The BSA’s SCOUTING ALUMNI ASSOCIATION now has a Facebook page! Be sure to check it out, “Like” it if you like, and pass the word! Here’s where to go…
And tell ‘em Andy sent you!
I just read the letter in your column from the parent of a Scout whose Scoutmaster disallows merit badge universities, fairs, midways, and other group merit badge events. Of course you were dead-on with your reply! So long as it’s assured that the instructors at these events are registered as Merit Badge Counselors, or that they’re supervised by someone who is, and who can sign off the blue cards, these represent wonderful opportunities for Scouts! Perhaps this particular Scoutmaster had some sort of bad experience with group events, but he’s gone way overboard! Maybe he can be saved…maybe not. (District Merit Badge Counselor Coordinator, Atlanta Area Council, GA)
Yes, I agree that councils and districts need to constantly monitor the quality of their Merit Badge Counselors. I’m happy to tell you that, in this particular case, the council events being denied are all 100% registered MBC run! That’s part of the pity here!
That recent letter from a reader whose Scoutmaster doesn’t “approve” of group merit badge sessions prompts me to write. Even though this Scoutmaster has had discussions with it his boss (the Committee Chair) and the local District Executive, the people he really needs to have a meeting with are the District or Council Advancement Chair and Dean of Merit Badge Counselors. If this Scoutmaster has a beef with a Merit Badge Counselor, he should report it, and his concerns will be investigated. If the council folks in charge find these counselors in compliance, then another meeting with the Scoutmaster is appropriate, to assure him that all is in order. If the Scoutmaster is still head-strong about group merit badge sessions, then he no longer is in compliance with his signed membership application and should be removed as a unit volunteer. This Scoutmaster, and Merit Badge Counselors, should be afforded due process. Although the evidence thus far is stacked against this Scoutmaster, there may be a chance that he’s honestly trying to fulfill the mission of our movement. In the end, this troop will have a better Scoutmaster, whoever it may be. (Dave Mountney, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)
Spot-on! Unfortunately, some folks like to make up their own “rules”—which usually have to do with impinging on, not encouraging, Scout advancement.
About Scouting events on Sundays, I’m Cubmaster for a pack of 84 Cubs, with lots of pack activities throughout the year. We’ve struggled with attendance on Saturday events especially because of youth sports, which are huge in our area (we’re a large college town). In September, we held a bike rodeo, and instead of having it on Saturday, we had it on Sunday afternoon to avoid conflicts with soccer, football, and fall baseball (which I didn’t even know existed!). We had double the number of Cubs, compared to this even on a Saturday the year before!
We also try to have a pack hike every month, and we’ve started holding at least half of them on Sunday afternoons. On our last pack hike, we had 73 Cubs, parents, and siblings hiking! We were spread out over 100 yards of trail.
We usually shoot for a 1:30 or 2 pm start-time, to give people time to eat lunch and get to the location after church, and we’re usually done by 4 or 5 pm, which gives those who have Sunday evening church activities time to get there. That’s enough time for a hike close to town or an event at a park in town.
So, there’s a little empirical evidence that holding Cub Scout events on Sundays can definitely result in better participation! (Steven Jarvis, CM, Fayetteville, AK)
Thanks! Great examples of “Sunday success”!
To maybe help Daryl, who was having problems with in-school recruiting… Many schools are now preventing active recruiting, or will no longer allow Scout fliers in the schools. But, they can’t block “party” invitations! This leads to a two-pronged approach.
First, give the Cubs invitations to distribute to friends in their classes—the invitation should be for a fun party, or party-like event. (Perhaps a holiday party, this time of year, or a sledding party in January.)
Second, get the Cubs to do a “wear your uniform to school” day, on the same day as the event. Cub-aged boys like the uniform, and will be interested in Scouting when they see it! (Ben Dibble, Daniel Webster Council, NH)
Great idea! Thanks!
We’re in process of completing our recharter and I have a question about the Unit College Scout Reserve. As I understand it, this position is similar to the Assistant Scoutmaster position, with the exception of the training required in order to register. Is that correct? If so, then the Unit College Scout Reserve could not sit on a board of review, correct? (Lorie Still, CC, Orange County Council, CA)
First, it’s “College Scouter Reserve” (Code 92) and it’s a district-level registration. There’s also “Scouter Reserve” (Code 91) for those at least 21 years old, and this is also a district-level registration. For both of these, only YPT is required. Neither is eligible to sit on boards of review, because neither is an MC (committee member) or CC position. But, not to worry. Both positions can definitely be involved in all other activities of their home troop!
I have several questions that I’m sure you’ve heard countless times about fundraising and about volunteers. They seem to go hand in hand, so if you don’t mind three questions at once…
Our Cub Scout pack relies on several fundraising sources, including council popcorn sales and our own bake sale, and “support Scouting dinner” at a local restaurant. It seems as if the same families are “carrying” the pack, year after year, while there’s an equally large number essentially getting a free ride by making no appreciable effort on any of these. We’ve tried incentive prizes in addition to the ones offered by Trails End, but still can’t budge them! Some suggestions to level the playing field include a “buy out” where families either fund-raise the goal amount or pay the pack, of, when a trip somewhere is the “prize,” give first priority to those who have pulled their own weight. Do you have any suggestions how to convince other families to participate?
Our pack had a long-time, super-reliable Committee Chair, but this ultimately resulted in a lot of extra work getting dumped on her (which she, unfortunately, accepted). Now, I’m Cubmaster, and she’s gone, leaving a huge vacuum. I tried to prepare for this by getting volunteers to fill her shoes and separate out her duties, but I’ve only been able to fill a couple of slots. So guess who was left with the rest! Yup, me! Now I’m Cubmaster, Secretary, and mostly Committee Chair. I’ve put it out there to the pack families that I really need people to fill those shoes, but no takers. I’m saddled with more than I can carry. But I don’t want to just announce that “I’m dropping these duties now, so someone better pick them up or we’re in big trouble,” even though that’s how I feel. I’ve already tried several methods. I’ve asked in general at pack meetings, and I’ve individually asked several people to help out, but not with a lot of success. Everybody’s “too busy” already.
Any suggestions that you’ve seen work?
Last one (I promise!). I’m having an issue with a Den Leaders and I’m not sure how to address it before I lose the den. He was the only one from his Tiger Den to volunteer as a Den Leader, so I had to work with what I had. Unfortunately, his personal schedule is pretty unpredictable, so many of his meetings wind up getting cancelled at the last minute. Initially, I suggested to him that he really needs to give the parents a reliable den meeting schedule, and that he should enlist the help of parents to run the meetings he can’t attend, but nothing’s changed. I don’t want to fire the guy, but if he keeps going on like this, we’ll have a den of zero pretty soon. Any ideas here would really be appreciated! (Name & Council Withheld)
On fund-raising: First, why does a Cub Scout pack need to fund-raise? Why aren’t the pack’s annual dues covering expenses for the year? For outings that have a fee associated with them, why aren’t you simply operating on a “those who attend, pay” basis? For “management” of popcorn sales, and to increase family participation, consider asking your fellow Cub Scout leaders when you attend monthly Roundtables. Or, ask the district’s “Popcorn Kernel” for some suggestions. Another way to do this (or maybe in addition to the suggestions you’ll get) is: Every family is responsible for a minimum dollar amount of popcorn (say, $50), which they can just buy, or they can go out and sell, but, no matter what, they kick in 50 bucks.
Volunteers: Part of the problem here is the precedent the prior CC set, and which you’re repeating: Why should the parents volunteer when they don’t have to, because you’re going to do it all, anyway?
As an active Commissioner, I helped a new Cubmaster with exactly this situation. Here’s what we agreed to do… We called a meeting of all parents (only parents). He wrote on a big white-board all of the events that needed “champions” (he picked that word, and it was perfect!). This included the Pinewood Derby, Raingutter Regatta, B&G Banquet, Bank Account Manager (i.e., treasurer), etc., etc. and announced that, as Cubmaster, he can’t do these things too, so folks are going to have to raise their hands, be the champions, and then recruit other parents to help them, where necessary. The first on the list was the Pinewood Derby. “OK,” he asked, “who’s going to champion this year’s Derby?” The room was silent. No one raised a hand. The Cubmaster then went to the white-board and erased “Pinewood Derby” from the list, and said, “OK, no Pinewood Derby this year. So, let’s look at the next event…” Of course, at that point the parents went nuts. “You can’t do that!” they started hollering. His reply was simple: “I haven’t done anything… You all decided just a moment ago that you’re not willing to champion this event for your sons, and I’ve already told you that I can’t do this and be Cubmaster, too, so it’s gone. Next…?” Well, you already know what happened. Once the parents realized he really meant what he’d said, the light bulbs went on and they asked him to write the event back on the board, and they volunteered to take change of it—Champion, committee, and all! The moral: Unless these parents realize you’re dead serious and that it’s absolutely up to them or there’s no program for their sons, they’re going to sit back and let you bust your buns. So “Cubmaster-up” and stick to your guns no matter what!
Do-nothing Den Leader: Let’s get this straight. The Cubmaster’s not authorized to “hire” or “fire” anybody. That’s the responsibility of the Committee Chair. It’s also the CC’s responsibility to make sure every boy in every den has an active, trained, committed Den Leader. So the first thing you need to do it put the responsibility where it belongs. Then, the CC meets with the present DL and tells him that unless he can do the job as it’s supposed to be done, he needs to step aside. If the DL agrees to straighten out and fly right, great. If he won’t, or can’t, the CC relieves him of the responsibilities he’s failing at, calls a meeting of the den’s parents, tells these parents the den has no Den Leader and can’t continue unless one of them steps up, volunteers, gets trained, and does the job—with support from the other parents, of course. Just like the other scenario, if no hands go up, the CC simply tells the parents, “OK, the den is gone—thank you for your time,” and ends the meeting. You see, it’s this simple: If no parent is willing to do the job, isn’t it pretty unfair of them to expect that “somebody else” can do what they’re supposed to be doing? Once again, if they think they can duck responsibilities, they will!
In all of this, I’m getting the strong feeling that a whole bunch of folks either need some re-training on how a Cub Scout pack actually works, or they need their first-time training! Half these problems would go away, if the pack’s volunteers and a few extra parents found out what the straight skinny is! High time for a “Come to Jesus meeting”! ________________________________________
Who is responsible for creating the Annual Commissioner Service Plan? Should it be a council-level plan, a district-level plan, or should it be council-guided and district-specific? If a council doesn’t have one, can the District Commissioner create one for the district? Should he? (Name & Council Withheld)
Refer to the opening pages of the COMMISSIONER ADMINISTRATION OF UNIT SERVICE fieldbook (No. 34128A).
Yes, in an ideal situation (which we’re all striving for) the annual Commissioner Service Plan is developed at the council level, between the Council Commissioner and Scout Executive, but with the involvement of the District Commissioners and District Executives (this latter group because districts are the operational arms of the council).
Once the council plan is developed as an “umbrella,” each district, via DC-DE collaboration, “personalizes” the plan for the district. If a council hasn’t developed a plan, a savvy DC will work with his or her DE to create one.
In the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT, Section 188.8.131.52-Unit Advancement Responsibilities, point 3 states: “troops…schedule and conduct regular courts of honor—quarterly is generally sufficient.” Is “generally sufficient” up for interpretation? It doesn’t use the words “must”, shall”, “should”, “may” or “can,” so I’d like clarification, if possible. (Name & Council Withheld)
Courts of honor (“COH”) recognize Scouts’ achievements publicly. In a right-running troop, they’ve already received their badges (which are completely “legal” to sew on as soon as they’re received, BTW) and their rank and merit badge certificates; the COH is the public recognition. The JTE program cites four as optimal, but more (or fewer) are permissible. The BSA does leave some things to be decided by right-minded individuals invested in youth advancement!
My den has completed all the requirements for the Arrow of Light. When I asked the Cubmaster that I’d like to present these at our current (December) pack meeting, he told me that the Arrow of Light is only presented at the cross-over ceremony at our pack meeting next April—four months from now! I talked to our committee. Their answer was, “This is the pack rule; no if’s, and’s or but’s.” I feel that the boys should receive the ranks as soon as they’ve earned it. What can I do? (Fawn Walden, WDL, West Tennessee Area Council)
First, know that you’re 100% on-target! All Scouts (including Cub Scouts and Webelos) receive the badges and ranks they’ve earned at the earliest possible time. This is especially true of Cub/Webelos Scouts; these should be presented at the soonest pack meeting available after all requirements are completed.
Moreover, crossovers in April went out with buggy-whips… actually, in 1989, and that’s 23 years ago! Crossovers are expected to be done in February, most usually in conjunction with the pack’s Blue & Gold Banquet. Which leads us to this question: Why are B&G Banquets held in February? Simple: February is the birth-month of both the BSA (1910) and Baden-Powell himself (1857)! The B&G is, in fact, a birthday party!
What can you do? Well, maybe ask the Cubmaster and committee to re-read the CUB SCOUT LEADER BOOK, so they can start doing things the way the BSA intends for them to, instead of they way they like (which is both arbitrary and inappropriate, and severely damages the Cub-to-Scout transition).
If that doesn’t work, reach out to your district’s Commissioner staff and ask for someone to come in and educate these surely well-meaning but nevertheless misguided folks.
Andy, I want to let you know that I printed out your answer and showed the Cubmaster, and she talked it over with the committee. They’ve decided to present the Arrow of Light ranks and cross these boys over at our B&G Banquet in February (which is actually our next pack meeting, because of school schedules). Thanks for your help! (Fawn Walden)
Wow! You’ve just made my day! Congratulations to these boys, to you, and to your Cubmaster and pack committee! Now, let’s get them ALL into a Boy Scout troop—that’s where the real challenge and adventure that they’ve been preparing for begins!
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 339 – 12/12/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]