Unit Administration

Roundtable Notes – Aug 9 2018

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From District Commissioner Stephen Heath:

1 – Adult Leader Recruiting / Retention

At our August 9th Roundtable, attendees discussed the need to recruit and train adult leaders in order to sustain the cub and boy scout programs.  A few ideas that came forth included:

  • Provide a parent welcome guide for new parents, explaining operations of the unit and expectations for parent involvement
  • Provide an adult talent sheet to understand occupations and skills, which could be deployed as den leaders, future treasurers, advancement chairs, merit badge counselors and cub/scoutmasters.
  • The packs and troops can do more to work closely to ensure that both boys and adults are recruited. Several troop leaders offered to help support pack recruiting events. This also helps connect the troops to help retain boy and adult membership through crossover.
  • Several units stated that they have parent packets in use. Pack 830 provided their guides in case another pack would like to use some of that content.

LINK:  Cub Scout Pack 830 Guide


2 – CAC Fall Service Events:  “Good Turn for Nature”

Crossroads of America Council is sponsoring service events this fall around the theme of Good Turn for Nature.  Details are available at http://www.crossroadsbsa.org/123.  Along those lines, Dan Corum and Pack 358 have opened up their trail cleanup service project to others in the district who might be interested in attending with their boys.  The event is Oct 6th, from 10 AM to 12 PM, and anyone interested should contact Dan at corum.daniel@gmail.com.


3 – Recording of Service Hours

Are you recording your service hours, as we get close to recharter and filling out our Journey to Excellence? Here are some helps.

Record Service Hours (BSA) Video 



4 – Pack 105 Five-year Program Plan

Pack 105 recently shared its 5-year program plan to help provide a well-structure program with intentional variety so that each boys gets a diverse experience in his 5 years as a cub scout. There are also Webelos campout plans, and a guide for teaching the Whittling Chip. If anyone is interested in those program helps, please let Jessica, Mark or I know, and we’ll make that information available to you, courtesy of John Salewicz.


5 – “One Hike per Month” (& September Roundtable “homework”)

Finally, we have an outstanding action from the spring for Troops in the District to organize one hike per month for the cub/boy scout units, as a means to keep the outing and comradery in scouting. For troops with the means to support this, please be prepared to sign up for specific months and events at the September Roundtable.


The next Roundtable is on September 13, 7:00 pm at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 West 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260.

September Roundtable topics are:

– Cub Scouts:  Den Leader Training

– Boy Scouts (Family Scouts):  Leadership Training Opportunities / Firecrafter and OA Programs


Yours in Scouting,

Stephen Heath, North Star District Commissioner


Review your Unit JTE Scorecard

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North Star District Commissioner Stephen Heath recommends that all units take some time at their next unit committee AND the Patrol Leader Council (and Venture Crew Officer) meetings to review their 2018 Journey to Excellence Scorecard. We recently discussed the minor changes for 2018. You can download copies of the scorecard for your unit here.

Stephen recommends focusing on the section headers and picking one to be the focus of JTEthe committee’s attention for the next 30-60 days and state a clear goal the committee wishes to accomplish with that subject. At the end of that period, assess your progress and determine how well you met your goal. Then either renew your commitment to that topic with new efforts, or pick another topic to be the committee’s focus for the next 30-60 days.

Stephen believes that a unit committee, PLC, or Venturing officers that regularly review the JTE Scorecard and makes a conscious effort to improve a section at a time will have remarkable improvement before the end of 2018.

If you know where you need improvement but cannot come up with a plan to move the score forward, this is the perfect time for the committee chair or the chair’s designee to reach out to your Unit Commissioner or District Commissioner Stephen Heath to open discussions on what can be done. That is what the Commissioner Service is intended to do for you!.

JTE Changes for 2018

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As we are wrapping up our 2017 Journey to Excellence scorecards with rechartering. Now is a good time to become familiar with next year’s scorecards.


For the most part, at the unit level, there are few changes. On line 10, the consistent change is from requiring the minimum adult leadership for rechartering plus an assistant unit leader (i.e., assistant Cubmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, or Associate Venturing Advisor). Now the requirement for Bronze on line 10 is simply to have an assistant unit leader. This makes sense, since the others are required to recharter. Even units that do not qualify for bronze need a unit leader and committee members. This is less of a change than a simplification of the scoring method.

I have omitted other wording changes that do not change the underlying scoring mechanism for the criterion.


The significant changes are at the District level. While most unit leaders have little interest in what district qualifies for, it does impact units. The impact is on what commissioners and committee members do to support the units. In their efforts, they need the cooperation of unit leaders to be able to meet BSA JTE requirements.

On line 4, membership growth, the focus is shifting from the district-at-large to Cub Scouts. So lower overall growth is sought but actual growth in Cub Scouts is the minimum level. The logic is that if we grow Cub Scout membership, we will grow overall membership. With co-ed taking effect in 2018 for Cub Scouts, ideally this is an easy requirement to meet.

On line 7, the target percentage of scouts with advancement is reduced between 2-3% on all levels.

On line 9, the target percentage of Cub Scouts camping is increased 2-3 % on all levels.

On line 12, unit retention is increased for bronze but reduced for silver and gold. All now seek 90% retention.

On line 13, unit commissioners are expected to have more detailed and more frequent information about the health of the units in their charge. That means the unit commissioners are expected to ask better questions so that they better understand the units. They are then accountable for summarizing that information in the reportingJTE system.

Line 15 requires one less committee member to qualify for gold.


So for planning purposes, very little is shocking to units. The amount of requests for assistance from district may go up. It seems the goal is to have better overall scouting experiences available to boys and girls without putting more pressure on any one unit to fulfill that goal.

Please look at the scorecards for 2018 and build improving into your monthly unit committee meetingsto insure a great 2018.


Long-Range Planning: an Alternate Proposal

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Traditionally in BSA units, National recommends that units do an annual planning conference one time per year. This is designed to discuss the budget, annual calendar, and longer-term projects, like high adventure outings. The idea is that at least once per year that the unit makes sure that it is staying on course. This is usually done concurrently with the annual program calendar.

The result is that the unit has a full agenda to talk about the calendar. Dealing with other long range issues gets varying discussion and analysis. For units that do the planning as part of an evening meeting, they run out of time quickly. For units that have a full retreat, they have plenty of time, but may have different items on their agenda.

Compounding the problem, most officers of the unit only plan to be with the unit until their son (and soon to be, daughters) leave the unit. This makes planning a much shorter term vision than the unit probably needs. But in terms of prioritzation, it allows the players to focus on what affects them and shorten the agenda.

Scouting already has a tendency to “meeting” our volunteers to death. We tend to have too many short meetings rather than taking the time to do a retreat once.

Read the rest of this entry »

BSA Dues Increase for 2018

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From National Council Commissioner Facebook feed:

Just announced at Top Hands at the end of August, BSA will increase registration fees by $9 (to $33 per year) effective 1 December. Please get this information to your units ASAP as it most likely affects many units as they enter their prime membership recruiting season when annual dues/fees are often collected.

This fee increase comes 47 months after the last fee increase, but I personally wish to apologize for what some may find to be a very short fused notification. While it may not make the ‘pill’ any easier to swallow, I do want to let you know that after considerable personal communications on this topic I have been assured that this fee increase and the timing was unavoidable.

From the FAQs included in Thursday’s Scout Executive Council Packet Special Edition communication this fee change will affect Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews, Sea Scout ships, and Exploring posts/clubs. However, it will NOT apply to LDS-sponsored units, nor to those units with council-paid memberships.

If you have additional questions, please contact your Scout Executive.

If this is confirmed by Crossroads of America Council that will make the cost 2018 membership $33.00 dues and $1.00 local insurance = $34.00.

UPDATED 9/6/17: Crossroads of America Council’s Council Commissioner Ron Penczek has confirmed the dues increase with the following email:

Commissioner Team:

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend.

I understand that over the weekend, there have been some Social Media discussions on BSA membership fee increases.  I wanted to take a moment to provide the official guidance that was received over the weekend allowing you to work with your units as questions and concerns arise.

As I know you are aware, the mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. To do this — while delivering the nation’s foremost youth development program — the BSA must remain vigilant in controlling costs.  Although we have been successful in reducing our expenditures in many areas, it has become necessary to evaluate our annual membership fees.

Based on feedback from both volunteers and employees, the BSA membership fee will increase to $33 for all registered youth and adult leaders, effective December 1, 2017.

Services funded by our membership fee include; primary liability coverage for all volunteer leaders and chartered organizations, ongoing advances in technology, fundraising support, new program development, membership recruiting strategies, and support materials.

In 2016, the BSA served approximately 2.3 million youth members through approximately 270 councils. With the help of all our volunteers we will continue toaccomplish the mission of Scouting for young people and the communities we serve.

Attached is a Membership Fee typical question and answer sheet to reference when talking with volunteers.  You are welcome to start communicating the fee increase with your district and unit leadership.   I will be meeting with our Section Commissioners to ensure any additional tools needed are available for Section meetings in September.  Once again thank you for all your leadership and support.

Yours in Scouting,
Ronald W. Penczek
Council Commissioner

[As sent on his behalf by:]

Karrie Schlegel |  Executive Assistant supporting;
Scout Executive: Patrick Sterrett
Director of Field Services: Nathan Young
Marketing & Public Relations

Ron makes reference to an FAQ on the subject. It is available here.

UPDATE 9/29: Interesting price comparison of youth activities.

What does a Chartered Organization Representative do?

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An organization sponsoring one or more scout units is a Chartered Organization. This is an organization who has entered into an agreement with Crossroads of America Council to follow the BSA system. Part of that agreement requires the Chartered Organization to appoint a member of the organization or a staff member of the organization to serve as the Chartered Organization Representative.

So that begs the question: what is a supposed a Chartered Organization Representative do?

A Chartered Organization Representative is supposed to serve as the chief scouting officer of the Chartered Organization. The COR makes sure that the scout units at the chartered organization have sufficient adult leaders as committee members, scoutmasters or cubmasters, and den leaders. The COR serves as a liaison between three organizations: (1) Crossroads of America Council as a voting member at the council annual meeting and as a voting member of North Star District, (2) the Chartered Organization, and (3) the scout unit.

Healthy scout units have active CORs. CORs visit unit meetings often enough to be aware of the unit’s needs and strengths but is not necessarily an active unit leader day-to-day. (CORs can serve concurrently as unit chairs, but not cubmaster or scoutmaster.) Active CORs have a specific role at the District level, so that the unit is providing resources to district and the district is responsive to a unit’s needs.

If your COR is not able to fulfill those duties personally, you should inquire whether a new COR is the best practice. If the Chartered Organization has a limited of persons who are eligible to serve as COR, you should work with your Unit Commissioner on finding the optimal solution for your COR.

Remember that the Chartered Organization has entered into a contract to appoint a COR who is able fulfill those duties. With that in mind along with “A scout is trustworthy [and] helpful . . .,” all CORs should be considering what their passion is that would make a meaningful contribution to District.

Please prepare your COR to expect to be asked to do some work for District. This can be specific tasks, such as serving as Camporee staff for a day or two a year or serving as an event staff for 500 Festival Parade activities of units. This can also be to accept a district committee position.

Since past practices ignored the proper role for CORs, there is a wide-spread reluctance to ask the COR to actively serve scouting. As a District, we are moving to Best Practices in many different ways. Asking CORs to actively serve, having the Chartered Organization to appoint new CORs, or having the Chartered Organization work with their Unit Commissioner to find a solution is one of those steps toward Best Practices.

Since “A scout is . . . help, friendly, [and] courteous . . .,” we are asking for your help to the implementation of this Best Practice as painless as possible. We understand that change can induce stress. This is a start of a process that will last for an indefinite period of time.  The vision is clear and simple: have contributing CORs at the unit- and district-levels. The path to the vision is more obscure. Your input on how to make it successful is most welcome. Thank you in advance for your constructive input to make the path toward Best Practice less obscure.

Magic of 5% Improvement

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At the recent Unit Key 3 Conference, I spoke about the need to work with your Unit Commissioner and your Unit Key 3 (i.e., Chartered Org. Rep., Chair, and Unit Leader) to do a Unit Service Plan.

A Unit Service Plan is a six-month “business plan” for your unit. It examines your annual planning & budgeting, your programming (like camping and meetings), your leadership succession plan, your adult leader training status, and your recruitment and retention status.

If your unit is not examining these departments on a regular basis, it is easy to allow one part or another to slide. The worst case scenario is you ignore the slide until the slide is a death-spiral do you stop and try to fix it.

The goal of doing regular Unit Service Plans is to prevent this scenario from occurring.

If your Unit Key 3 meets with your Unit Commissioner in the next 90 days, we would help you define ways to succeed in a predictable and healthy manner.

One trick is building your unit is to set goals of 5% across the board improvement. Five percent does not sound like much. But it is.

If your unit has 30 boys and it grows 5%, it means that you have replaced boys who have aged out or dropped out, keeping your retention at 100%, then adding an additional 2 boys (it is hard to have 1.5 boys, so I rounded up).

In programming it means moving from 10 monthly events to 11 events (rounding again). If you have 20 events, you move to 21. More opportunities for more scouting leads to more opportunities to find the one event that sparks the passion of one more scout. With the spark ignited, he is easier to retain, even when his parents are offering different extracurricular activities.

A five percent increase in fundraising, for example by adding camp cards to your existing practices, means that you have more money to use in programming that one more event mentioned above.

A five percent increase in trained adults means one more volunteer to staff events.

A five percent increase in advancement means you are less likely to lose scouts because they are progressing and are actively engaged in the program.

Now has your unit improved by 5%? I would argue not. You have add more financing, more capacity for adult leadership, more boys, more events. You are a much healthier unit.

When your next recruitment cycle hits, you will likely gain more than just 2 boys, because you have that much better of a program to pitch.

Schedule to sit down with your Unit Commissioner and see where you can plan a 5% improvement plan. Your Unit Commissioner’s job is to help you find the resources to make your plan work. You will be amazed at how quickly your unit will grow in a short period of time.


Prototype Unit Handbook: Request for pack and troop forms

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I am beginning a project that I want to complete by May 30th. I am looking to design a prototype of a new parent handbook.

I am asking for your help.

First I am asking each unit to email me a copy of their current handbook, annual calendar and handout on costs of membership by May 5th. We will use these as sources of best practices. Documents in a word processing file are preferred.

Second, I am looking for a panel of editors to assist in assessing the result and focusing on simplification and clarity.

Some of the concepts I will be building come from Scouting Magazine’s article last spring. They had to be more generic nationally. Ideally we as a district can put in more specifics in a prototype.

Calling all COR’s, Chairs, Cubmasters, & Scoutmaster

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At Spring Camporee, District will hold its first Annual Unit Key 3 Conference. This will take place a Camp Kikthawenund on Saturday, April 23rd from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.

It is very important that your unit be represented.

We will be discussing plans for District, resources available for units, training opportunities, and unit operations.

We will also have some guest speakers stop in and discuss council issues.

You can make your reservation online.

More effective unit committee meetings

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Bobwhite Blather is a blog written by a long-time troop committee chair. He has some wonderful insights on better managing the adults in units.

His most recent post focuses on more efficient pack/troop meetings.

One of the key points is to encourage committee members to bring a short written report with details. Then their oral reports can focus on the highlights with details available for individuals to review outside the meeting.

One of the most important tasks that a committee chair can fulfill is encouraging brevity and succinctness. One of the tried and true methods is having a written agenda with each point of conversation having a short time budget. This written agenda should be offered for review and approval by the group BEFORE the conversations begin. That way the group is invested in the proposed schedule.

For example, let’s say the chair offers an agenda that says, in part, “Discussion of next campout (10 minutes).” He starts the meeting by reviewing the minutes from the previous meeting and reviewing the agenda. “You all have my proposed agenda? Any amendments that we need to make? No? Ok, let’s get started.” Then the emphasis in the budgeted time should be clarifying who is in charge and who is assisting, summarizing the outing agenda created by the PLC, identifying resources needed, and identifying known problems. All other details should be delegated to a person or small committee to resolve within the agreed parameters.

Once the 10 minutes is expired, that does not mean that the committee chair needs to abruptly end the conversation. It does create a natural point for the chair to interrupt the conversation for a minute, saying, “We had budgeted 10 minutes for this conversation. Those 10 minutes are now up. Is there anything that we must address as a committee left. If so, how much time do we want to spend on that conversation?”

Surprisingly, keeping participants aware of the clock and asking for their input for any extensions of time is extremely effective at wrapping up wandering conversations. Often there is no further discussion to be had and the matter is quickly closed.

If there is a need for further conversation, the participants then have some sense of control over how much more discussion will take place. They become more sensitive to the need for brevity. When the next time period expires, it is usually best to resolve the matter or refer it to a small group to work through details. The unit committee is not the best place to do extensive detail work.

Please note, nowhere did I suggest an emphasis on Robert’s Rules of Order, formal proposal of motions, seconds, and votes. An effective meeting can be and often should be run without such formalities. Even so, a good chairman knows how to work within these formalities.

To fully develop this idea is a potential topic for a future post. For now, suffice it to say that knowing how formal meetings can be run allows a chair to understand the chair’s proper role in managing a meeting. The chair can make points consistent with formal procedure without reciting the magic incantations for formal procedure. The chair can say, “I see that we are out of time on this point,” rather than the more formal, “The chair finds that time is expired for debate on the question before the committee; I, therefore, call for a vote on the question.”

Committee meetings are more effective when the chair comes to the meeting with an agenda with a proposed time schedule and that time schedule is honored.