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Who should serve on Boards of Review?

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Boards of Review can become points of contention. That is not their purpose. The best means to avoid conflict is to know the rules from the Guide to Advancement (2015) well.

Since Troops, Varsity Teams, Venturing Crews, and Explorer Posts can hold them (troops exclusively up to First Class, see sec., these are the general rules through Life rank.

Here is the key part that you need from the Guide to Advancement (2015) (underlining added for emphasis in text): Particulars for Tenderfoot Through Life Ranks (or Palms)

The preceding applies to boards of review for all Boy Scouting ranks, but there are a few differences for the ranks other than Eagle, and for Eagle Palms:

  1. The board is made up of three to six unit committee members—no more and no less. In units with fewer than three registered committee members available to serve, it is permissible to use knowledgeable parents (not those of the candidate) or other adults (registered or not) who are at least 21 years of age and who understand Boy Scouting’s aims. Using unregistered adults for boards of review must be the exception, not the rule. Registered committee members familiar with the unit program, who have had a background check, and who are Youth Protection trained are preferred. Scheduling boards of review when and where committee members can attend usually alleviates the problem of not having enough committee members for a board.
  2. For a Varsity Scout team, the committee member responsible for advancement, the advancement program manager (youth), and the Coach serve on the board. Composition for Boy Scout rank or Palm boards of review held in Venturing crews or Sea Scout ships is the same as that for Boy Scout troops.
  3. One member serves as chair. The unit committee decides how he or she is chosen. The chair conducts review meetings according to BSA procedures and reports results to the unit advancement coordinator.
  4. The location should be comfortable, such as the unit meeting place, a camp, or a leader’s home.
  5. The review should take approximately 15 minutes, but not longer than 30 minutes.
  6. Ranks and Palms shall not be presented until the signed advancement report is submitted to the local council.
  7. If a Scout is to be reviewed for more than one rank (Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class), each rank should have a separate board of review. While these boards may be conducted on the same date, it is preferred—if feasible—that different members be involved on the boards to give the young man an enhanced experience and an opportunity to interact with a variety of adults.

Just run to the books where you have questions.


Ideas for Summer Camp

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As October drifts away and November arrives, it seems to early to think about summer activities. Yet, November is often the last push for the year to do much big in scouting until January. Once January hits, more units focus on summer camp and activities.

If you want to do something different, the November PLC is a great time to take a poll of your scouts or November Pack meeting a chance to poll your Cubs about where they would like to go to summer camp.

My home unit used to have a practice of going to some place out of council at least once every four years. One of our District’s bigger troops goes to Canada every other year. Both are great ideas for keeping scouting interesting for all your scouts.

Last year, Scouting Magazine ran a great article about wonderful Scout Reservations around the country. (Ransburg made this list!)

The Summit at Bechtel Scout Reservation is now running both high adventure and older scout summer camp opportunities.

In addition, your future troop youth leadership can attend White Stag, our local version of the National Youth Leadership Training. (Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops/Crews is a prerequisite, which we may offer at Winter Camporee, if NYLT_4ksufficient interest exists.) This one-week, Wood-Badge for youth course is well worth for future or past SPLs, patrol leaders, Troop Guides, etc. (Crossroads BSA website has not been updated for 2016 yet.)

Start the discussion in November, so information gathering can be planned and implemented. Then less pressure is on in January 2016 when real planning needs to begin.

Tufts University’s Study on Whether Scouting Works

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Dr Richard Lerner has been doing a 2.5 year longitudinal study near his school of randomly selected 1800 scouts and 400 non-scouts. He started by studying the boys as the entered scouts. He was setting a benchmark as to whether scouting changes boys character. Dr. Lerner’s final report is out. The summary is available at Scouting Magazine’s website.

The results are stunning. It shows in “a compelling way,” according to Dr Lerner, that the BSA has a significant ways in a least six characteristics:

  1. Trustworthiness;Graphs on comparison of results
  2. Helpfulness;
  3. Kindness;
  4. Obedience;
  5. Cheerfulness;
  6. Hopefulness.

So what about being solely focused on sports? Unfortunately, the sports-focused kids took a hit in how well the kids prioritize values, particularly in their priorities in caring for other people. They are not as interested in other people’s well-being, as were scouts. This effect becomes more pronounced as the boys stayed in scouting.

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News from Council Operations Meeting

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Last night, Tuesday, October 20th, Council held their semi-annual Operations Meeting. North Star was represented by Mark Pishon as District Advancement Chair, Brian Crow as District Camping Chair, District Commissioner Jeff Heck, and District Executive Con Sullivan. We were not able to cover the break out sessions for Programming, Family Friends of Scouting, Activities, or Communications due to lack of representation.

Vice President for District Operations Stroh Brann opened the meeting. As a past Wood Badge Course Director, he recognized our most recent past Wood Badge Director Jason Creighton of currently of Del-Mi District, formerly of our own Pack 358.

Carolyn Small recognized one of our recent White Stag Course Directors (whose name I did not catch).

They then had a short introduction of the STEM Scout program which is currently rolling out in beta testing in the Crossroads IMG_1852of America Council. One of its District Executives Zach White announced that the Council took delivery of the new Vortex truck the previous day. I had an opportunity to walk through it. The tools’ delivery is expected in the near future. IMG_1851The STEM DE told us a little bit more about the program. The unit in STEM Scouts is a called a “Lab.” The first “Lab Manager” position specific training is November 2nd from 1 pm to 5 pm at the Scout Center. This a great opportunity to learn the program from the inside.

Break-out Session Reports

Membership. The Council Commissioner and the Membership Committee held a joint break out to discuss recruitment and retention. Field Services Director Rob Hemmelgarn provided data on recent trends in the Council for the past 5 years. In that period of time, the retention rate has improved from 66.6% year-over-year in 2010 to 69.2% in 2014. Current projections for 2015 are 70.9%. We are doing an increasingly better job of retaining scouts once we recruit them.

The bad news is that our recruiting and market penetration is down markedly in that same period of time. In 2010, we had 903 traditional scout units. In 2014, we had 757: a loss of 146 units across the council. In 2015, we are projected to loss another 50. This unit loss has had a direct impact on scout recruitment. In 2010, we recruited 9,307 new scouts. In 2014, we recruited 6,779. In 2015, we hope to stay level, but we have only recruited 5,104 as of September 30, 2015.

Many ideas were thrown around about the cause of problems, but the numbers seem to indicate that poor Tiger Cub and other Cub recruiting is hurting all programs. Since 95% of Boy Scouts come from Cub Scouts, this Cub Scout recruiting problem is having a cascading effect on all scouting programs as the years pass.

Rob reported that nearly all youth programs from scouts to athletics are reporting similar declines. Questions were raised about financial explanations. Rob reports that the professional literature is pushing the notion that it is attributable to video games. This writer wonders whether the video game explanation is just a symptom of financial issues. Video games have a larger up-front fixed cost and smaller costs to continually upgrade or add games. It requires no additional time away from home. It allows parents who are busy at work to make sure their kids are occupied with a significant investment of time from the parent. This works well in financially struggling households to allow more work time without additional child care costs or investments in time and effort.

The question in recruitment has a marketing component, a sales component, a training component, and a first-60 days retention component. These components were all alluded to but not answered.

Upcoming Council Events

The next Council meeting is the Cub Scout Promotional Team Kickoff on October 29th at Camp Belzer. November 2, 2015 is the first day of Cub Scout Camp registration for summer 2016.

Council has meetings on November 15th and December 15th for the Activities and Training Committees and the Commissioners at the Scout Center. Start time is 7:00 pm.

The Governor’s Luncheon is December 14th at the JW Marriott hotel.

Training New Board of Review Members

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Often troops recruit a new parent to serve on the advancement committee or on an ad hoc Board of Review. New parents often get eyes as big as saucers. Our troop has written a pamphlet with typical questions included. Another option is to offer the new scouter a chance to review some of the YouTube videos prepared by the BSA.guidetoadvancement2015

They can take 15 minutes to learn from YouTube Video from National on Boards of Review in general. More specialized topics on the subject are available on advancement from

Don’t forget to have them review the Guide to Advancement section 8.

UPDATE 10/28/15: Here is an article on the “Do Nots”, too.

Merit Badge Counselors: Annual Renewal

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Did you know that

  1. Merit Badge Counselors are considered part of the “District Staff” and not as an adult member of the Troop or Crew that enrolls the Merit Badge Counselor? Consequently, this position does not appear on the unit’s recharter paperwork.
  2. District has a member of its Advancement Committee, Merit Badge Counselor Registrar Mike Yates, whose primary duty is to maintain an accurate list of Merit Badge Counselors living or serving within the District?
  3. District has to recharter just like any of our units?
  4. Merit Badge Counselors who have not maintained their Youth Protection Training are scheduled to be dropped from the list?
  5. As part of that process, Merit Badge Counselor staff are subject to a drop-add from membership in the district rechartering process?
  6. While District Executive Con Sullivan is primarily responsible for the District Rechartering, he relies heavily on the accuracy of information from the units and Mike Yates?


You may remember in July of this year I published an article about why many long-time Merit Badge Counselors suddenly in 2015 found themselves no longer registered as Merit Badge Counselors. This de-registration was primarily due to the District Rechartering process and our prior District Executive’s adherence to the Guide to Advancement’s procedure (section page 47), described in that article, for determining if Merit Badge Counselors are willing to serve in the new year.

Current Status

Our District Executive Con Sullivan has begun the process for rechartering the district for 2016 in cooperation with the District Chair Steve James, Advancement Chair Mark Pishon, District Merit Badge Counselor Registrar Mike Yates, and District Commissioner Jeff Heck.

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Rechartering Update

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UPDATED 10/26/15: 4 additional units have given plans for rechartering scheduling.

After 3 nights of Rechartering Turn-In meetings, District Commissioner reports that the following units appeared for their scheduled meeting:

  1. Pack 18
  2. Pack 830
  3. Troop 73
  4. Pack 174
  5. Troop 174
  6. Pack 171
  7. Pack 514
  8. Troop 514
  9. Troop 358
  10. Pack 105
  11. Troop 804
  12. Crew 408
  13. Pack 586
  14. Troop 586
  15. Pack 358 (all four tribes)

In addition we have had three units send PDF copies of their Drop-Add Report which allows the commissioner staff to work through much of the checklist items to set a punchlist of items to be completed. Those units are

  1. Pack 179
  2. Troop 269
  3. Crew 1121

We have agreements on scheduling unit turn ins for the following units

  1. Pack 625
  2. Troop 343
  3. Troop 56
  4. Pack 35
  5. Troop 35
  6. Troop 18
  7. Troop 69
  8. Pack 64
  9. Pack 84
  10. Crew 358
  11. Pack 175.

If your unit does not appear on the lists above, please email your Drop-Add form by Sunday night to Lead Unit Commissioner Mat Gerdenich, his email is on the rechartering email. Please CC Jeff Heck and Con Sullivan.  Your Drop-Add form is now overdue. Please email it to Mat Gerdenich and CC Jeff Heck and Con Sullivan immediately.

Mat Gerdenich, Jeff Heck, Con Sullivan, Andrew Linden, Ralph Stacy and the rest of the Commissioners Staff thank the 28 31 units that have worked hard to get us to this stage. Your effort is greatly appreciated.

Eagle Project Ideas

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In our meetings with local community leaders, District Executive Con Sullivan and District Commissioner Jeff Heck ran into the Nora Alliance.

The Nora Alliance is a neighborhood advocacy group in Nora. They are looking for ways to enhance the Nora Community. Increased pedestrian space, parkway like enhancement, improvements to the Monon trail.Eagle pin

They want to make the Monon a more park-like environment, especially in the more sun exposed section from 86th St to 96th St.

As part of that goal, we discussed whether Eagle Scouts could do improvements along the Monon. Maybe each section of 40-50 yards could have improvements of slightly different character and elements, while being part of a larger theme. That way each Life Scout could give it his own twist, while making the larger project coherent.

The idea is still in the works, but there is the potential for at least 6-12 Eagle Projects in that area. This might take some adult coordination on themes and procedures to make the politics a bit more manageable for the Life Scouts. Still, in this vision, each Life Scout would have to observe the theme and general rules, while being responsible for the blue prints preparation and approval of his own section. Then he would be responsible for the time and materials to make his blue print spring to life.

We would like feedback on whether this idea has merits and how we could make it work.