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cubscoutdan

Cub Scout Program Run Amuck

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Good Evening,

 

This is my first post on this forum, I've read a number of the older posts and have found this forum to be very informative.

 

I have started this post several times now, and deleted several short novels and hope that this "brief" note will convey my thoughts and concerns.

 

We belong to a pack that would be considered dysfunctional at best. It has for years been run with the "good enough" mentality, and the pack leadership that has been around for a while is firmly intrenched in this mindset. Pack meetings are treated as an after thought. Council members refuse to communicate with each other. The pack schedule for the year was decided by one man who appointed himself the Pack Committee Chair and the other committee members (who don't/wont communicate) just follow his lead. The PCC is un-familiar with the new program and has no idea what is suppose to go on in the pack meeting.

 

Our pack membership has been declining ever since my oldest son joined; last year we had no Wolves, and only 2 Tigers. The lack of recruitment was blamed on the local council and changes made in our local school district. Being tired of the declining numbers and the poor leadership by our Tiger den leader last year, I was asked to take over the now Wolf den and to handle recruitment. Working with the local council staff we were able to add 15 to 20 new scouts (soccer is huge around here and we have a number of parents that have paid their membership but will not start the program until soccer ends) to our program this year.

 

Over the summer, I planned my den meetings. I nearly completed the Wolf Den Leader training in the old system until I realized that a new training system would be rolled out later this summer. I attended round tables, I familiarized myself with the new program; and as I did I began to realize how bad things were with our pack.

 

No one has EVER completed outdoor training. When I brought it up, no one had ever heard of it. We have "committee" members who aren't even registered members of the BSA, have never completed the required training let alone the YPT training. My wife and I went to the training day of another council to complete our Baloo training since our council will not offer it until the spring. We are trying to get our pack back on the straight and narrow but at every turn the more "experienced" leaders are dragging their feet.

 

I've talked to a few of the local council volunteers and I was told that well the council has been lax on enforcing the rules in the past and that change will happen but slowly and that the best solution would be to move to a different pack; the pack mentioned does have their stuff together. My problem is our new scouts. I personally went to the school and recruited these boys. I was on campus the other day for a meeting with my son's teacher and a few of the scouts saw me and were so excited telling their friends, "Thats my cub scout leader!" They are excited about the program and if it continues the way it has been going they will get discouraged and drop out. Our first pack meeting was so messed up that fewer than half of the scouts stayed for the entire meeting.

 

My sons and I can move, its not a huge deal. We have put a lot of blood, sweat, toil, and tears into getting ready for our den meetings and planning two other dens programs which did not have leaders yet. But its not about me and my wife, its about the boys. If we have to move to get a quality program then we will move. The rub comes in when you consider our new scouts. Several of them (maybe half or more) come from broken homes. Getting them to meetings takes a lot of effort on their Akala's part and if this program doesn't change they will not be able to simply move across town I cannot in good conscience move to another pack and leave our new scouts.

 

I am out of ideas to help change our program and I am hoping that my fellow Akalas will have some suggestions to save our program.

 

Frustrated in California

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First of all welcome to the forum and be assured that what you are going through with your pack is the same for many others out there as well.

 

To look at it in the broadest terms, one has to begin to prioritize the problems.  The first "problem" is your son's opinion.  Is he happy with the way the pack is running and is he having a good time and having fun with his friends?  Then the second "problem" is your answer to is your son getting the full potential of the program?  Answers to both those questions will determine your next step.

 

You describe a lot of issues that all apply to the political agenda of adults running the program.  The boys may not even notice and of course they don't know what they're missing either.  Your point of view rests somewhere between the two.  You have a vested interest in your son's experience and you are privy to the pack politics.    

 

It is obvious that with the way things are structured, things won't change much and so are you willing and is your  son having fun sufficient to stay the course or is there more potential elsewhere.

 

There's always a long debate that will run on these forums pointing out the pros and cons of each side of the issues, but the ultimate decision is going to fall on your shoulders so listen to everything and decide what's best for you and your son.

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It is always a good day when I can completely agree with a post by Stosh and have nothing to add, so I guess today is a good day.

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Thank you for volunteering.  Thank you for recognizing the problem.  Thank you for trying to find a solution.

 

Your pack should have a unit commissioner.  Check with your council to find out who it is.  While they do not have any authority to implement change, they will probably be your best resource for guidance on how to go forward.

 

First and foremost, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How far am I willing to go to solve these probelms (would you be the cumbaster or committee chair instead of a den leader?)

  2. Are there any other parents willing to step up and be leaders if the process does change?  Changing a long standing system, correct or otherwise, will only lead to the end of the unit if there is no one around to actually implement the system.

  3. How good a salesman are you.  Can you lay out a vision and get (some of) these people on board?

  4. How much "drama" and internal politics can you take?

 

If after asking yourself these questions, if you still want to go forward ...

It all starts with the chartering organization.  Do you know who they are, can you start a relationship with them and discuss (maybe with the support of a unit commissioner, or district executive) what you think the problems are and what you would propose as a path to the solution.  The chartering organizations representative is the only person who can change/appoint the leaders of the pack, and they do not need a reason to make the change - they can just do it.

 

Make no mistake, if the current leadership is not willing to change they way they do things, and you choose to go forward - you are essentially starting a coup.  You may win, you may not.

 

If you are able to get restructuring in place, you will need to meet with your parents, they will need to accept responsibilities and understand that if they've been around, the old way is no longer good enough.

 

If you don't have the stomach for a revolution (and I don't think I would), you could leave - and that may be the best choice for your son and your sanity.  Maybe you could let the recruited parents know what they are doing and invite them to go with you.  Again, this won't make many friends, but at least you wont have to deal with it long (unless you live in a really small town).

 

Alternatively, if most the new recruits are in your den, or mayby yours and one other, get the other den leader(s) for the recruited boys on board with doing it right.  Have them go to roundtable with you, do training, etc.  Lead by example.  It's a slower process, but within a couple of years, the parents will be used to doing in the right way, and the pack will improve.

 

---

 

I thank every day that I have had several years in a Pack without any of the disfuctional drama stories I find on this forum.  I love my leaders - they do a great job.

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 I see posts like this occasionally and they often share common complaints - poor leadership, little support from district, infighting among leaders, etc.  In all cases I advise looking at things from the scout perspective and find your solutions there.  In my opinion, the committee, district, and all the other "stuff" associated with supporting scouting is usually superfluous.  You can provide kids with a tremendous scouting experience with nothing more than the rank book to guide you.  That can be at the den level.  If you can pull enough dens together for a quality pack, then great, but reality is dens drive the scouting experience.  While far from ideal, you can have a great den within a weak pack.  My suggestion is to start focusing on the kids' experiences and let the success build out, rather than trying to improve top down.  Training and rules are nice, but frankly still less important than a kid focused group just working through the book activities.

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Welcome to the forums @@cubscoutdan.

 

First, it sounds like you're doing a great job (15 to 20 new scouts is fantastic), so be happy about that and pat yourself on the back. Seriously, it's these successes that need to be savored to keep your sanity.

 

Second, anything you do is good, and you can't solve all the world's problems. Remember that.

 

Just a guess but it looks like you have a few options. 1) fix the mess you're in, 2) pack up and move across town, 3) work with the mess you're in, or 4) create a new pack.  Number 1) fixing the leadership in this pack, sounds like a maalox moment, or more likely a year or 5 until your kids bridge to boy scouts. Number 2), as you say, hurts the boys that likely can benefit from scouts. Is it possible to shuttle the boys that have the hardest time getting to scouts? The den meetings don't have to be across town and if it's only once a month the boys need to be with the pack? I'm just putting up questions. Maybe there's a way to get these boys across town. 3) There is no leadership or teamwork in the existing pack, so you can pretty much do as you please. You did and you got 20 new scouts. If the Scout Oath and Law guide you, there's nothing wrong with doing as you please. Fix the tiger dens. Give them a real calendar. As SlowDerbyRacer says, work from the den up. The scouts will have fun and that's all that matters. It all depends on getting some adults that share your vision. Get some parents to go to roundtable and take the training and you're most of the way there. Number 4) is only if the others don't work.

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Yes, you can build a program from the Den up.  I built a Pack of 40 out of a Den of 7 (the Pack Meeting after the Blue/Gold/Webelos Crossover, the only 7 boys there were my den).  Do good, get trained,

 

Do the "old leaders" have older kids, and are on their way out?  Or are they hanging on for reasons?  If they'll be gone in a year or two, ignore them.  If they're the old coot who's been Cubmaster for 20 years, run away.  Never going to move that mountain.

 

Unit Commissioners don't exist.  Ignore unregistered committee members, so long as the Committee Chair has three members registered, they're good.

 

Does this Pack camp?  If not, do it. 

 

Once you start getting a good reputation for your group, help will come.  The other parents in your Den will be the first people you recruit, to be Den Leaders for little brothers, to take over fundraising, to get trained.  Then next year you expand to the younger parents, and so on.  When your Pack has a good reputation in the community, you'll get a few A#1-level parents/leaders attention, and that's all you need to get the ball rolling on its own for another 10 years.

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Yes, you can build a program from the Den up.  I built a Pack of 40 out of a Den of 7 (the Pack Meeting after the Blue/Gold/Webelos Crossover, the only 7 boys there were my den).  Do good, get trained,

 

Do the "old leaders" have older kids, and are on their way out?  Or are they hanging on for reasons?  If they'll be gone in a year or two, ignore them.  If they're the old coot who's been Cubmaster for 20 years, run away.  Never going to move that mountain.

 

Unit Commissioners don't exist.  Ignore unregistered committee members, so long as the Committee Chair has three members registered, they're good.

 

Does this Pack camp?  If not, do it. 

 

Once you start getting a good reputation for your group, help will come.  The other parents in your Den will be the first people you recruit, to be Den Leaders for little brothers, to take over fundraising, to get trained.  Then next year you expand to the younger parents, and so on.  When your Pack has a good reputation in the community, you'll get a few A#1-level parents/leaders attention, and that's all you need to get the ball rolling on its own for another 10 years.

 

 

^^^^^ This.  And excellent use of "old coot."

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Lots of good information from the others. There is no obvious easy answer. What is obvious, at least to me, is you are going to have to make some kind of dramatic change to last very long in the program. It is a wonderful and rewarding organization, I hope you find the place where your rewards are at least equal to your efforts.

 

Barry

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So much good information has been give here, I can't do much but repeat what has already been said and assure you that you are not alone.  I'm half a country away from you, but I'm giving a presentation on recruiting leaders and leadership succession at Roundtable tomorrow night.

 

When I signed up with my son for Tiger Cubs, we joined a dysfunctional pack.  It's taken me three years, but I feel like we've finally turned the Pack around (I'd like to take all of the credit, but it was a combined effort of my wife and I, help from the District Execs and Unit Commissioner, and from a core group of parents who signed up to help out).  We went from a dozen boys and falling to over 40 boys in three years, almost doubling the Pack the past two years.

 

The difference in my case is that my Pack dumped all responsibility on me as the Cubmaster.  There was a Committee Chair on paper, but no Committee Meetings and I don't think I even met the supposed Committee Members.  So we recruited a new Committee Chair, built a Committee, recruited more leaders... we have a ways to go (next up is more Asst Den Leaders and more Committee Members), but things are on the right track.

 

You're coming at this as a DL, which is a tough position.  I look at the Lifecycle of a Pack in stages... first you're new and untrained but enthusiastic - you'll have some success, but a lot of struggles.  Then you start learning, become trained and start to implement the proper way of doing things (assuming you make it this far and haven't burned out by now).  Finally you become experienced, and things just work like they should.  I feel like that's where my Pack is right now.  The bad news is that those three are showing a Pack on the way up.  It sounds like your Pack was on the way down.  I like to call the next phase 'tiring.'  The adults who have been around don't want to change, they're probably somewhat burned out, and they will kill new ideas so fast your head will spin around.  The bad news is that I see the next step after 'tiring' as 'retiring,' in which they pretty much don't care what happens because they are on the way out.

 

You need to short circuit whats happening with the Pack and taking it from 'tiring' back to 'learning.'  Instead of the Pack fading away, you need to kick some life back into it and put it back on the way up instead of on the way down.  Recruiting that many boys to your den sounds like a great first step.

 

The problem is, how to deal with the old leaders.  As others said, try your Unit Commissioner (if you have one).  Try the Chartered Org.  Find support any way you can.  You might need to shake things up.  I did that when I came into the Pack.  I told the adults that the Pack was dysfunctional, not because of anything the boys were doing, they were great (advancing, going to camp, volunteering).  We were a dysfunctional unit because of the role the adults are supposed to be playing in helping the Pack go.  Some adults didn't like to hear it, but to be honest it was probably for the good of the Pack to lose a few people who weren't willing to change (their boys stayed in Scouting, just not with our Pack).  Other adults have stepped up and now our Pack is the better for it.  If I had continued to try to do everything myself, when I left the Pack would likely have crashed and burned.  Now, I'm about ready to hand over the Pack to someone else (in the Spring), and I'm confident they have the right structure now to keep heading in the right direction.

 

Right now you really need someone, be it Cubmaster, Committee Chair, or Chartered Org to put a stop to unregistered Committee Members.  If someone wants a voice in running the Pack, they need to step up and fill out an application.  If they aren't brave enough to do that, their vote doesn't count.

 

Good luck... I can understand why you don't want to leave.  I had an option when I joined our Pack 4 years ago.  There was one healthy Pack associated with our Church (healthy except that I've since found out they don't camp... at all), and another Pack that was associated with the public school my son attends.  I picked the unhealthy Pack and decided it was worth saving.  There were many times I doubted that original decision and came close to merging our Pack into the other.  I'm glad I didn't, our Pack celebrated 75 years this week, and I'm glad I wasn't the Cubmaster who let it die at 72 years old.

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1. WELCOME TO DA FORUMS!

 

2. Lots of good advice.

 

3. My pack got a new CM & CC right when I joined. CM began a downward and for me frustrating, downward spiral. We lost half the pack between him and one our exleaders starting a new pack. BUT you do what you need to do for your den. Work with the other leaders, but set the example, and you will be noticed. It may even help the other leaders.

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 I see posts like this occasionally and they often share common complaints - poor leadership, little support from district, infighting among leaders, etc.  In all cases I advise looking at things from the scout perspective and find your solutions there.  In my opinion, the committee, district, and all the other "stuff" associated with supporting scouting is usually superfluous.  You can provide kids with a tremendous scouting experience with nothing more than the rank book to guide you.  That can be at the den level.  If you can pull enough dens together for a quality pack, then great, but reality is dens drive the scouting experience.  While far from ideal, you can have a great den within a weak pack.  My suggestion is to start focusing on the kids' experiences and let the success build out, rather than trying to improve top down.  Training and rules are nice, but frankly still less important than a kid focused group just working through the book activities.

I agree with this sentiment from the point of focusing what you can control..... and what is important.  If you decide to stay I think this a very valid choice.

 

Yes, you can build a program from the Den up.  I built a Pack of 40 out of a Den of 7 (the Pack Meeting after the Blue/Gold/Webelos Crossover, the only 7 boys there were my den).  Do good, get trained,

 

Do the "old leaders" have older kids, and are on their way out?  Or are they hanging on for reasons?  If they'll be gone in a year or two, ignore them.  If they're the old coot who's been Cubmaster for 20 years, run away.  Never going to move that mountain.

 

Unit Commissioners don't exist.  Ignore unregistered committee members, so long as the Committee Chair has three members registered, they're good.

 

Does this Pack camp?  If not, do it. 

 

Once you start getting a good reputation for your group, help will come.  The other parents in your Den will be the first people you recruit, to be Den Leaders for little brothers, to take over fundraising, to get trained.  Then next year you expand to the younger parents, and so on.  When your Pack has a good reputation in the community, you'll get a few A#1-level parents/leaders attention, and that's all you need to get the ball rolling on its own for another 10 years.

I was thinking the same thing.   huge consideration is how much longer the problem scouters will be in play.  If they're gonna stick around, or even just as long as you, then your choices seem to be

1) focus on the boys and the den and stay out of the unit politics

2) or take a hike to another unit with your son

 

But if they're short timers, you've got a great chance at some fresh ideas and approaches.

 

My unit wasn't nearly as bad as what you've described, but there were and are some parallels.  I don't want to get into it much, but just to draw the comparison....Same thing, they don't play along with the system, don't bother with training such as it is.... just do what they always do.  In our case the "old guard" were burned out and looking for an out, but a few were on their second go around with their older sons in a troop and their younger sons in the same den as my son.  They wanted to go but can't let go.   It really makes it hard for any new folks to come in and change anything....or even update to keep up with the new program.   

 

I stuck around trying to help.  Stepped up.  Our CO is my church & I Wanted to keep my son in the parish.  In hindsight, I wish that I would have looked more closely at the unit that serves his school and considered moving.

 

meanwhile they did nothing to support or help or guide my predecessor or me.... ultimately undermining and taking it back over because they didn't like the change.  3 pack meetings in this year & I think they're just now getting that there's a new program.  I prepped the pack many times about the upcoming change last year.... they obviously weren't paying attention... so what was it they didn't like???  It's gotta be an ego thing, and I'm afraid that might be what you're up against too.

 
How many of the new 15-20 scouts are in your den?

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We belong to a pack that would be considered dysfunctional at best. It has for years been run with the "good enough" mentality, and the pack leadership that has been around for a while is firmly intrenched in this mindset. Pack meetings are treated as an after thought. Council members refuse to communicate with each other. The pack schedule for the year was decided by one man who appointed himself the Pack Committee Chair and the other committee members (who don't/wont communicate) just follow his lead. The PCC is un-familiar with the new program and has no idea what is suppose to go on in the pack meeting.

 

 

 

Ummm.  I think it's useful and terrific when units do things "by the book."  It's usually a good way,  and often the best way.

 

But units often get by with compromises because they lack sufficient skills and leadership.  That sounds like the situation described above.

 

In my opinion,  the most serious problem you describe is that  pack meetings are of indifferent quality.  That IS important!  The Cubmaster is supposed to manage the program and the pack meetings,  perhaps you can offer to help the Cubmaster plan and present the pack meetings.

 

If the annual meeting plan is a good one,  I wouldn;t worry about it unless you and/or others want to see changes made.  It's burdensome to follow BSA suggestions and spend several hours parsing when each den meeting, pack meeting and activity will be held.  Unless there are people who really want to do that,  I'd look at any particular changes you'd like to see made and discuss those with the Committee Chair.

Edited by John-in-KC

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Ummm.  I think it's useful and terrific when units do things "by the book."  It's usually a good way,  and often the best way.

 

But units often get by with compromises because they lack sufficient skills and leadership.  That sounds like the situation described above.

 

 

 

This is what I have been getting at lately with my "One Program" idea.  

It's relatively simple

but yet there are so many variations

 

it's just not documented well enough.... or maybe it's documented too much so that its not clear

 

and there's too many leaders and other scouters that are

not trained well enough

not vetted

not on board with the idea or don't want to play by the rules

that are too set in some old way or based on some old assumptions or short cuts. 

and that are not properly advised and supported

 

If we were all singing from the same hymnal, and there was better vetting and training, I think things could be much better

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Welcome to the forums.

 

There are many units in the same place yours is.  I think something helpful would be to get your cubmaster and committee chair to attend your district roundtables and maybe they will get exposed to what training is out there and ways that other packs are working on the cub scout program.

 

Best of luck and continue to ask questions and maybe send them here :-)  We promise not to turn you in.

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