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Meet The Candidate – Ken Richards
Dear Voting Members:
Since USA Dance Policy Governing Elections only permits for a maximum 500-word statement from a candidate – I submit to you this document with a more complete view of my strategy for USA Dance if elected to the position of President.
After 18 years of service and closing 2016 as your President, I have been diligently observing the changes implemented since 2017. Upon reviewing the effects of those changes on our dance community with severalchapter officials and professional members, theyconvinced me that I am the only person that can really lead us from our current direction. Therefore, I am pleased to stand for election as President and help our organization for the next four years.
There is a considerable amount of content below. Frankly, I don’t believe our President should be elected based on a few wispy soundbites or their dance credentials. They should be elected because they have substantive ideas on how to fix things, not just a list of things that need to be fixed. The President should not be someone that has never served the organization at the chapter level, nor on a national committee… they should not be in charge of leading an organization, when they have never (or rarely) participated in its governance structure.
On the other hand, candidates with experience, that are currently serving on the board or a council, provide an opportunity for voting-members to ask about their voting record and accomplishments while serving. Re-electing these individuals – or electing them to even higher positions will ensure more of the same, inside our current Board of Directors (BoD).
I have the institutional knowledge, education, a highly respected past voting record, solid ideas about (not only) what needs to be done – but how to correct the missteps of the past few years and build a new USA Dance. I know what is needed to energize a team of volunteers and market our assets…to put the “PR” back in PResident. To be clear, I do not mean, return to the old USA Dance – but to make the organization what it should be now, to viably meet today’s needs of our Social–Dance and Athlete Members.
Below is a key list of the items I plan toaddress with the Board of Directors if elected, as we reach for a renewed direction:
Restore and value the insight of our Past Presidents Council.
This group of individuals holds a wealth of historical institutional knowledge and are willing to consult with the Board. However, bylaw changes by the current administration eliminated their voice and their invitations to attend Board Meetings have been nonexistent. Let’s stop making decisions in a vacuum and consult with those that know the difference.
Embrace open communication with members, starting with these items:
Move away from excessive confidentiality practices that were implemented in 2017 and bring the members into the discussion – instead of surprising them with decisions. In actuality, I understand a new confidentiality agreement has been in the works… but the current Board can’t seem to agree (as of the time of this writing)… leaving confidentiality locked in debate.
The reality – our Code of Ethics and that of the WDSF already have a simple straight-forward section that deals with and guides confidentiality.
Reduce “Executive Sessions” in board meetings only for a short-list of truly confidential topics. I for one don’t think we should be talking about things in Board meetings that our members can’t hear, outside of a few sensitive topics that should be predefined. The reason the Board is conducting business in an “executive session”, should be stated in the minutes.
Stop using cleansed minutes that fail to illuminate the discussion that brought the Board to its decision… Minutes should include the full text of the motion and details about why the change was needed, along with the vote.
Fix direct communication between the members, the board, and the various committees and councils. One simple way… once again, post the direct email-contacts of these individuals serving the members. In 2017 we moved to a “masked system”… Meaning, today you are directed to to fill out a form and hit send, without verification of receipt, or copy of your message – or any idea who will receive it. A member should be able to directly contact, by email; a committee chair, director, VP, or officer with a question – and get a response!
Use the principles of integrated communication, like we did in the past, by ensuring that emails, social-link, facebook, information to chapter presidents and the website are all being used to deliver the same message to the members.
Develop a USA Dance Governance Facebook page – where members can publicly voice questions, concerns or praise and get a real answer from the appropriate Officer, VP, Director or Committee Chair.
Encourage a culture where relationships with long-standing–dedicated–volunteers, that were passed over for political reasons, will want to return to service at the chapter and National level. In particular, we must reconnect with the 5 elected persons that resigned in 2017stating their unwillingness to serve under the current administration. And the members of the former Greater NY Chapter that were fired in an unprecedented takeover from the National level in 2018.
Implement full disclosure of the persons serving on Committees and Councils with a description of their work and cataloging of their reports to the Board. Who is on and who chairs… the Finance Committee, the Organizer’s Committee, the Certification Committee, the Ethics Committee, Nomination Committee… and more? There is no place that a member can readily find that information, or even the purpose and mission of some of these groups. If they don’t meet, provide value and make reports that the members can read – we need to reevaluate their importance to the organization.
Realign the workings of the 2 DanceSport Councils. We have a current DanceSport Council (DSC) structure that went from 10-12 dedicated volunteers representing all athlete groups, organizers, nationals, rules, etc – to a DSC of 5 people. We have relegated some DanceSport Delegates – who should be representing the athletes first – to numerous other governance positions. We have built a multi-committee Professional DanceSport Council (PDC) that has assumed duties that used to be for the DSC, instead of working on the development of the Professional Athletes and Competitions – which is why the PDC was created. In four years we have no more (maybe less) professional couples and have waived fees from Pros doing Pro/Am as a gift to a handful of organizers (which also serve on the professional committees making these decisions).
Suffice to say – we can do much, much, better and I have Organizational Charts that can fix this misstep.
Re-implement the Education Department that was removed.Sadly, I watched the impetus for a very strong new education program, that I implemented in 2016, watered down with a Bylaw change, by the current Board, that eliminated the Director of Education and split these programs into different groups. My plan was to build a community around education comprised of studio owners, coaches and the teachers of the chapter social dance lessons. In other words – dance education – the very reason USA Dance exists, in our corporate charter and tax-exempt filing, should be used to bind all of us together behind our mission, and love for dancing. But our education department – now masked under the name certification – is managed by a committee in the Professional Division and suffers from Conflict of Interest on a couple of levels. (1) the cross-relationship with our volunteers and the roles they play in another “teaching society” and (2) how the current group of pros are managing the process of expanding or controlling those that get certified and become their competition for jobs in DanceSport. Because of this, the initiative lingers, without attention or information provided to promote education – to athletes, professional members, or chapter social dance programs.
The current BoD recently reported (AGM-2020) two WDSF exams were conducted. They were not clear if that was from 2017-2020, or the current year. By comparison, USA Dance conducted 22 WDSF Exams in the year before the education department was parked inside of the Pro-Division. And speaking of the WDSF (international brand) – they released revised technical manuals and training videos in 2019 – and USA Dance did not think that information was important enough to share with any of the coaches and athletes. The simple fix is to reinstall the National Education Department and build a real integrated initiative that is not holding USA Dance back – but contributing to our growth and revenue.
Speaking of Conflict of Interest, we need to stop dancing around that policy currently in place and better address which elected national leadersshould be allowed to financially benefit from the programs they administer. In other words, should our Board Members be competing with the members they serve for work as Judges, Emcees, DJs, Training Camp Lecturers, Training Camp Organizers, or Competition Organizers. Or, should these people focus on building opportunities for the members they serve – and working for the good of the organization. What does the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) say on the matter? They recommend this language for our Bylaws: “Directors are disqualified from receiving compensation for services rendered to or for the benefit of USA Dance in any other capacity”
With respect to finances, we need to make it easier for the members to follow–the-money. Meaning budgets and departmental business plans must become transparent, just as it is practiced by the WDSF. In their annual meeting (AGM) the members are given copies of the current years’ proforma finances to date and the projected budget for the next calendar year. In our meeting we received a few consolidated charts with no opportunity to ask for details or questions.
Now for a personal $ commitment. I will donate back, my President’s travel expenses until we have broughtthe current all-time low membership to at least 8,000 – and I will encourage the other Board Members to do the same. In reality – none of us know how many members we are now left with. My best guess (from Social Link – at the time of this writing) is 1,441 DanceSport Members; 3,692 Social Dance Members; and 9 Breakers. So I have a lot of work ahead of me before I would expect USA Dance to cover my travel expenses.
To quantify this financial commitment – the President usually attends the Nationals, the annual AGM of the WDSF, the annual meeting of the US Olympic Committee, the annual face-to-face meeting of the Board, and several secondary meetings or competitions as necessary.
– and PS – when I left office at the end of 2016, as published in American Dance Magazine, we accurately reported 3,220 DanceSport Members and 8,576 Social Dance Members.
Bring back a concerted effort at Public Relations toward the external media and advocacy for dancing. We succeeded for years at placing dancers on television shows, and getting articles in national and local publications. This also gave weight to corporate sponsors to underwrite our programs. Then the current board turned off the PR light and says they has been trying to find a fix for four years.
Time to unravel the Breakdancing mystery. We see it on the website, but do the majority of ballroom dance members understand how it fits into USA Dance and why? What is the importance of this and other dance disciplines. The current BoD has been “working on” growing these other dance disciplines since their first announcement in 2017. But nothing… except for the formation of a few unknown committees. How do these new disciplines impact the budget – what is the business plan? As President I intend to figure this out and give our members an opportunity to ask questions, get answers and participate in the process.
Empower ourSocial Dance Community in finding their identity and voice on the BoD. Currently every memberof the GC, but one, that serves in a Chapter or Social Dance role is ALSO a competitive dancer. I run a social dance studio with weekly parties and know the difference between people that dance socially and those that are practicing their competition routines during the party.Let’s make it fun again! I have high hopes that Jean Krupa will be elected as the Social Vice-President and that she will succeed in working with the BoD to re-energize the social dance scene at the chapter and national level.
Jean ran numerous successful programs over the years: Cruise, Social Dance Lessons at Nationals, National Chapter Conference, etc. All of these are things the current Social-VP has referenced and talked about in numerous meetings (just check the minutes) – but never made happen. Now he has resigned. There is no shortage of great ideas around the country – time to start listening to the members! I have worked cooperatively with Jean in the past and look forward to doing so again.
K-12 has always been one of those areas of USA dance that everyone agrees is important. Unfortunately the effort has always had little success on a national level. The current administration funded somewhere between 6 and 8 “pilot programs”, that were undefined. There have been no details released about these programs or their results. And the only information on the website is what was posted from the previous administration.
The most recent K-12 Director, a very capable and dedicated volunteer, resigned from her position without any reason given. The reality is that this type of program works better if managed through the efforts of local chapters and school administrators that love to dance. Plus, we need a process to share materials and success stories to the chapters across the country… not secret pilot programs. The National initiative needs to work as a conduit for the chapters to support each other for this initiative to ever take hold inside of USA Dance again. I believe it can happen.
The Collegiate program is another one of those where people often quote it as “the future of USA Dance”. Unfortunately that hasn’t panned-out to really be the case. The efforts from the current administration have been costly and stopped short of bringing any benefit in the way of new members and support.
Instead, they are funding an annual national championships that doesn’t require USA dance membership. So this initiative has actually diminished the value of our brand. Recently, a new program was announced that looks promising, but is it sustainable and how is it being funded?
We need grassroots efforts at the chapter level if this is ever going to turn around and change. National leadership must work with local leaders to inspire collegiate teams, Collegiate social dances, and even Regional or state-based competitions. You must build a program before running and paying-for a national championship.
Election Reform – anyone that has been following the conversations surrounding the expanding duties of the National Election Committee (NEC) directed by the Board to subjectively determine what members are “preferred” to be on the ballot and who should be eliminated, would agree that a fuller discussion about what the members expect, in a non-election year, needs to take place. Let’s not do this again.
Give new power to the Members to keep their elected officials accountable. I believe it is now necessary to add a Bylaw that gives the members a chance to cast a vote of “no confidence” or even to have an elected officer removed from the Board for specific reasons or non-performance of duties.
Please keep reading – and vote for Ken Richards for President.
Membership – Covid-19 and Leadership
We are in unprecedented time which can be particularly difficult for Social Dancing. The response from the current administration – all a bit late in the game – has been a handful of free online dance classes, that you may have missed, … while other organizations are offering them daily, and have been throughout the shut-down.
Then our leadership issued a liability statement warning caution as we reopen to protect the company… Necessary, but far from inspirational.
Leadership needs to inspire the other members on the Board, the Chapter Officers and everyone in the pipeline to share information and build value… and that is every day – especially during a Pandemic. Social Link should be buzzing with chatter, stories and photos. Yet – most members don’t even know what that is.
Another great idea that fell on deaf ears was the implementation of a National Zoom Dance party. It could be held monthly or even weekly. What fun to dial-into a lesson, performance, share stories, and see what people are doing to stay safe and reopen.
Of course the current Social-VP (recently resigned) bragged about the success of the Flash Mob that was rolled out 3-years ago to bind chapters around a common dance goal. BUT – this year, a year when people were stuck in their homes, with plenty of time to learn a new dance – our Social-VP failed to continue the program or even mention it. And the current officers – specifically the President and Senior-VP were complicit in this lack of leadership and inspiration.
On the other hand, we have strong chapters like Orlando that prides themselves on keeping their members engaged by sharing dance lessons, videos of past performances and more on a regular basis. And they have maintained their membership numbers.
If we stop engaging the Chapters from a National level we can all go home. Here is the saddest statistic of organizational apathy that I hope does not carry over into our election. Only 76 people were logged into the Zoom-AGM call. People listen, we reportedly have 145 Chapters… each of them should have 5 Officers (minimum). We have 14 people on the National BoD + I would assume another 20 people serving on committees. So, I’m guessing we should have seen almost 750 people participating in this new free format.
Of course the communication announcing the meeting was sparse and the notice was short, for a Summer weekend… but only 76 people turned out to hear the BoD tell their story… it makes me sad – and I am committed to change that for the future.
~ Endorsement ~
“The USA Dance election this year will be a critical one for the continued survival of our organization. If you are satisfied with the way USA Dance is going now, then by all means vote for the people who are currently on the national Board of Directors. But if you don’t like what USA Dance has become, with a greatly reduced membership base, a National Championship with an attendance even before the COVID-19 pandemic that has become a shadow of the vibrant and exciting competition it used to be, and a lack of any meaningful activities for social dancers, then vote for someone who was part of USA Dance when it stood for something and worked for the members, whether they were competitors or social dancers.”
“That someone is Ken Richards. He has more experience than anyone serving on the national board today, having previously served as Public Relations Director, Vice President of DanceSport, Senior Vice President and National President. Throughout all those assignments Ken put the needs and desires of the members first. While he is a studio owner, he always kept his business completely separate from his volunteer activities in USA Dance, and thus has no past or present conflict of interest issues. During his stewardship, the National Championships were exciting for competitors and spectators alike, with the ballroom filled to capacity during major events. Members of the World Team could count on receiving their stipends to the world championships on time, and knew that in Ken they had an advocate at the WDSF. He oversaw a DanceSport Council that was a real council, with committees that served the needs of competitors, junior athletes and their parents, and organizers. He also was a strong supporter of and participant in the annual Chapter Conference for chapters and their leaders, and advocated for other activities to assist chapters and their social dance members.”
“USA Dance at its present time is not a healthy organization, with a deeply declining membership that is not serving the needs of the competitors, chapters or their members. Electing or re-electing the same group of people who are on the national board now will simply continue USA Dance’s decline. If you want USA Dance to start rebuilding into the organization it once was, electing Ken Richards as President is an important first step. He has my vote and I hope he has yours too.”
National Past President, USA Dance
I Will Not Lead in Secret or From a Vacuum
I have already begun to reach out to key volunteers (past and present) to serve on my advisory committee (Cabinet). These are people that have varying expertise and experience in our organization and dance. They have been advising me and will continue to do so. They will be tapped for ideas and feedback (along with others) throughout my administration. They are individuals that don’t have the desire or time to serve in an elected or appointed voting position – but do have a passion for making a contribution… The Board needs to listen to the Members. The current Advisory Committee Includes:
Esther Freeman – past holder of every National Officer Position, most recently worked as the assistant to the Treasurer to clean-up the books and the 2014 and 2015 Audits, avid Social Dancer.
John Davis – past president of the very successful Orlando Chapter, avid dance fan, fund raiser, builder of youth programs and more.
Angela Prince – past Director of Publicity and the Publisher of the American Dancer Magazine
Kevin Payne – avid competitor, CPA that has provided assistance to the Treasurer for the clean-up of the books and advised on tax matters
are you interested?
In Closing… All The Candidates – Currently Not Serving on the Board,
Should Be Considered Heroes
Why? Because they’re willing to volunteer their time and energy toward the renewal of a company that has been on a major decline over the past 3 3/4 years. And with the current administration’s closed method of conducting business, we the members, we the candidates, do not fully know what we are getting ourselves into. For example:
2021 Nationals Contract with Professional Organizer – We know the 2021 Nationals will be in Atlanta and was granted to a Professional Organizer that is also a Member of the Prof Council. We don’t know the terms of the arrangement and why the Board shifted their responsibility from running this event back to an outside party.
Association Management Company Contract – We know the current board fired 3 support employees of USA Dance and shifted their work to a new “association management company”. What we don’t know are the terms of that agreement and who inside USA Dance is interfacing and training this group. We are told the cost is 50% of the employees but that services are hourly based – so how can we know.
The Funding of the NY – NQE – The Manhattan Amateur Classic (MAC) was reported to be funded by the National Treasury, in excess of $42,000 in 2019. There is no clear report of how much social dance member money was diverted to cover the shortfall for the 2020 event. However the AGM-2020 Treasurer’s report shows a new line item of Receivable at $91,433 which looks the 2019 + 2020 loan to the MAC.
And, have promises been made to cover the event again in 2021 and beyond? The new officers take office on Jan-1 and the MAC is scheduled to run two weeks later.
Budget – and speaking of finances… none of us know how much money is left in the bank or what other member services are scheduled to be cut. We know the current Board removed American Dancer in print (Dec-2018), and recently slashed the financial support for athletes representing the USA at World Championships – but we don’t know why.
Of course the candidates, once elected, will learn all they need to know. Good Luck to all for your commitment to replace the current BoD and fix USA Dance!
All of the new people that made the ballot (and even those that didn’t) that are committed to giving their time and helping USA Dance, must have a place in the administration, if I am elected President.
Everyone will not win – but those not elected will be considered first when filling various Director and Committee Leadership positions. That way the Members win – as we bring everyone together in fulfilling our common goals.
Any questions/comments – my cellphone is 302-290-2583 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org