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Bob White

Let's play Unit Commissioner

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If you were a unit commissioner you would look at a variety of characteristics of a unit to evaluate its health.

 

Memership growth, retention, advancement, leadership, use of scouting methods, are a few of the things you look at.

 

So lets play Unit Commissioner. Would you evaluate these units as Healthy, Cautionary, In Danger.

 

What would you recommend they do in the future.

 

Troop A does not use First Class emphasis or New Scout Patrol and has has lost more than 50% of its membership in the last 18-months. It currently has 7 scouts 3 of the scouts joined in the last 18-months one is Tenderfoot the others two have not yet earned a rank. Only one current scout has advanced in a over a year and he is a tenderfoot.

 

There are 10 assistant scoutmasters and 3 committee members.

 

The troop camps at least once a month and attends summercamp.

 

 

Troop B uses First Class Emphasis and New Scout Patrols, has 34 scouts. Two scouts have quit in two years. Of the 8 new scouts that joined last year all 8 are still active. All are Second Class, most expect to be First Class by April. The troop recruits aprox 6 to 8 scouts each year and loses 5 to 6 scouts a year due to aging out at 18 years old. Currently there are 5 active Eagle scouts in Troop B and 3 working on projects this year.

 

Troop B has 4 assistant scoutmasters and 13 committee members.

 

The troop camps 9 times a year plus summer camp and one high adventure trip a year for scouts First Class and up.

 

 

So, as the Unit Commissioner for these two troops what do you do?

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LOL! Boy is this an obvious attempt to create a skewed problem if there ever was one but there isn't enough information to even think about solutions.

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It alwys raises a red flag in my mind when I hear about or see a unit with more adults than youth. That alone would cause me to rate it as one in danger. The retention is also a key factor.

 

DS

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As a member of a commissioning team wingnut what do you see as the problems. How would you rate the status of the units. How could they be helped by the District?

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As a parent learning the ropes :) ...

 

Both troops have numerous adults, so I'd see who is trained and bring training opportunities to the SM's attention.

 

With Troop A's only recent advancement that of Tenderfoot, and with several boys not advancing, this unit appears to be in danger of folding. Would SM conferences and boards of review be helpful at this time?

 

My concern would be the meetings (content), the training (who is and in what areas--outdoor training for those camping trips might be beneficial in adding to advancement during the trips), and if the leaders understand their roles. One of the good things about several leaders would seem to be that among them are those who could become stronger and help lead even a few boys into planning advancement opportunities.

 

I did have a long list of questions, and they were prompted by a unit I was involved with that had several red flags and was in danger of folding. Training and meeting content changed, and the numbers and advancements are now climbing.

 

Troop B does concern me in that there are so many adults. It was brought to my attention that this is not against policy, but I still would like to know if the committee members are active and trained. The unit seems healthy. This would be a unit to encourage, in my opinion, to keep up the good work.

 

Bob, thank you for your message :)(This message has been edited by Laurie)

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Let me make a stab at the questions. One Troop A is in deep danger and will be hard to turn around. There is something wrong when a unit loses 50% in a year. Meeting once a month is not enough and I am assuming that by the absence of comment they are not have an outing a month either. There is a lack of program to attract new Scouts.

Training would help, but some how the best way would be to get new leadership in the Troop that would go to training, use the patrol method, offer more program , a outing a month and meeting weekly. The way would be first to convince the present leaders and parents the need for a change,. Then to identify a new Scoutmaster, maybe a Webelos Leader that has a den ready to cross over to boast the number of Scouts in the Troop. It is hard to get an exiting program going in a small Troop unless there is committed leadership that can pass on the vision to the Scouts, so they the Scouts can see what is possible.

The questions also to me is why so many ASM. The number of Scouts doesnt seem to warrant it. I dont see the program in this Troop to keep aged out Scout coming back to help, that is where many good Troops register their 18 to 20 year olds. The lack of committee members, maybe that the Scoutmaster is not turning over jobs that committee should be doing.

Troop B seems like a good Troop that a Commissioner shouldnt do much fiddling with. The number of committee members are not unusual, a larger unit has plenty of work to do. I once presented a University of Scouting course titled True Confessions of a Scoutmaster: I never fill out tour permits. The committee can do all that paperwork for the Scoutmaster so he can concentrate on the working with the Scouts. I would encourage a few more trained ASM.

They seem to offer a lot of program that attracts new Scouts. The only unusual thing I see is no Scouts dropping out, even the most successful units in my experience, lose a few Scouts every year that find that Scouting is just not the thing for them.

As their Commissioner I would just make sure they are getting information from the Council, encourage them to go to training, introduce them to Webelos leaders, answer their questions and make sure they are recognized for their good job.

 

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First, if the above information was given to me second hand and I was the UC for those units, I would make a beeline to the next Troop Committee meeting and secondly, to the next Troop Meeting. Once present, I would sit back, observe, and volunteer my services in any way they see fit.

 

Hopefully, Troop A would be concerned about their loss of Scouts (50% is a definitive warning sign). Now, some loss of boys can be expected. And if a small troop, a 50% loss could mean the loss of only a few boys. However, the key is why they left. Are the boys interested in advancement? Are advancement opportunities being made available to them? If not, why not? It is because of ignorance, purposeful or just an oversight?

 

For Troop B, the outward signs look good. A couple of visits could determine if methods of scouting are being properly employed.

 

Bottom line, I would need some real life interaction with the troops but Troop A does have warning signs of "in danger." Troop B gives off a "healthy" vibe but again, first person experience is required.

 

Now for my test. You visit a Cub Scout Pack. The meeting seems to go well. The den leaders are active. The CC is hosting the meeting and tells me the Cubmaster called in sick an hour before the meeting. The meeting goes well but afterward in converstation with the CC, he tells me he is doing the work of CM, Treasurer, Registrar, Secretary as well as CC and is getting burned out. The CO (elementary school) is an ESL(English as a second language) school so many of the parents do not know English very well and feel uneasy volunteering as Scout leaders. What do you do?

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Why is advancement such an important measure when looking at the health of a unit?

 

Because advancement is not something a troop does. advancement is what happens when a scout participates in the scouting program. Advancement is the residue of good scouting. This is especially true of the first three ranks.

 

The purpose of the troop program is to create opportunities for scouts to learn, practice and apply the skills that lead to advancement.

 

In Troop A's situation we see only one of seven scouts advancing in almost 2 years, and he only advanced to tenderfoot after over a year in the program. More alarming is that in a three year period only three scouts who joined the troop have stayed on.

 

What if I said that in both troops the Scoutmaster and at least two Asst. Scoutmasters were Wood Badge trained. If the leaders in both troops know the program, what has made the difference between one being In Danger, and one being Healthy? What would you do to salvage Troop A?

 

Acco40,

If the primary language is spanish, the unit needs to know that most Cub manuals and publications are available in Spanish as well as english. Next the Cubmaster and CC need to learn how to select and recruit unit leaders. A pamphlet by that same name is available free from your local council service center that will walk them through a very effective method to achieve the amount of volunteer support needed for a healthy Pack.

 

I invite posters to continue with their view of the health staus of the two troops and their the problems they identify.

 

Bob White(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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"Let me make a stab at the questions. One Troop A is in deep danger and will be hard to turn around. There is something wrong when a unit loses 50% in a year. Meeting once a month is not enough and I am assuming that by the absence of comment they are not have an outing a month either. There is a lack of program to attract new Scouts."

 

Where's you get that they were only meeting once a month? It says that they camp once a month.

 

As for the 50% loss, what caused it? Did the Boys drop? Did the local aero-space plant lay-off 2,000 workers who then moved?

 

Do we know that Troop B isn't an advancement mill. Bob White says that advancement is the residue (interesting choice of words) of a good program which is true. However, advancement is also the residue of a bad program. Does troop B swap Patrol Leaders every six months just so Scouts can advance? Are the elections elections or they thinly disguised appointements? Are the troop meeetings merit badge mills to promote advancement?

 

 

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Good questions. Lets see what we can discover from advancement records.

 

If you disregard Eagle required merit badges you see something intersesting...

Each scout in Troop A has almost the identical mix of elective Merit Badges in fact 4 Scouts are absolutely identical. In Troop B the elective Merit Badges vary widely from scout to scout.

 

Which characteristic would suggest an advancement problem?

 

As far as the loss of scouts we need to look at The available youth population. Troop A is in a highly populate council serving over 40,000 youth. Troop B is in a smaller council serving 10,000 youth. Neither troop is associated with a military base.

 

How would this scenario affect your unit health evaluation?

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Interesting thread, Bob White! Gives me appreciation for challenge of UC!!

 

All agreed that Troop A has (or at least had) some sort of problem. With no other information, I would say its in Danger. I would consider calling the homes of members who recently quit to gain some insight. (That's only 7 calls to make - not too difficult.) Don't do this as an "investigation" into problems in Troop A - instead phrase it as "checking into reasons why boys in the District are leaving Scouts."

Look for opportunities to observe Troop A in action. Public gatherings like camporees, etc., are perfect.

Any unit with almost twice as many registered adults as Scouts appears off-balance. To their credit, they are camping once a month, but it sounds like they might be more of an adult camping club than a BSA Troop.

Somewhere in here it's time to contact the SM directly. In case he's not aware, tell him about your role as a UC, then "We don't like to obsess over the numbers, but couldn't help but notice Troop A has lost a number of Scouts lately. What do you think some of the causes might be?" Then listen very carefully to what is said and not said. If the SM doesn't know or seems receptive to help, offer to come in to observe and to provide him feedback and ideas in private.

This should be enough to get you started in the right direction or thrown out on your ear...

 

Troop B sounds almost too good to be true. With no other information, I would say its healthy. But the numbers can be deceiving. I was tempted to suggest the remote possibility Troop B could be dominated by adults who were keeping it easy by spoon-feeding Scouts the program to keep everybody comfortable and advancing quickly. I've known troops like this. But the clincher is the 5 active Eagle scouts - if they have Eagle and are still active, there is definitely something going right in Troop B. In the adult-dominated Eagle Mill troops I've known, none of them had any active Eagles - the guys were in there for one reason and when they accomplished it, they were done. No reasons to hang around if you dont really have anything to do since adults are running the show.

I don't think the low number of Asst SMs is necessarily a warning sign. If a troop is using and modeling leadership well, 4 dedicated, active Asst SMs could be enough. (Assuming TC members are also willing and able to support activities as required.)

I would definitely visit Troop B as soon as I had the chance. Not as much to see what's wrong as to see what's going right. And maybe get some ideas to pass on to sister troops in the area.

But while observing, Id still listen to that voice in the back of my head telling me This is almost too good to be true.

 

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FOG & Bob White slid their notes in while I was writing mine above.

I obviously echo some of FOG's points.

To answer latest, alarms on Troop A are growing louder and the little voice in the back of my head wondering how Troop B could be doing so well is getting quieter.(This message has been edited by Mike F)

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