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F-ball
02-26-2008, 09:12 PM
Since its founding several years ago, our school's robotics team has participated in many regionals, and attended nationals once. Like with any other team, our alumni have found the experience to be highly worthwhile, and we have received some attention from local newspapers and such.

Recently, however, some of the robotics leadership got into some non-robotics related trouble, and as a result, the school administration has lost its faith in both the leadership and the club as a whole. As such, it looks like the school is pulling the plug on our robotics program after this competition season. Many, if not all, of the students on the team are still in avid support of our robotics team, and do not want to forever lose this opportunity to participate in an organization such as FIRST. We are now starting to consider our only remaining option of removing any affiliation that we have with our school, and becoming completely independent of it. We understand that it will be difficult to fund raise, find a location to work in, and attract membership, but it doesn't seem as if we have much of a choice.

Seeing that this is a very controversial issue, we were wondering about the opinions of the rest of the FIRST community about this situation.

fredliu168
02-26-2008, 09:23 PM
Its an unfortunate situation. I would like to point out that since the robotics leadership does not represent your entire team, try and make your school admins see how worthwhile the FIRST program is to students and the school as a whole.
I would recommend making an appointment for a presentation with the school adminitration. Get the entire team to present their case, make sure the school can truly see your passion for FIRST, add videos of regionals and such. Get your teacher and mentors and alumni involved.

Corey Oostveen
02-26-2008, 09:29 PM
Definitely work hard to get the school back on your side.

If that does not work. See if there is another school that will take you in.

Our team has taken in kids from many schools. There are plenty of other stories of Teams taking in members of collapsed teams

Mike Schreiber
02-26-2008, 09:36 PM
Team RUSH had a similar problem 2 years ago. Our administration was closing our school (a combination of students from various high schools in different districts) and decided that they did not want to support us. OSMTech (the school) lobbied and all seemed hopeless. Yet through our hard work, and determination we proved that we deserved the right to remain a team. OSMTech was adopted by one of it's feeder high schools, and our team is no even more fortified.

Honestly, team RUSH has made me believe that if you keep working at something and put your time and energy into proving that you FIRST needs to be in your life SOMEONE will save your team, be it who you think or not.

This saddens me greatly to hear, and I would hope that if you are not able to save the relationship with the school then you are able to keep your team.

Good luck and best wishes

EricH
02-26-2008, 09:39 PM
Definitely work with the administration. If it helps you, kick the troublemakers off the team.

By the way, I would suggest that future questions of this sort be placed in the FAHA Mailbox subforum. It was created for controversial issues so you don't have to make an anonymous account.:)

Doug Leppard
02-26-2008, 09:42 PM
We had similar problems in our old team 1083. Eventually the school shut it down.

Several from that team formed 1902 Exploding Bacon under 4H and it has been a wonderful experience. 4H has been very supportive. Now we have several schools with our team not just one school. eventually that school sent students with us.

I would try first to get the school back on if not then try to reorganize under something like 4H. Donations and insurance flow through them and they take nothing out except student dues which is small.

DonRotolo
02-26-2008, 10:09 PM
Read this relevant post (http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showpost.php?p=503214&postcount=24). The key words are "no more robot team".

If you are fortunate enough to keep this team together, rule #1 must be something that will prevent this from happening again.

And the title shouldn't be "Administration Troubles" but "Student Leader Troubles"

Don

.

GaryVoshol
02-26-2008, 10:18 PM
Whatever path you take, make sure your attitude toward the school is positive. If you are viewed as going around behind the administration's back, they may just come back next year and tell you that you won't be allowed to miss school for competitions.

Cow Bell Solo
02-26-2008, 10:39 PM
Try to not have them cut the program, get some facts from the FIRST website and like others said have show a presentation and/or tell why FIRST is a good program and not cut it. Maybe get past members and tell the admin about thier experiances and how it helped them in life if it did.

Maybe if you want to get a little meaner if the sports teams or other clubs have problems, like hockey players get into fight often, and ask why the school hasn't cut those programs.

It is hard to know what to say not knowing the actions of the leaders but I understand keeping that confidential. Tell admin to kick off the members from the team and that they can't rejoin if it was only one or two of the members

popo308
02-26-2008, 10:57 PM
are first 2 years we were not a school team but then the school got angry at us for using there metal shop so we became a school team. at first we had alot of people on the board against us but we got the word out what we did and now we have to superintendent supporting us as well as the principal and VP...

Try to talk to the school board and show them what you do and why it is important to keep the team around...

ebarker
02-26-2008, 11:05 PM
Sounds like some tough decisions are in order.

You can choose to let the administration clean up the mess or the team can choose to clean up the mess. If left to the administration there could likely be a shutdown.

If the team chooses to clean up the mess then I would suggest a plan of action created by the students and mentors and presented to the administration demonstrating how the team will recover from this.

Without knowing the direct facts, a part of this plan will have to directly speak to how the 'offenders' will be addressed. these folks could resign, or be fired to put it plainly.

If the team wants to be treated with respect then the team will have to demonstrate how to contain and discharge this damage and put it on a self correcting path to regaining the confidence of the administration.

This happens all the times with adults. You have heard it said all the time that FIRST reflects real live. This is real. Something broke, gotta fix it.

I just noticed that the title of the thread was "school administration troubles" which should be re-titled "team leadership troubles"

Honest self assessment is a real virtue in a situation like this. good luck.

neoshaakti
02-27-2008, 12:03 AM
I feel your pain. I guess you have to bite the bullet and try to explain yourself in a calm manner. Administrations won't listen to you if you are angry at them, trust me. From what I've seen this year in FIRST, I think FIRST is something your administration does not want to eradicate. Just remind them that
Good Luck!

F-ball
02-27-2008, 12:47 AM
To slightly elaborate on the wrongdoings of some of the leaders, it mostly involved two students and mal-use of computers at school. The first of the students attempted to steal private data from a robotics computer, and was "caught" by the second student, who reported to the rest of the robotics leadership. The incident quickly escalated to the school administration, and some prior computer history of the second student was uncovered, which had nothing whatsoever to do with robotics. Although both suffered identical punisments from the school, including being kicked from the team, members of the team were in support of the second student, as he didn't do anything wrong regarding robotics, and indeed pointed out the wrongdoings of the first student to robotics. More recently, the second student was there when the team was practicing in a different location on campus, and was reported by a teacher, which reduced credibility even further.

Also, the general trend among replies seems to be that we should continue trying to negociate with the school in one way or another. If this does not work out, however, how feasable would it be for us to run independent of the school, from some other location?

Nibbles
02-27-2008, 02:04 AM
It seems like our district administration hates us. The school level staff likes us, but it is the governing board that seems to write all rules that make it impossible to do something as simple as purchase tools or build a website (please don't ask). That is why I am inviting them all to the regional this year. The advice so far is the best, put on a good presentation, get other area teams to testify with a good letter, get mentors involved. In the short term I would highly recommend adult leadership of the team.

If that doesn't end up working out, quite a few teams work away from school at another location. It WILL take lots of work, but with enough searching and asking, there is a sponsor out there (different schools/districts included) that will give you space to work and store materials. You will want to find somewhere for dedicated, long-term storage of materials somewhere.

EricH
02-27-2008, 02:21 AM
That is why I am inviting them all to the regional this year. (emphasis mine)

Why, oh why, has nobody suggested this before in this thread? You now have a very short time to do this. This might actually work!

Al Skierkiewicz
02-27-2008, 08:07 AM
F,
You need to show them how important this program is and what it means for students. If you are attending a regional in your area, invite them and the school board to attend. Get them team Tshirts and get them into the stands to watch and cheer. Let them walk around like a team member and see the effect it would have on other students. A few bad apples in a single year do not represent the entire program.
If any administrator would like to discuss this, have them PM me and we can exchange email addresses or phone numbers. If you are close or attending either the Midwest, Boilermaker or the Minnesota regional, have them come and meet me in the pits and I will try and show them the effects and relate to them how much this program means. Yes every team will have someone who gets out of line, even us. I can tell you that one of those people reversed his ways, accepted the imposed 1 year removal from the team but came back with a vow to be the best he could be. He proved it and became driver that last year as well as a model mechanical pit crew member.
I believe FIRST puts more students on the road to college and further success than any other program currently in schools. You can't fight that kind of success.

ebarker
02-27-2008, 08:33 AM
Also, the general trend among replies seems to be that we should continue trying to negociate with the school in one way or another. If this does not work out, however, how feasable would it be for us to run independent of the school, from some other location?

Right now 99% of the focus should be working to fix the problem. The administration and the teams should not be inclined to "give up so easily" at this point. Giving up, by either the team or admin, is the easy way out of the problem. Problems are not solved by ignoring them but facing the squarely and head on.

It may be useful to have a 'distinguished outside panel' to help review and repair the problem. Possibly a small collection of respected adults that are active in the business community and education might work. You see this in many things. For example when the Challenger space shuttle was lost there was a commission to review it.

The ability of your team to navigate through this crisis potentially will have a big future impact. Please look at this as an opportunity for your team to demonstrate to the school and and business community to face and overcome a tough issue.

If done well the team could earn a new level of support in the community that surpasses the previous history.

Food for thought.

PS. when presenting, take the 'long view'.

It is about a lot more than our team today, but about the future path of education and its economic impact in that area.

Does the public shut down a whole school because of one misguided student ? Of course not !!

Do you deny educational and inspirational opportunity to a generally well motivated group of students because of the misdeeds of one student. Ridiculous !!

Okay, so go make a speech worthy of "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" !!

good luck

JaneYoung
02-27-2008, 08:40 AM
Your team could draft a student/parent participation agreement form which would include the appropriate conduct expectations.
If you PM me, I'll send you a copy of ours. (I know I owe someone else a copy but my brain has become a haze.)

The agreement form will show that your team is serious and will work to comply with the strict standards set regarding cheating and misconduct.

Work to prepare your elevator speech as well, so that each of you are prepared to advance the importance of the team to the members, the school, and the community.

Edit:
This is also a lesson for each of us to pay attention to. One person can make a difference, whether it be positive or negative. One person is capable of jeopardizing a team's integrity and impact. One person can also work to restore it.

GaryVoshol
02-27-2008, 09:02 AM
To slightly elaborate on the wrongdoings of some of the leaders, it mostly involved two students and mal-use of computers at school. The first of the students attempted to steal private data from a robotics computer, and was "caught" by the second student, who reported to the rest of the robotics leadership. The incident quickly escalated to the school administration, and some prior computer history of the second student was uncovered, which had nothing whatsoever to do with robotics. Although both suffered identical punisments from the school, including being kicked from the team, members of the team were in support of the second student, as he didn't do anything wrong regarding robotics, and indeed pointed out the wrongdoings of the first student to robotics.Doesn't matter. The second student violated school rules, and was punished as a result.

More recently, the second student was there when the team was practicing in a different location on campus, and was reported by a teacher, which reduced credibility even further.And now you're getting the team in deeper and deeper. The team has defined itself as a rogue organization in the minds of the administrators - they don't accept the rulings on punishment for member's misdeeds. The second student was expelled from participating - why did the team let him be there?

Also, the general trend among replies seems to be that we should continue trying to negociate with the school in one way or another. If this does not work out, however, how feasable would it be for us to run independent of the school, from some other location?You do need to continue to try to work with the school. Whether that means continuing as a school-sponsored activity or not, you still have to have a working relationship. You've gotten that rogue reputation, and that will be hard to overcome. If you split off on your own, you can expect very little cooperation between the team and the school. Would you have a place to meet? Would your sponsor(s) continue to support the team? - some give support to teams because they are supporting a school group. Would any teachers that you have as team mentors continue on? These kinds of questions all have to be answered before you make a decision to go independent.

wilsonmw04
02-27-2008, 09:31 AM
question to the OP:
Do you have a mentor from the school (teacher) with you at all times?

Team2339
02-27-2008, 10:22 AM
I agree with JaneYoung above. An ethics/behavior document will state your effort to fix the problem and create the image you are handling the issue internally. It also allows the administration to save face and give input to the rules, lending credibility to them. Never pass up a chance to let admin take credit for your ideas if it will keep the team in good standing.

I also agree with the above post about the second student. Even bad guys do good things, but they still need discipline applied appropriate to the infraction.

I would suggest doing whatever you can to stay with the school. Team 2339 had a serious uphill battle to gain Antelope Valley High School support, but after a few articles in the paper and an invite to the principal to see what we were doing to one of her classrooms, we are on the same page. We still watch our own members and are pretty strict about what everyone does and how they act around school. We also do not assume we are fine now, we still are looking for ways to improve.

JohnBoucher
02-27-2008, 11:10 AM
You need to be positive with any dealings with the administration.

Make up a presentation and present to the school, the board, Rotary Club, Elks and anyone else that will listen. Keep the presentation positive. Mention the 9 million in scholarships a few times.

Is there a parade that you can march the robot in? That pays off big time in good will.

Go the the administration with an action plan. Listen to what they have to say. There may be other reasons they are taking this opportunity to remove support. Be positive.

Does your financial support come from the school? This may be a simple budget issue. We formed a parents group, got non-profit status and fund the entire program that way.

Keep us in the loop.

Gboehm
02-27-2008, 01:11 PM
The problem is Administrators look for easy solutions. To them they may see it as a way of saving money, and they are just using the disciniplary action as a front for that. I feel my team would have been in a similar boat had we not been able to beat our rival schools in it. Unfortunetly, thats what it takes. You have to let them see the positives of the team, have an administartor come down and watch you guys build. Mention scholarships, and if you have any people persuing engineering.

The biggest thing I see which is sad, the only reason robotics is surviving while autoshop, woodshop, and metalshop classes are being shut down, is that robotics is seen as "white collar" enough. That is a tragedy! My family owns an auto repair, yet many high schools have no auto programs...

I know I rant too much...

Good Luck guys...

SL8
02-27-2008, 09:24 PM
Our team is running into major administration obstacles lately like roses smell sweet. Working under these conditions is much more dificult than I could possibly have ever expected. When I speak to the admin. and share my opinions, I remind myself to stay calm and if I feel myself becoming irate I tell myself that the admin. is just part of our " design constraints" and to look at the issue in the view of an engineer.
Good Luck whatever you all decide.

doubleslash
02-28-2008, 08:25 PM
F-ball,

From your second post, it seems to me that maybe your team lost credibility because they tried to defend the actions of the "second student" you mention. For all I know, they could be right. If the second student really had not done anything wrong related to the robotics club, then I think it's unfair that the administration would kick him/her off the team. However, the "wrongdoings" are strictly private business between the two students and the administration. I'm guessing that you got your information through word of mouth with the two students, and not through the administration (feel free to correct me). If this is the case, then you never know if the school had a legitimate, robotics-related reason to kick the two students off the team. And, even if this is not the case, schools can usually punish students arbitrarily, including kicking them off extracurriculars (this is certainly true at my school).

My point is that either way, I don't think your team should shrink away from challenges or responsibility. I have to repeat GaryVoshol's question: why did the team let the second student participate, even after he was kicked out of the club? If you want to rebuild trust with the administration, there is one thing your team has to accept: whether or not you agree with the school's decision, they trusted the team to enforce it. When the team doesn't enforce it, they lose the school's trust (GaryVoshol also said this).

It is up to "the rest of the robotics leadership" and other concerned members of your team to restore trust with the school by speaking with the administrators involved. I don't think, as many have offered on this thread, that a presentation on the merits of FIRST is necessary. The issue is most likely a trust issue arising out of the fact that the team didn't enforce school rules by letting the second student participate even after he/she was kicked out. The first thing to do, as I mentioned above, is to take responsibility for the incident, without excuses, without justification. However, if you feel you are strongly justified, you should offer up whatever explanations you have as analysis--why, realistically and historically speaking, the situation unfolded the way it did--not as excuses.

The second step would be to let the administration know that they are being too hasty and overblowing the situation (this is my personal opinion, at least, if what happened is exactly as you described). I agree with fredliu168 and Al Skierkiewicz that a few bad apples don't represent the entire team. You need to explain to the administration that this was an isolated incident, involving just a couple members. As JohnBoucher mentioned, present to them a plan for the future. You should make it clear that you and the rest of your team are interested in working with them, not against them. In this respect, I disagree with SL8 that the administration could be considered a "design constraint." Rather, they should be one of your resources.

Thirdly, although I stated above that I believe your team has a trust issue with the school, as opposed to the school simply not understanding the value of FIRST, you should, as Nibbles and EricH suggested, invite them to come to your competition. If they have not attended before, they will understand what they are risking. It becomes easy, as Gboehm said, for the administration to look for the easy solutions. At this point, the administration may be frustrated or annoyed with what has happened with your team. Working day by day at school, they never see the results of your work. If they attend a competition, they will see rows upon rows of students, parents, mentors, and spectators in their differently colored team t-shirts. They will see dozens of unique robots, each proudly bearing team numbers and school names. And, if they look into the pit area, they will see a sea of young people, brightly spirited, and each working hard towards a common goal. The question will come naturally to them: "where's our team?" They will understand, there, that what you give is what you get.

Best of luck to you and your team this year and in future years; please keep us informed.

SL8
02-29-2008, 08:19 PM
F-ball,

In this respect, I disagree with SL8 that the administration could be considered a "design constraint." Rather, they should be one of your resources.


I think that you may have taken what I said the wrong way. In considering the admin. a design constraint, I in no way meant that they should be considered a burden or enemy. I do endorse cooperating with them and they have my utmost respect. But when there is an issue that needs to be resolved, I consider it a constraint that I attempt to make into "resource" as with any other constraint.
Nothing personal. Also I'm sorry that this post does't contribute to the hread, but I felt compelled to rectify this misunderstanding quickly.

-Jesus