, and I know of several Dens that have used their summertime trips to satisfy requirements. I’ve looked in the Handbook, but haven’t found any information about this. Can you help? (Starpolisher7)

Of course, the WEBELOS (that’s the correct and only spelling—singular or plural, by the way) program is year-round, and more power to that Den Leader for encouraging this! All Scouting programs are year-round, and I’ve never quite understood why some units go “dark” in the summer—it makes no sense and it’s contrary to the program! There’s even a Summertime Pack Award for Packs that stay active over the summer! Whoever “from your Pack” is saying otherwise better bone up on Scouting.

Summertime Pack Award

A Note from the NetCommish: There is also a new award known as the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award that requires attendance at a Cub Scout day camp or Cub Scout/Webelos resident camp (sometimes referred to as “Summer Camp”).

Outdoor Activity Award

Happy Scouting!!

Andy

(April 2005 – Copyright © 2005 Andy McCommish)

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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