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Eagle94-A1

Advantages and Disadvantages of District Mergers

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Attending district committee meeting last night, I was informed that I was going to be one placed on a sub committee to look at the district merging with 2 others. I have seen the writing on the wall for over a year now, this isn't the first time it's come up, but it is the first time that they are actively looking into it and getting folks together to see if it is feasible or not.

 

I am looking for your expereinces, both positive and negative in regards to merging. All aspects: logistics, social, morale, activities, infighting, etc.

 

A few things.

 

1) I know each and every situation is different, so things that happened one place may not happen in another.

 

2) I do have my thoughts on this topic, but I want to make sure that I have all may bases covered by learning as many of the possible scenarios others have encountered as possible.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Eagle

 

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I see we have a lot of folks looking, but no one posting. While I was trying to get others opinions and experiences first, I'll go ahead and start this conversation from my point of view on the Cub Scout side of things. I post the Boy Scout side once I'm done.

 

YOUR THOUGHTS PLEASE! (and the caps are me begging for mercy and getting your thoughts and expereinces. ;) )

 

 

Pro-Merger

  1. In the district, all Cub Scout activities except Day Camp and Webeloree are run by one person. And she tends to run people who want to help off. “New†district Cub Scout leadership will mean more people volunteering on the Cub Scout side in the long term. Short term may take some time for current Cub leader to volunteer on the district level because of the negative past expereinces with the present chair. But again long term I think it will work out fine.

  1. More activities for Cub Scouts to do beyond the pack level. Currently 2 district Cub Scout events, and a third specifically for Webelos. While some activities will merge, Pine Wood Derby comes to mind, activities that only one district has, i.e. Cub Spring camp out, Cubmobile, Webeloree,etc, would enhance program.

  1. More outdoor activities. Current Cub Scout activities chair believes “Cubs don’t need to camp.†A district level camp out is needed, especially with the new changes into the cub scout program.

  1. More Cub Scouts involved in activities, saving event costs.

  1. Possibility of Para-Professional to assist is a definite plus over current situation.

Contra-Merger

  1. Increased travel to Roundtables. Grant you this will affect the minimum of people in my distric as CS Roundtables usually have 2-3 packs present.

  1. Increased travel time to some events, i.e. Pinewood derby, Cubmobile, etc. that may turn some folks off.

  1. “Sentimental†and “Parochial Attitudes†may affect volunteers. Sometimes folks do not accept the changes. Although I see this more with the long term Cub Scout leaders, of which there are only a few.

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In my opinion, mergers are done for only one reason...to reduce the number of paid professionals and related overhead costs. There is almost always no benefit for the unit.

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I have seen some of what you describe happen and be used as rationale for reorganizations, both in Scouting and in professional situations.

~~Some observations and history, as they occur to me:

**Sometimes, the reorg is driven by the leaders , "just because they can". They want to "leave a legacy". They want to "make things better" (their better, not necessarily anyone elses). "I was hired as the manager, and bygod, I'm gonna manage." The Scout pros, mostly, talk to the vols, ALOT.

** Sometimes the reorg is considered as a way to "correct" problems that in another venue or situation would be better addressed by a sitdown and coffee drinking. In government, this is sometimes called a "focus group".

** Sometimes the reorg is a"coverup" for the real problem. If we merge, we won't have to reeeaaalllyy make some corrections that we have ignored, and we can "start from scratch". Sometimes this is good, sometimes not necessary. Maybe it is as simple as going out and ASKING for help.

**Often, this reorg is meant well, but really doesn't address the REAL problems (not utilizing the willing volunteers. Not getting folks trained . Not defining the leadership that is needed and where it is needed.).

*** Here is what I have experienced :-) WAAAAY back when, when I was a Scout, working on my Stegosaur Husbandry Merit Badge, I was not concerned with BSA politics. I only wanted to camp and hike with my buds. Turned out the County , the whole county, was my District. Many years later, family came along and Scouting called me back. . When Scoutson wanted to be a Cub Scout, his parents jumped in with all four feet. We were in "First District". Now, I have not moved in the last 20 years, but my Scoutson, wife and I have lived in 6 (six) BSA districts:

All these shifts in jurisdiction were demonstrably driven by the "professionals" wanting to make things "more efficient". I do not believe any of them were requested or designed by us volunteers. But ya gotta be in a district, right?

My new Scouting activity gave me "First District", which was one of three the County had. I met many good folks, dedicated to Scouting. We had three CSDC, three Camporees, traded training sessions and got along. New pro's came in, decided we could be better served if the DE's were "closer" to the units, so about two years after I re-upped, I was now in "Two District", the County now had 6 (six) defined Districts, each looking for a DE, with a SeniorDE overseeing all. Gotta recreate all the volunteer levels, do we have 6 separate CSDC? etc. Not to worry, the SDE will work it out. We never saw 6 DE's, some DEs were in charge of three Districts.... Some resigned, were shuffled, "Two District" had three DEs in a year. About 18 months later, we were told the County would be our "new" District ("Three") with three "service areas" (I am now in "Three East SubDistrict"), We were told this was an "experiment", that National was interested in our success. Our Packs and Troops kept on hiking, and somehow we had the same Camporees and CSDCs as before.... About a year later, the PTB announced that we would have a NEW arrangement with a Regional Director and three ADEs. "Four District" was created, boundaries shifted. (and two or three other districts, depending on who was talking, in the rest of the County). Being an urban area to the south and a more rural, suburban area to the north, it certainly made sense to divide the County into three areas, east to west (!). Really. So now, we have three districts ("Five District"), basically dividing the County into an eastern district ("Five") , a northern central district and a western district. Ummmmm..... this seems familiar.....Guess what, it is essentially the old "First District".

Why do I say I have lived in SIX districts? Because the offishul boundaries have recently been "adjusted" and "set down", so "Five " can be said to be "Six" without a name change.

Result? We have the same three CSDC, the same basic three Camporees, etc. Mostly we have gained a better sense of how important we volunteers are to each other.

And we have a bunch of pretty patches. And we have a new DE, fresh out of college, rarrin' to go.

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Wish you the best in this. Mergers are often a time people use as an excuse to step away. they are already tired and worn out. Just waiting for an excuse.

 

Driving factors are communication and membership. As such, mergers are inevitable.

 

On-line tools (email, training, etc) are so much better that fewer people need to go to a meeting to get training or know what's going on. So, you need to pull from a larger area to fill the same meeting.

 

Likewise, membership is down. So you need to pull from a larger area to hit critical mass of how many people you need to run successful district events and activities.

 

The environment has changed and the scouting infrastructure must change to reflect that.

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I see we have a lot of folks looking' date=' but no one posting. While I was trying to get others opinions and experiences first, I'll go ahead and start this conversation from my point of view on the Cub Scout side of things. I post the Boy Scout side once I'm done. ...[/quote']

 

Do you have a Venturing side? How about an explorer post side? An O/A chapter side?

 

Also, beware of "possibility of a para- prof". Either you get one or you don't. Three districts can just pull together one cub--o-ree and ask for one pro. Not sure why you need a merger to guarantee that "possibility."

 

Driving time is a huge deal. I have been a half hour late to RT the times I could make it. Work schedule, traffic, etc ... compounded by being on the southern end of my district.

Adding a half hour distance to a meeting is basically asking a scouter to give up an hour's pay. The only way it's worth it is if there are better meetings ... visits-by-VIP's-better. (And I'm not talking about professionals. I'm talking about community leaders, popular athletes, TV personalities, lodge chiefs, crew presidents. Folks who your scouters may respect and who will take five minutes to interrupt the normal agenda to say "thanks for what you do for the boys, here's what scouting meant to me.")

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<<

  1. In the district, all Cub Scout activities except Day Camp and Webeloree are run by one person. And she tends to run people who want to help off. “New†district Cub Scout leadership will mean more people volunteering on the Cub Scout side in the long term. Short term may take some time for current Cub leader to volunteer on the district level because of the negative past expereinces with the present chair. But again long term I think it will work out fine.

 

  1. More activities for Cub Scouts to do beyond the pack level. Currently 2 district Cub Scout events, and a third specifically for Webelos. While some activities will merge, Pine Wood Derby comes to mind, activities that only one district has, i.e. Cub Spring camp out, Cubmobile, Webeloree,etc, would enhance program.>

 

 

Frankly, I'd guess that rehashing districts for reason like this would be ineffective.

 

You run a big risk of losing the friendships and associations which keep districts functioning, and you probably aren;t going to EXPAND the number of activities.

 

From this description, I'd say you need some new district leadership. If you Google "Boy Scout Nominating Committee" you will find a procedure that should be followed annually by which district leadership can be evaluated and replaced by an appointed committee of district leaders. The Committee should also be looking at finding new leadership both in existing units and in the wider community.

 

My district has just gone through this procedure, and has found new and excellent leadership that was waiting to be called to duty all the time, but wasn't asked. The nominating committee is continuing to scour units and the community to develope new leadership for the district level.

 

In my view, more districts ought to be taking advantage of this method every year to have an independent assessment of when new district leaders are needed ----and find them!

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When my older council went from eight to 2.1 districts, we tested the efficacy of dumping 95% of the existing leadership.

 

Turns out that it is easier to say "No" to a stranger. The greatly reduced number of volunteer slots (e.g. Scout Roundtable Commissioner) were not totally filed - to this date three years later. In the eastern district, we went over two years with half the T0E empty, including all the leaders for Cub and Scout roundtables and training. After 2.5 years, we finally got a Cub Training Chair, who was immediately told he had to run Scoutmaster Specific - despite no training or experience on the Scout side. Today, still no RT leaders three years in. DCmr gave up. ( At least he was replaced quickly and with a solid guy.)

 

Addressing the issue of payroll, each of the two new real districts were to have five paid people each. The council was never able to fill those positions. In fact, at one point, the east district had zero paid personnel. On the good side, the lead paid staffer was fired, and he was a fright.

 

This exercise was totally planned (If that's the right word.) and pushed through by the council employees. The reason commonly stated was that the existing districts could not fill their leadership positions. The other reason given was that we needed leadership from the business community - leading to almost all top slots being filled with people with little experience in Scouting or with leading volunteers, little knowledge of the program, and almost no contacts with volunteers.

 

There were warnings given by the "steering committee" about where throwing the existing leadership under the bus would likely lead - warnings totally ignored. We soon understood we were window dressing.

 

There are lessons to be drawn.

 

I suggest that one lesson is that Good $couter$ have their place, but not to the exclusion of Good Scouters.

 

Another lesson is that the leadership by consensus that BSA talks about in Wood Badge is actually useful.

 

So, a cautionary tale.

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So the main purpose of the merger is because no one has the cajones to get rid of the day camp director and activities chairman? What happens if those two take over the new district and apply their programs to the other two districts?

 

We went through a merger a few years back. The stated purpose was because several districts were weak and were to be joined -- essentially taken over -- by stronger districts. All it accomplished was to average the numbers of the various districts. It was like a school reassignment where the shuffle two school districts, one with a 60% pass rate and the other at 95%. VIOLA! You have two schools now above the 75% cutoff point. No real improvement, but the numbers look better.

 

Depending on the numbers. Like Tahawk noted, we lost all kinds of vols. The folks from the weaker district totally bailed and a lot of our folks, who had been on the job for awhile, decided this was a good excuse to step down. It took years to rebuild.

 

Interesting, we didn't loose any professional staff. The DEs from the stronger districts became District Directors with the weaker DEs working under them. And ultimately that was the real plan, I believe. It justified a career track for the professionals which allowed them to move into higher-paying positions without waiting for one of the council executives to drop dead.

 

Look at who is pushing this and that will tell you the real story. Or as Deep Throat said, "follow the money."

 

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Some background on why there is talk of merging.

 

1) Council is facing economic difficulties like everyone in today's economy. 2 years ago there was talk about redistricting since we downsized on the number of Pros. However there was stiff resistance to that. As a compromise they reduced the number of pros, but kept the same number of districts. A Dist. Director and DE are suppose to cover 3 districts. However, It is a lot of stress on the pros as you can imagine, and we have been running through DEs. Right now my DD is responsible for all 3 districts as he has no DE working with him at the moment.

 

2) One of the districts involved was for a period of 5-8 years, merged with another district involved with the merger. The volunteers wanted their own district again. Certain goals were given to them in order to get their own district again, They met them, and kept them for about 2 years, but then started slipping down again. The are now in worse shape than when they were merged the first time.

 

3) The activities chair is not the reason for the merger obviously. But an FYI, she is the reason why no one volunteers to help on the district level for cubmobile and pinewood derby. And no one feels comfortable enough to take over those activities. Day Camp was taken away from her when folks got fed up and got the certs needed to run it.

 

And the folks in the "strong" district have an excellent Cub Scout program and won't deal with her at all.

 

4) I was told that it would be 1 DD with a parapro for my current district and part of the neighboring district the we will merge into.

 

5) Currently our district doesn't have a Venturing side. However we just started a crew.

 

6) My impression and gut feeling about the professional leadership: they don't want the mergers because it will negatively affect service. But the current compromise of keeping the same number of but using fewer staff is having a more negative impact since professional staff now have 2 or 3 different districts they are dealing with instead of 1. They admit they cannot do a proper job.

 

7) A volunteer mentioned selling some of the camps, and both pros and volunteers said "NO"

 

Please keep it coming.

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When I injured my back, all of a sudden EVERYBODY I met had a back trouble/slipdisc/vertebrae story. Seems to be the same with Council/District mergers.

Look to Seattle's nominating suggestion. Gather your good Scouters and work together to make the Districts you have viable. They were created for a reason. Is that reason so obsolete now? As has been said, "follow the money". What is the real reason for the merger idea? Do the Scout units involved simply need a reason to cooperate better for their boys adventure? Who has the phone/email lists? Can a few Nominating Committee folks work those lists to find a few more (new) event organizers?

E94A1, you sound like a Scouter who doesn't like the "smell" of what is being offered. Continue to speak your mind.

Good Scouting to you!

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E94-a1: your districts' personality clashes aren't going away with a merger. Your activity coordinator needles to lighten up and make amends and everyone whose been offended by her needs to get the burrs out of their butts. If they don't do that, no amount of merging is gonna help. You'll be living with these folks wanting to take jabs at each other long after most of them have moved on to other things.

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SSScout,

 

I may be one of the few folks who is for the merger. We are already sharing a DD with the 2 districts, but maintaining our own district. None of the three districts have received the support we use to have because of conflicting schedules, priorities, etc. that the professionals have with juggling 3 districts. i know as a DE back itneh day, dealing with just my district was a challenge. I can't imagine how our DD does it. I think consolidating would be beneficial. But before I commit, I want as much information as possible.

 

But in all honesty I think the compromise solution of 3 separate districts with 2 pros (which we have a vacancy AGAIN [emphasis) is nto working out well at all.

 

Qwazse,

 

If the merger does occur, she will not be moving into a district position. She does not like "council" and does things her way. Which is one of the reasons she was removed as day camp director: she refused to go to the council day camp meetings when the NCAP program was being reviewed. We found folks willing to take charge of day camp, and when told about the leadership changes, she hung up on the person.

 

 

More info:

 

I found out that the strong district is opposed to the merger. The feel that my district and the other will "free load" on them. Politically they have very powerful influence on the council. I hate politics, all I care about is giving the youth the best possible expereince.

 

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<<. She does not like "council" and does things her way. Which is one of the reasons she was removed as day camp director: she refused to go to the council day camp meetings when the NCAP program was being reviewed. We found folks willing to take charge of day camp, and when told about the leadership changes, she hung up on the person.>>

 

 

 

And she is entitled to that opinion. There are plenty of nutty council policies they can try to impose on districts. I get tired of them muself, often enough. Likely as not the reason I leave Scouting will be council or district policies I don;t like but which they want to impose.

 

Personally I would be taking a careful look at whether that person was doing a competent job at the task before forcing them out.

 

A year ago I resigned as a Unit Commissioner after ten years of service in that position because I was tiered of not being able to sign on to make on line reports, and had quit doing so. The Assistant District Commissioner badgered me about that repeatedly at the Diastrict Committee meeting and again at the District Commissioner meeting the next week (where I was the only UC to attend). After being again repeatedly badgered about that, I resigned and walked out.

 

Volunteers should be treated with respect and not bullied by district or council people.

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<<. Volunteers should be treated with respect and not bullied by district or council people.

 

Agree with you 110%

 

In regards to day camp, to use a saying from my old home council camp, "she was pulling stuff out of the magic sphincter." Day Camp had lots of issues under her. A very large portion of them went away when she was removed.

 

In regards to other events, what saves her is that they are sponsored events by local organizations. She is responsible for organizing the event and some supplies like ribbons, trophies etc. The civic organization supply the manpower and other supplies like the ramp or track. The events are good, but some of problems happen over and over again, when there is an easy solution that she won't do.And if something happens to her, the event will have issues.She was sick for PWD, and for a variety of reasons PWD started 45 minutes late as a result.

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