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UNDER CONSTRUCTION…Meet The Candidate – Ken Richards
Dear Voting Members:
Since USA Dance only provides for a 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 lot of content below – sorry, but I don’t believe our President should be elected based on a wispy soundbite 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 be not be in charge of leading an organization when they have never (or rarely) participated in the 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.
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, 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 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 bad decisions and consult with those that know the difference.
Embrace open communication with members, primarily in three areas:
Move away from excessive confidentiality and bring the members into discussion – instead of surprising them with decisions. In actuality – this has been in the works… a new agreement has been written, but the current Board can’t seem to agree… 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 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 defined and the only reason the Board should conduct business in an “executive session”, which should also be stated in the minutes.
Stop using cleansed minutes that fail to illiterate the discussion that brought the Board the to its decision… Minutes should always include the full text of the motion and details about why the change was needed.
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 2019.
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 the Finance Committee, the Ethics Committee… and more? There is no place that a member can find that information or the purpose and mission of said committee. If they don’t meet, provide value and make reports that the members can read – we probably don’t need them.
Realign the workings of the 2 DanceSport Councils. We have a current DanceSport Council structure that went from 10-12 dedicated volunteers representing different athlete groups, organizers, nationals, rules, etc – to a DSC of 5 people. We have relegated DanceSport Delegates – who should be representing the athletes to numerous other governance positions. We have built a multi-committee Professional DanceSport Council that has assumed duties that used to be for the DSC, instead of working on the development of the Professional Division – 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 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 education program watered down with the Bylaw change that eliminated the Director of Education and split these programs into different groups. I believe as Senior-VP, I could also serve as the Education Coordinator that the current GC has spoken about in recent meetings but not appointed. The true 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 – education – the very reason USA Dance exists, in our corporate charter and tax-exempt filing, could bind all of us together behind our mission.
Remove the financial benefitof Officers competing for jobs with the Members they serve by implementing the USOC recommend language: “Directors are disqualified from receiving compensation for services rendered to or for the benefit of USA Dance in any other capacity”
Make it easier for the members to follow–the-money, meaning budgets and departmental business plans will 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.
Now for a personal $ commitment. I will donate–back, my President’s travel expenses until we have brought back the 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 1,450 Athletes + Prof Members, 4,008 Social Dance Members, 9 Breakers. So I have a lot of work ahead of me before I would expect USA Dance to cover my travel expenses
social dance programs,
Social Media presence.
For the first time in our 55-year history, many of USA Dance’s Board positions and Chairs of Committees are controlled by members personally benefiting financially from the programs of USA Dance and in competition with the members they are serving.
Removal of all Social Media Discussion and Nonexistent external Public Relations
Dissolution of the longstanding membership benefit of a National Magazine – to be replaced by an online version that was only produced once in 2 years
Secretly implemented a new division for Breakdancing without answering any questions or explaining why.
Closed down the education department and move its working to be under the control of professionals that are also paid to work for a different education organization, the USISTD.
Assist our Social Dance Community in finding their identity and voice on the GC. 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 voice concern over how USA Dance is now dancing around the Conflict of Interest Policy. I do not believe that anyone in a leadership position in our organizationshould also be the beneficiary of the programs they administer. In other words, our corporate Officers and to some degree our various Council VPs – SHOULD NOT BE – competing for work (personal financial gain) as Judges, Emcees, DJs, Training Camp Lectures, Training Camp Organizers, or Competition Organizers.Instead these people should be building these opportunities for the members they serve – and sadly this has not been happening.
I am also uncomfortable with the increased direction of giving active competing athletes profiled positions as committee chairs and even corporate officers. Why do I say this? We know the USOC wants Athletes to be represented on all voting bodies, as part of the Olympic Spirit. However, when athletes start to serve as President and DS-VP, we run into a situation where these people are either forced to recuse themselves from the very things they were elected to do – or, derive special recognition or perceived favor as the person–to–know when looking for work or rules changes inside the organization. Conversely, athletes in decision making roles will have more difficulty of being objective to the organization as a whole, when the decision will impact themselves, their coach, a judge, or organizer. Let our Athletes Compete and represent the opinions of the Athletes when serving as DanceSport Delegates.
I will work diligently to reverse what I view to be the overstepping direction of the Professional Division (PD) and return the control of voting power over competitions structures to the Amateur Athlete. This new professional division – like the PD in the WDSF – should be focused on building a professional competition program and administering competitions for these professionals. This is the extent of the description in the current Bylaws – which state “to promote and regulate Professional Dance competitions at local, district, and national levels in accordance with the authority granted by the USA Dance GC”. And while this is what we are told the PD’s purpose was upon implementation, the groupsoon began taking over key functions of the DanceSport Council’s services to Amateur Athletes. If you missed what happened… the PD assumed control over judges, certification, organizers, rules of competitions, sanctioning and even eliminated the required Official Observer to advocate for Athletes. Then, via changes in the bylaws, only the Professional Members will now be allowed to vote for the VP of the Professional Council. And the VP of the Professional Division controls the power to select the agenda, committee chairs, and members of the Pro Division. But, as I mentioned earlier, Amateur Athletes cannot vote in this area any longer. Effectively, we now have one of the smallestmember-groups (professional) voting for a leader that is in charge of the work and rules governing the same pro–members. The PD was started without a business plan or budget and with very few professional members. Yet, it has spent considerable funds under approval of the Treasurer that come from the Amateur Athletes and Social Members.
I note that election reform has been discussed over the years. And even though we have better documents and detailed policies, little was done to address voter turnout and to disseminate the information. With respects to this election, two emails were sent out listing the available positions and the deadlines. These contained links to the job description manual but not to the forms needed to run or the policies that govern the election. After pointing this out to members of the N/E Committee and the Central Office, a link was finally added to the website homepage – 7-days before the closing date. And this link still did not provide a potential candidate with the information they needed. Further – there was no publication of this election in the last issue of American Dancer. None of this is a reflection on the volunteers of the Nomination/Election Committee as they were not in control of these things. In fact, the blame doesn’t matter – just my commitment to fix these disconnected processes and restore the democratic and visible process to our elections.
In 2016, I along with Past-President Scardina took a very difficult meeting with the US Olympic Committee to address complaints filed under the Team United Administration. What came of that was there request that USA Dance restructure our governance more in keeping with a recommended set of bylaws they provided. They identified a failing in our current method of appointing voting-directors to the board that are assigned specific functions. There preference was that positions like, K-12, Collegiate, Publicity, etc. should be structured as committees with committee chairs that report to the board. Instead of the current structure where a standing President can appoint 6-7 people to vote with them on the board, while these same people have no true focus on the overall company as a whole. At the close of 2016 the GC revised the Bylaws to begin this process. The new administration reversed all of this work and immediately appointed 6 Directors which created a voting–block our elected officers could not challenge. It’s time to rethink our board and how it functions. And you will need to elect people with history and vision to make that work. I look forward to being part of that team and receiving your consideration.
Transparency of Budgets and Business Plans is another very important matter that I will work to resolve as Senior-VP. During my review of records, at the end of February, I asked the Treasurer to see the bylaw require budgets and business plans for the 3 Councils. I asked to see the 2018 budget as approved by the Governing Council. She informed me that they were working on it. This is confirmed from the minutes of the GC meetings – as none, to date, show a 2018 budget presented, voted-on and approved. The current GC needs to return to the prior practices of having a budget committee and all Directors voting on the GC must learn to embrace their fiduciary responsibility to you – the members. The President is required to act as the CEO and run the company in compliance with a GC approved budget. As your Senior-VP, I will be prepared to assume the role of the President and assure you these practices will be followed. And as an example, I would point to the detailed 2017 Budget I developed with my GC at the close of 2016.
Ken 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
All The Candidates – Currently Not Serving on the Board,
Should Be Considered Heroes
Why? Because they are willing to volunteer their time and energy toward the renewal of a company that has been on a major decline over the past 3 1/2 years. And with the current administrations process of conducting business, we the members, we the candidates to not fully know what we are getting ourselves into:
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 a 3rd 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 is the terms of that agreement and who inside USA Dance is interfacing and training this group.
Break Dancing – outside of the number of pages on the National website dedicated to explaining break dancing and introducing the committee, we have no idea what is happening with this new division and how it fits into the overall organization, or what promises have already been made.
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 report of how much social dance member money was diverted to cover the shortfall for the 2020 event.
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 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 – which means it could take those with less experience several months to get up to speed and chart a new course. Good Luck to all of You!