Monday, May 1, 2017

5 Reasons Why You Need To Go To Your Local Circuit Meeting This Spring




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It's spring. It's post season. It's pre-marching band season. It's whatever time of year you want to call it, but the reality is that if your winter guard performed in a local circuit this past winter, then that annual circuit meeting is coming up sometime in the next few weeks and you know what, you have a responsibility to the color guard you are paid to teach to attend that circuit meeting. Chances are the meeting is within driving distance and chances are the meeting will only takes a few hours of your time, but that few hours is...to say it bluntly...your responsibility to attend. 

Did you have a complaint this past season that you feel went unheard? Do you have an idea that could save the circuit money? Do you know who the board is? Do you know how judges are evaluated? Do you know why certain decisions were made that impact your color guard such as promotions, entry fees, or championship seeding? All of this and more can be and is often addressed at the end of season meeting and unfortunately, most circuits face a dearth of interest in attending that meeting. Let me be clear about something. I have served on a local circuit board for several years and in my 28 years of teaching, I have rarely missed the end of season meeting and because of that, I have little patience when instructors complain. If you as an instructor don't engage in the voting process, especially when each unit of a circuit gets one vote in most decisions, then what right do you have to complain when things don't go your way? There are many things that you can get out of attending a circuit meeting, but I've listed five that I believe are crucial to the success of your unit.

Knowing the Board of Directors

Do you know who is on the board of directors? Do you know how long they have been on the board or what their area of focus is? Do they have affiliations and if so, what are they? At the end of year circuit meeting, the membership (which is usually the paying units), gets an opportunity to vote for who will serve on the board of directors the following year. Some circuits have stipulations that you are voting a person in for a term of 1 to 3 years and others put each seat up for a vote annually. Regardless, you need to be there to vote. Those people make decisions that impact a lot of things that include money, judges, unit promotions, show schedules, staffing, show locations, unit education, and so much more. They are responsible for whether or not the circuit will flourish or flounder. They are the ones that advocate for you as a body at the national level. So the question is this. Do you know who they are and do you trust them? If not, then you need to get to that meeting and vote. If you think the circuit is doing great and you fully trust the board, then you still need to go to the meeting and vote. It's important to see if there are others who offer fresh ideas or who have different level of expertise. If for nothing else, you need to go to the meeting to see if the board even has a general respect for each other and respect for the people in which they serve. 

Financials

You, or I should say your guard, is a paying member of the circuit and you have the right to see how the money is spent. All circuits should submit a financial statement to their membership and give that membership a chance to ask questions. When you pay your $500 to join a circuit, then you are buying a product and that product is what helps you put your guard on the floor and offers them a chance at success. And let me be clear. When the membership doesn't engage, then the board doesn't have oversight and when the board doesn't have oversight, then they can do pretty much anything they want. Do they do whatever they want? Most likely no. Most people are ethical and on the up and up. However, it doesn't mean that the money is spent wisely and some nonprofit boards are simply apathetic. Some are poorly trained in the nuances of financial sophistication. Some have done illegal things. This is where you come in. You need to ask questions. 

How much money do we have in the bank?
Have we made money, lost money, or stayed the same over the past three to five years?
Have there been any capital expenses this year?
How much money is spent on non performance based line items vs. other items that are non performance related? Meaning, are there frivolous costs and if so, were those costs warranted?
Is there waste?
Has there been an independent audit of the financials in the past year?
What are the line items?

Judging 

Do you know how the judges are chosen each season? Do you know how they are evaluated? What is the process for lodging a complaint? How do you know if the judging is getting better each season? How are local judges recruited and trained? How much is spent on judge travel? Here's the thing about judging. Most circuits, if not all of them, have a judging coordinator. That coordinator in many cases must answer to the board. Sometimes that position is a paid position. It's your right to know who that person is and that person needs to be able to answer these questions. 

Education

What educational opportunities are offered to the member units? How are the instructors approached in terms of educational opportunities? Is there education offered to instructors at different levels? How much money is spent on education? I'll tell you right now and pretty confidently, that education comes up in every circuit I'm associated with and some circuits do nothing, while others are going out of their way to find different avenues to reach the different types of units they serve. The key to it all starts at your spring meeting. Who is responsible for unit education and do they have a budget for outreach and the different modalities required to educate Novice through World Class?

Class Structure and Unit Promotion

This is a big one. Huge! The way the classes are set up should change every few years as the circuit grows in number and/or skill level. The way the classes are structured and the way the guards are promoted directly impacts how judges evaluate your color guard. If your guard is in the wrong class, then you won't get the information you need to get better. Your circuit needs to have a process in place to evaluate the guards as they move up and down the local class structure. Do you know what that process is? The Regional A Classes for instance have a local flavor. The make up of the units that are judged on the Regional A sheet can impact your score. It is in your absolute interest to pay attention to the class structure, the make up of the classes, and how those guards are moved. This one gets under my skin, because during the season every has an opinion on promotion and class, but when the season is over, very few people use their voice for the good of the general membership if they use it at all.

Finally...

When you go to your circuit meeting you need to come prepared. You need to have read your by-laws, which SHOULD be available to you on demand. You need to have an awareness of parliamentary procedure. You need to know what proposals are on the table to be voted on and speak only when the procedure allows for conversation. It helps if you know which proposals impact the by-laws and which impact policies. By-laws govern the association and are much like a Constitution. They are harder to change and should require longer and more thoughtful discussion. Policy can often be changed without a vote, but with thoughtful conversation and consideration. The two are very different and require different types of votes based on circuit rules. Try to find out the history of the issue you have before speaking on it if possible. Be professional and speak without emotion. Personally, I loathe comments that are out of order, off topic, and clearly emotional in nature. Make sure you speak for the good of the order and not for your individual unit when making a point. No one wants to listen to you bitch about your season, but if you can show that your concern is for, let's say an entire class, then chances are you will make your point and move people in your direction. Be inquisitive and be challenging, but please don't be catty and rude. Use data. Oh I just love data. Numbers don't lie, so if you can make a point through numbers then do it. 

"Last season we had 76 guards on the Regional A sheet, which made up 56% of competing units in the circuit. Two years ago we had 46% and our membership numbers haven't changed. Can anyone speak to why our units aren't moving up?"

"This past year we only had 10 units attend nationals. Only 3 of them made finals. We usually average 50% of our competing units in finals and our numbers of those in attendance at regionals and nationals have been declining for the past five years. Can we put together a committee to find out the reasons as to why we are losing our national presence?"

More than anything. You must show respect to those that are serving in a current board or staff position. You may not like them. You may feel as if they have steered the ship in the wrong direction, but you may not disrespect them. Most all circuit boards are volunteer run and the people who run them are doing their best. The purpose of the meeting should always be to help the board make better decisions based on the current needs of the membership. It is not a bitch session and should not be allowed to be treated as such. These meetings are just that...a meeting. If you really want to create change then run for a seat on the board. If you can't do that, then at the very least...go to the meeting and use your voice to advocate for your guard as well as your competitors.



Shelba is a board development specialist and youth development expert. She can be contacted at shelba@forwardyouthconsulting.com. 



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