Policies and Procedures

Hurricane Maria: An update on BSA members in Puerto Rico. Ways you can help.

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Bryan on Scouting has just posted this article on how to help after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

To my view, the most important part of this article is that the councils and units affected have been slow to report their needs. This creates a risk of their needs being forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the BSA.

This slow response to state needs makes a lot of sense. First, the BSA is built on a diffused organizational system. National Council needs information from local councils. Local councils need information from districts. Districts need information from units. Units need information from unit leaders. Unit leaders are busy caring for their families, work or businesses, and places of worship.

Now the information trickle is beginning. The BSA has created several central clearinghouses of information. Units can make direct appeals for help. The BSA has created a central fundraising website. Now we know where to look for what is needed.

So the next question seems to be, “What can our unit do?”

What you can do is still limited by BSA regulations. Let’s take a quick look so that these are all fresh in mind.

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.

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.