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Need help on SPL election

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Our troop is about to hold elections for SPL for the first time. In the past, the SPL has been an appointed position, but we are moving toward a boy-run troop and really using the patrol method, so we will be holding elections.


This is a practical question...how do you hold your elections? Do you collect a names of interested boys and put together a ballot? We have had issues with appointed SPLs who were not committed to the job, so I want to make sure only boys who want the job are considered.


Do you give them an opportunity to speak to the troop to explain why they want the position?


In summary, what is the process you use to hold the elections?


Anything you can share would be greatly appreciated....

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On the day of elections we call the position in question and everybody interested comes to the front of the room. And we go down the line allowing each interested candidate to explain why they would like the position and why theyd be good at it, ECT. After that its up to the boys to do a vote.


We just put certain requirements in place for certain positions. Such as SPL and PL must be 1st class or above ect. You can make them whatever works best for you.


For the big positions such as SPL and ASPL we do paper ballots but for everything else the boys just raise our hands for who they want and somebody keeps a tally.


Recently weve been doing it so that we don't vote on our SPL only the ASPL and the ASPL will automatically become the next SPL.


This will allow them to run their own troop and run their own election. It can all be done in one night and you get interested candidates for the job.


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One thing that I feel is helpful is for the Scoutmaster to share with the Scouts their expectations for the position, in writing, and have the prospective SPL candidate's parents sign a form stating that they agree to their son holding this position.


Nothing worse than having an SPL get elected and then having mom or dad continually use the excuse that school activities, job, sports, etc. keep their son from meeting the Scoutmasters expectations. Get on the same page before the election.

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because of the importance of the position, and the training needed, only PLs and APLs - past and present - may run. We (adults) may suggest to some that they put their hat into the ring. Election is troop wide; all Scouts get a vote

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In my old troop in order to run for SPL, you had to be First Class or above AND have been a PL for at least 6 months (1 term). You could run for SPL as often as you wanted, so no term limits, although most folks did it for 6 months, with a few doing 12.

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We've got a brand new troop. When we began 4 months ago, we appointed our SPL. Only two boys meet the troop qualification of 1st Class or above right now. We're going to make it a six month term witt the SPL having the option of another 6 months at his discretion, so essentially it's a 12 month term but he will have the opportunity to bow out if he decides being SPL isn't really his calling.

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As a Scout, I recall that the Scoutmaster always gave "The Speech" before elections. He explained the duties of SPL and PL's (They appointed their assistants.), including the fact that the SPL would represent the Scouts to the uniformed Scouters and Troop Committee. (The SPL in that Troop presented the proposed program to the Committee and asked for their support.) He urged us to vote for Scouts who would take the jobs seriously, put in the extra hours required, and do their best.


I have given that speech when my turn came to be a Scoutmaster.


I think it helps. I can truthfully say that if the Scouts did not always elect who I would have voted for, their choices were always within the range of the acceptable.


The idea of getting a parent's commitment sounds like a great idea.(This message has been edited by TAHAWK)

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Well, I have read that the SPL should be at least 1st class, and our troop has a requirement that preference is given to boys that are NYLT trained. We also at one time had an age requirement which got us into trouble, because we have a small troop and haven't always had very many older boys in the troop.


I have an older edition of the Scoutmaster Handbook mostly written by Green Bar Bill (his picture is all over scouter.com). He says the SPL is somewhat paradoxically both elected and appointed. If you don't have access Bill Hillcourt's writings, I strongly suggest you buy a copy of a the Scoutmaster Handbook from sometime between 1930 and 1970. Check ebay. But that's another topic.


Anyway, yeah, we give them an opportunity to talk about why they think they would make a good SPL. Then the election would be by ballot. It doesn't have to be that way, of course. If you really want it to be boy-led you could have the boys make motions and vote on how to do it.

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Sorry for long post....


The SM Handbook mentions that troops may establish eligibility requirements such as age or rank for positions, but specifics are up to the troop. It really depends on demographics. In the troop I serve, we have wide range of ages and ranks, so we set the bar a little higher than you might in a young troop.


Per the SPL and SM Handbooks, there are only two elected positions in the troop: SPL and PL. All others are appointed - by the SPL for troop-level positions (in consultation with SM), and by the PL for positions within his patrol. There are no limitations on how many times a scout can be elected to a position and there is no requirement that elections be held every 6 months, although that is the BSA recommendation.


Other than that, its up to the troop to figure out what works best for you.


Heres how we do it:


In order to be eligible to be elected as either SPL or PL, you must have previously served as ASPL or APL. When SPLs and PLs select their assistants, they do so with the thought of who will be best able to lead the troop or patrol in his absence.


We start talking up elections a couple of weeks prior. Since the only scouts eligible for SPL are those who have already been SPL or ASPL, there are a small number of candidates. I personally speak to each one to make sure they know about the job and expectations and to talk about significant time conflicts during the upcoming term. In order to be on the ballot, the SPL candidates must be approved by me. (Ive never disapproved a candidate and cannot foresee ever doing so, but its an option if a scout ever develops a terminally bad attitude which we cant adjust.)


In our 35-boy troop, we have two ASPLs one for Skills (who serves as the leader for the Instructors) and one general ASPL (who serves as direct assistant to SPL for everything else and serves as the leader for most of the other staff positions: Scribe, QM, etc.). Having a key staff of 3 (SPL + 2 ASPLs) seems to work well as they have a tight group to work together and share ideas/responsibilities.


Prior to the election, each SPL candidate privately decides who he will select as his ASPLs.


On the night of the election, I give a quick talk about the responsibility of the job, and then each SPL candidate makes a quick speech.


All members of the troop vote using private ballot.


Ballots are counted by me and outgoing SPL (if he is not running again). If SPL is on the ballot for another term, a JASM or ASM assists with counting.


In order to be elected, a candidate must have a majority of the vote. If there are more than two candidates and none has over 50%, we do a run-off with the top 2 candidates. (Same for PL elections within patrol.)


Results are announced immediately and the SPL-elect announces his ASPL selections.


With the SPL and ASPL decisions made, we move directly to Patrol Leader elections. Since the new SPL and ASPLs are no longer members of any patrol, they do not participate in the PL elections within their old patrol. If the outgoing SPL or ASPLs are not continuing to serve as senior leaders, they rejoin their former patrol and are eligible to run for PL and to vote. Patrol Leaders are also elected within the patrol by secret ballot and must have a majority of the vote, or there will be a runoff.


After PLs are elected, the SPL begins to select scouts to fill his other staff positions. He and his ASPLs work on the list and discuss it with me before announcing. My role (per SM Handbook) is to ensure they are giving full consideration to all available scouts and not just picking buddies. This usually takes a week or so.


Its all a little confusing, but the logic is that the SPL should have his pick of any scouts in the troop to serve as his direct assistants. By selecting his ASPLs immediately, the patrol membership is set and they then select their best available scout for the PL position. After Patrol Leaders are selected, the SPL knows his range of options and selects the best remaining available scouts to fill the rest of the troop-level positions.


Once again, these details are not specified in any BSA literature. Its merely our way of adding what we think is a logical flow and consistency to the process. We do have it all written down and posted on our troop website mostly so parents will understand its not my job to ensure their son gets a position he has to earn it.


As always, your mileage may vary.


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For the most part, the SPL position is more of a political position rather than a truly functional one. As one grows to the point where an SPL is necessary to actually function as such (4-5 patrols), the boy needs the skills to meet the definition the troop sets forth as the job needed to be done.


If the SPL is to be the senior most patrol leader and help the PL's do their jobs, that takes a different leadership skills than trying to be the super "patrol" leader and run the whole troop while the PL's sit back with nothing to actually lead, then a Superman cape might be the only job requirement. Heck, most adult SM's can't lead a whole troop so they have a ton of ASM's...


So figure out what exactly it is the SPL is going to be expected to do. If the expectations are too high and no one is capable to doing the task, the SPL will end up a non-functioning political position. If the boy does not have the skills, it will end up a non-functioning political position. etc.


If a troop has 4-5+ patrols and actually needs a functioning SPL, the only "suggestion" I would have to offer is an SPL can be elected from the current PL's. Unless a SENIOR PL has no PL experience, the position will end up political. I'm thinking a Life Scout who has never been a PL or if he was was ineffective, will in fact, only because of rank and seniority get SPL, it'll only be political.


In case someone doesn't understand what I mean by political, it means the boy will wear the patch, get the credit, but will not, or cannot actually function properly in the position.


An effective SPL should be training his PL's to someday take over. Each PL should be doing the same thing with their APL, and the APL needs to be training up the patrol members to someday take on effective leadership.


To take and make eligible for SPL an Eagle Scout who has never functioned as a PL but floated through the ranks with POR's that didn't require leadership skills is not going to be very effective for the troop.


I don't have a problem with non-elections of the SPL. If the PL's want one of their own to step out of their patrol so they can spend more time helping the PL's, this is a good thing. If one of the PL's offers to drop out of his patrol to help the others, this is a good thing, if the SM requests one of the PL's to take on helping all the patrols, not just his one, this is a good thing. To arbitrarily elect from the masses an untrained, unqualified, senior scout of a certain rank, ... good luck, you may get lucky, but there are better ways of getting a functional SPL.


Your mileage may vary



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If you have new scout patrols, it doesn't make sense to say that a PL has to have previously been an APL.


Unfortunately, the adults can sometimes over-think these things. Setting the bar for SPL too high can backfire as it did once in our troop when the only boy who met all the adult-imposed requirements didn't really want the job. He got talked into it, and he did a terrible job and didn't get along with the Scoutmaster.


Regarding the job of the SPL, Stosh has some good points.


However, according to the literature, the SPL is supposed to run all the troop meetings, events, activities, PLC's, and annual planning meeting.


I guess that begs the question, what is meant by the word "run"?


One former Scoutmaster told me that he would meet with the SPL and PL's before each troop meeting to rehearse and "make them look good".


Most of the time when I've seen boys (even older boys) who appear to be running things in the the troop or in the OA, they have been very well coached by an adult adviser (the SM at the troop level).


So, are they really running things? Why not? Even the President does not typically stick his neck out in public without having a speech written by his speech writers and having been coached by his advisers and staff.


Of course, the Pres is a politician, which fits in with Stosh's idea of the SPL being a political leader.


However, don't pretend that the SPL is doing things that he is not. Be honest with everybody how it works.


Baden-Powell's original program did not have an SPL, so how important is it really? How far do you take boy-led? Who planned the first boy scout camp at Brownsea Island? Baden-Powell did, of course, not the boys. I think the patrol method is more important than the troop-level boy leadership. It's the one thing all Scouts around the world have in common.


I know I know this is getting off-topic a bit, but as Stosh pointed out before you decide what the requirements are for SPL you do need to have an idea what you expect from the SPL.


If the SPL is a political leader who is going to be heavily coached by the Scoutmaster, I think even a younger boy could do that, and the need for NYLT also seems to be somewhat lessened.

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You are on the right track neil_b...


One can have a boy "led" program without it being a patrol-method process. This might work in a small troop of 10-20 boys, but for the most part, unless the SPL is heavily directed and supported by adults, he's going to have to be a once-in-a-lifetime natural leader to be able to successfully pull it off.


BP promoted patrol-method so that the size of the groups the boy would be responsible for actually leading would be small enough for him to handle.


SPL is something that was added on for whatever reason. I never used an SPL as a SM and when I was an ASM, I didn't get involved with the SPL's and focused on other issues that I though were more important.


Just try and keep it in mind that Position of Responsibility and Leadership are not synonymous.



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We have a large troop of 62 Scouts.


A few weeks before election, we announce that scouts interested in running for SPL let me (the SM) know they would like to run.

We normally insist they be 1st class, have attended our Troop Leader Training class, and have served as a PL or ASPL.


The day of the election each candidate can give a "campaign speech" of a few minutes in length. We then vote. This year we had two excellent candidates, and the vote was very close. It would have worked out either way the vote went, I think.

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SPLs and PLs are always elected by the troop members. While some units have special requirements on who is eligible to run, BSA has no such requirements. I don't think there is a need for such requirements, the YM are more than capable of making a choice on who should lead the troop and patrols.


Once the decision is made by the youth its the SMs responsibility to teach them what their responsibilities are, and to advise them in all things(NOTE: ADVISE NOT DICTATE). Then to step back get out of the way and let them drive the car, with the understanding that the youth may not choose to go in the direction you want them to. If the SM can't do this or the SM does not get along with the youth who was chosen by the troop member. Then he needs to step down and let someone who can step up as SM.

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We are a fairly large troop, but we do not have any requirements on the SPL position. As long as we're giving the SPL plenty of leadership responsibility, so that the troop knows that the selection matters, then we've found that the Scouts take the election seriously. They've never elected someone under First Class.


We ask each candidate to speak prior to the election. If there are a lot of candidates, this can take awhile.


We do the election by paper ballot. The Scoutmaster counts the votes. We do require a majority vote, so if we don't get that on the first round, we'll either do a run-off or an instant run-off (by having the Scouts select their second choice on the original ballot). Last time around we only had two candidates, so there was no need for any plans for a run-off. All we did this time was hand out blank pieces of paper and asked the Scouts to write the name of their first choice. We've usually just used blank paper.


After the election, the SPL chooses his ASPL. After that, the patrols choose their patrol leaders, and then the SPL, with advice from the Scoutmaster, appoints Scouts to the rest of the positions (more or less, with exceptions for JASM and den chiefs).

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