Policies and Procedures

Adapting to Scouts’ Needs

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Many of our units have now completed summer camp. The leaders have learned more about their scouts in that short week than they will the rest of the year. Some scouts are easy to manage and guide. Others require more skill to manage and guide.

Now is a great time to discuss with the other leaders of your unit the lessons learned about each of your scouts and to strategize on how to better serve them in their individual needs.

I grew up in scouts with some physical impairments. We never discussed these impairments with my scoutmaster. My family took the attitude that these were my hurdles to overcome. In retrospect, my scoutmaster had to learn my needs independently without much guidance. It gave him a tougher task. In the ’70’s and ’80’s, those things weren’t discussed as freely as today.

Over the past couple of years I have learned about the BSA’s standard practices for learning about and implementing individualized plans for scouts. This effort started from the efforts of Rebecca Zirnheld and Jody Winter to teach our troop about these standard practices. Over the intervening months I have come to see the value of these standard practices.

I highly recommend that all scout leaders read the the 8-page Guide to Working with Scouts with Special Needs and DisAbilities, No. 510-071 from the scouting.org website on special needs. If you have specific issues to address, more detail is available in the Scouting for Youth with Disabilities, No. 34059 (2007).

The key take away for me from these pieces of literature:

  • Students with special needs have a Individual Education Plan (“IEP”) designed at school.
  • 18% or so of students have an IEP.
  • An IEP can be a useful tool to help a scouter better understand his scout, if the parents wish to share the highly confidential IEP.
  • If the parents do not wish to share the IEP, a scouter who knows an IEP basic outline can ask more informed questions.
  • The scouting literature is very helpful to guide a scouter deal with known problems and foster open communication with the parents.

Sometimes we can best avoid future confusion and conflict by learning more about what resources are available to us before they are needed.

I could imagine a situation where a scouter finds his newest scout has ADHD, which is a new to the scouter. The scouter could ask the parents to meet with him for 20 minutes and have the guides at the meeting. The scouter could say to the parents, “I don’t know ADHD except what I read here. Let me show you what it says. What else do I need to know about your son that this guide does not tell me?”

Invariably, the parents will tell a great deal that the guide does not. But that is the point. The parents know their son the best, so asking is key.

Other useful websites:

  1. Sam Houston Council on special needs
  2. Facebook on Autism
  3. http://www.autismempowerment.org/autism-scouting-program/

New for Fall Recruitment: Online Registration

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The BSA has established a new Online Registration for adults and youth. You can see an overview video of how the system works below. The video describes it as “Coming Soon.” It is already activated in Crossroads of America Council.


This system has many advantages:

  1. You never run out of paper forms.
  2. Your applicant will be immediately notified whether data on one of the screens is incomplete, avoiding the need to circulate the form around twice to fill in missing information or signatures.
  3. There is no physical application that needs to be delivered or sent.
  4. Necessary signators traveling out of town can fulfill their obligations from anywhere in the world.
  5. Your applicant can pay their BSA membership dues online with a credit card.

The current weaknesses in the system are being able to find where to access the website to start.

  1. You must access this from the http://www.BeAScout.org.
  2. From the main page, the applicant needs to navigate to your unit.
  3. On the unit page, the applicant needs to correctly choose “Cub,” “Scout,” “Venturing,” or “Volunteering.” Picking a program puts the applicant in “Youth” status. Adults must pick the “Volunteering” choice, then select a unit.
  4. You can pick the links for your unit and save them for placement on your webpage or emails. This means that you can circumvent some of the problems above.
  5. The system does not collect your unit’s dues or added costs (like local council insurance). It merely establishes the applicant as a member of the BSA through your unit. I have even used it to promote an existing volunteer to a new position without having to pay dues again.

I have used this system successfully twice. I have not dealt with Youth Protection Training in either case because they were existing volunteers. I cannot offer much feedback on that issue yet.

Online Volunteer application
Sample of Volunteer Application

Please begin using this system immediately, especially before recruiting season and rechartering. The more information that is properly registered in the system before October 1st, the smoother your rechartering will proceed.

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.

January 2016 Eagles

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Congratulations to the following new Eagle Scouts. There official status is “prospective” Eagle pinbecause their rank has not yet been confirmed by National Council. When the rank is confirmed their official date of rank will January 13, 2016.

  1. Matthias Benko, Troop 174
  2. Rhodes Lacy, Troop 18
  3. Lars Olson, Troop 343
  4. Mitchell Thompson, Troop 358.

Congratulations again!

NOTE: As a part of District's new efforts to confirm the scouts' service hours, Eagle Board Coordinator Jerry Simon will be reporting the man-hours reported by the Eagle reports to District Executive Con Sullivan. This will be used as a means to make sure that each troop is adequately reporting their service hours to national council and local council. This may result in emails to the Troops where underreporting appears to have occur in any given quarter.


Advancement Resources

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Often we have questions about advancement issues. BSA puts out a great deal of information. Often this feels like drinking from a firehose.

One of the ways to avoid this problem is to be sure your unit’s advancement coordinator subscribes to the irregularly published BSA Advancement News. (Irregular because it is sometimes monthly and sometimes bi-monthly.) Advancement News masthead

For a new advancement coordinator, catching up on old articles in the archive can be daunting. They may just want to look at specific issues of the moment. One of the best ways to do that is to review the Advancement News index of articles on the BSA Advancement website. The article titles are often catchy and artistic, but misleading about the main idea. Have patience with it. It is not intended to be a advancement manual (the Guide to Advancement serves that purpose). Instead it is intended to focus on hot topics.

If an advancement coordinator wants to study the history of advancement changes, he or she can read back issues of Advancement News. There is a lot to be learned to look at how a once “hot topic” was handled and resolved. It helps guide an advancement coordinator to have a better sense about how to handle future problems. The method of resolution will often be similar: the timeframe required to identify the issue then resolve, the groups giving input who have the most persuasive authority on the final result, and the types of issues that are resolved with finality versus lingering effects.

Always start with the Guide to Advancement, the most recent revision for the current year of Boy Scout Requirements, the most recent issue of Advancement News for answers, and the related Merit Badge Counselor’s Compass newsletter. If those prove unsatisfactory, review the News index. You may surprise yourself with the quality of answers that are already published.

If you still do not find your answers, reliable and regular private bloggers can provide insight, such as Clarke Green at www.scoutmastercg.com with a focus on scoutmastership, Frank Maynard at www.blogwhiteblather.com with a focus on committee issues, and the Ask Andy column at www.netcommissioner.com.

To subscribe to the Advancement News, follow these instructions:

Send an email to advancement.team@scouting.org.
Put ‘Subscribe’ in the Subject line and in the body of the email put only your:
Email Address:
Council Name:

Pack Membership Coordinator Recruitment 

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This is the time of year that it is so important for a pack chairman to recruit a pack membership coordinator. 

One of the hardest parts of recruitment is explaining the nature and duties of the position. Units that have had the luxury of having one parent assist in year one and then do the job in year to have the advantage of on the job training.

For most other packs, most of the training has to be done using other resources: classes, literature, or on the job experience.

BSA has put together a wonderful website for all packs, troops, and crews to be able to use for different recruitment purposes. There are even YouTube videos for the membership coordinator to learn their job. This is different than the usual E-learning process because there is no login required.

Take a look at this website to find out what you can do to improve your recruitment this fall. 


How Do I Add or Remove Merit Badges for Counseling

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UPDATE: 11/5/15: District is working at updating its list of MBC’s right now. If you see the draft and find that you are not included on it, please read this article about why and how to proceed.

For all of the blog’s information about Merit Badges, click here.

If you want to add or subtract from the Merit Badges that you counsel, please complete this North Star MBC Drop/Add Form. The form must be on file for all counselors. It is required along with the Adult Application.

Please have your troop’s Merit Badge Counselor Registrar contact the District MBC Registrar Mike Yates with any questions about a counselor’s current registration.

The District records are the authority on who is properly a Merit Badge Counselor. Troop registrars are for the convenience of the troop and its members to have a sole point of contact who is familiar with the system.

When a Merit Badge Counselor turns in his or her Drop-Add Form, please encourage them to offer their services to the District or Council, not just your unit, especially if they offer a rare badge. They will not often receive many calls.

For recent history on the MBC registration process and why changes have occurred, please read this blog article. To see options for bringing counseling into the 21st Century, read about the BSA’s acquisition of Scoutbook.com. Regardless whether your unit uses Scoutbook.com or not, it has some invaluable tools for Merit Badge Counseling that are not available elsewhere. Encourage your MBC’s to enroll. Their list of badges offered will then be added to the District list.

If you are retiring from serving as a MBC for the new year, make sure that the District MBC Registrar Mike Yates is aware. Your Troop and Crew leader, committee chair, and chartered organization representative were emailed his email address in October 2015.

If your troop does not have a person listed on your troop’s roster as the MBC registrar, please contact your Troop Committee Chair for more information.

Making My.Scouting.Org Useful

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Over the next several days, BSA is going to continue moving more and more of its access to ScoutNet database for its volunteers from myscouting.scouting.org to my.scouting.org.

One of the most important benefits of the new system is that it delegates more control over data to the volunteer corps.

This means that it is important that each unit be aware that it can update information. Once aware, the unit needs to update the information.

To begin the process, you need to know your username and password. It is the same one that you used on myscouting.scouting.org. (If you do not have an account there, you will need to register there first.) If you have never logged in to my.scouting.org, you will have to complete the registration transfer process first. Once you are logged in, continue with the instructions below. (For a slightly older video showing the process, click here.)

Read the rest of this entry »

District Training: Merit Badge Counselors

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Merit Badge Counselors are a unique animal in scouting. They often focus on working with only one troop or crew, yet they are members of District Staff. District Staff is a group that serves all units in the district. So, Merit Badge Counselors are under the auspices of District and not their home units.

The significance of this is that it is District’s job to maintain an adequate roster of trained and qualified Merit Badge Counselors. To do this, we ask each Scout Troop and Venturing Crew to have an adult leader responsible for maintaining the unit’s roster of Merit Badge Counselors. Then that registrar should be in regular contact with the District Merit Badge Counselor Registrar Mike Yates. Mike maintains the official list.

This week I am sending out a request to all merit badge counselors enrolled but who do not have their Merit Badge Counselor Orientation completed. This email will point out the need for training and offer them various dates and times to complete the training. Council offers the orientation the first Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m. We will offer the training at Roundtable in August, too. Unfortunately that means that it will be offered at exactly the same time.

We are currently planning the upcoming District training schedule. Merit Badge Counselors will be one of our primary points of emphasis.

If you would prefer to offer a Merit Badge Counselor training within your own unit’s meeting schedule, we will be happy to assist you in setting that up. This is often the best way to recruit new counselors: have a parent-training session covering YPT and MBC training in one sitting.

There is no online training for this training yet.

Please review your unit’s Merit Badge Counselor training status at my.scouting.org. Encourage your counselors to be trained. If you expected someone to be a Counselor but they are no longer registered, refer to this article for more information.