EXCLUSIVE: Youth groups report lower enrollment because of new DOE policy

EXCLUSIVE: Youth groups report lower enrollment because of new DOE policy
Published: Nov. 1, 2013 at 7:48 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 2, 2013 at 12:45 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new Department of Education policy is making it more difficult for kids' groups like the Boy Scouts and Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii to recruit new members, causing a drop in program enrollments.

For years, the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii has sent flyers to public schools, asking school staff to help them get the word out about its programs.

"They would then take those flyers and make sure they got into each of the kids' backpacks that went home that day," said Tim Motts, president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Hawaii, which serves about 15,000 kids at 15 clubhouses across the state. "That way we could ensure every kid in the school understood exactly what the Boys and Girls Club was able to offer for those kids."

But at the end of last school year, the Department of Education issued a new policy, prohibiting school staff from helping third-party organizations distribute their flyers and pamphlets.

"The Department's guidelines on the distribution of third-party materials are meant to ensure staff time and school resources remain focused on core instruction for our students," said Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe in a statement.

Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club are still allowed to post flyers on school bulletin boards, in magazine racks or leave a stack of registration forms in front offices of schools.

Nozoe said, "Schools may still passively distribute information through a fair process that treats organizations equally and preserves the integrity of the learning environment."

Motts said the new policy has resulted in about 25 percent fewer kids registering for its enrichment and athletics programs.

"It really, in some ways, restricts our ability to meet the impact that we want to have in the community," Motts said. "We are certainly understanding, though, that the DOE can't be everything to everybody.  And it's very hard to vet every organization that comes through."

The Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council has seen about a ten percent drop in registration of boys becoming Cub Scouts this year, that's about 500 fewer new scouts in the state.

The new policy has forced the Boy Scouts to recruit in different ways, according to Jeff Sulzbach, scout executive and CEO of scouting operations on Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island.

"We've done a lot of more person-to-person type marketing," Sulzbach said. "We've asked current members of cub scouts to bring little buddy cards to their friends at school and invite their friend to join Cub Scouts on a one-on-one basis.  We've put bulletins in businesses and churches."

Sulzbach of the Boy Scouts is pleased that a revised DOE policy came out last month that gives principals and complex area superintendents the discretion to distribute materials in certain cases.

"We're very hopeful we can work with those leaders in the schools to recruit and to share information about scouting in the future," Sulzbach said.

The Aloha Council has about 12,000 scouts across the state with about 4,500 volunteers.  Roughly 1,000 scouts in Maui County come under a separate organization.

A spokesperson said the Girl Scouts of Hawaii has not been affected by the new policy.

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