November 2006 Board Meeting Summary
Following is an unofficial summary of the regularly scheduled meeting of the NCRA Board of Directors held November 15- 16, 2006, in Tysons Corner, Va. This summary highlights only some of the matters that were discussed at the meeting. Numerous additional ongoing projects and activities were reviewed via written reports, but no Board action was required or taken.
Official minutes of the meeting, with the text of all motions and action items, will be posted to the NCRA Web site when they are approved.
The activities of the Association and the agenda for Board meetings are organized by their alignment with the key elements of the Association’s strategic plan. This summary is organized in the same manner.
Confidentiality agreements for committee members. NCRA has historically recognized the importance of ensuring that ethical standards and legal compliance statutes exist at the Board and volunteer leader levels. Board members and committee chairs already are required to sign antitrust and conflict of interest policies when they accept their appointments. Appointees to the Council on Approved Student Education and volunteers who evaluate online programs as Certified Program Evaluators have been the only other committee members required to sign the confidentiality agreement that go beyond these more general requirements. Given the potential for sensitive information to be discussed by other committees, the Board approved a motion requiring all NCRA Board and committee members to sign an agreement to respect and protect the confidentiality of sensitive information gained in their conduct of official association business.
Direct member voting. At the 2005 member business meeting in Phoenix, an amendment to the constitution and bylaws was presented to expand the member voting process so that members unable to attend the meeting could vote by alternative means. The members discussed the matter at length, then sent the issue to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee for further review. The C&B Committee presented its report at the 2006 member business meeting in New York.
Following the 2006 convention, the C&B Committee sent a short e-mail survey to all voting NCRA members with e-mail addresses asking if they would be in favor of a C&B amendment that allowed for voting members to vote on bylaws amendments and contested elections via a secure Web site. 87.3 percent of respondents voted yes.
The Board discussed practical and financial aspects of this issue, with the following conclusions:
- Voters must be provided an opportunity to audit all Business Meeting discussions of issues to be voted on (via Web cast, conference call, video conference, or other means);
- It is neither feasible nor desirable to monitor or verify such participation;
- The proposed direct-voting process should not be too expensive; • The process should be simple and secure;
- The process should be open for sufficient time to allow busy members in all time zones an opportunity to vote while allowing results to be announced expeditiously. Twelve hours was viewed as fair and practical.
The C&B Committee will work on a proposal for Board review at its next meeting.
ER Task Force. Representatives of two outside consulting firms reported on the status of research and marketing projects approved by the Board in February as part of the Electronic Recording (ER) Task Force’s business plan for helping official reporter members deal with threats to their employment from electronic recording systems. Research will continue during the first quarter of 2007. The ER project was the subject of sever- al sessions during the State Leadership Conference that took place the weekend following the Board meeting.
Reporter Compensation Task Force. The Board in July asked the Reporter Compensation Task Force to further review research conducted by an outside consultant. The consultant’s report indicated no radically new ideas for compensating reporters and found virtually no support from the reporter community for instigating changes to the traditional method. On one hand, the result reinforced the benefits of the traditional approach to reporter compensation; on the other hand, the task force was disappointed that creative ideas were not developed for coping with changes brought about by increased use of electronic recording and the advent of electronic transcript filing. Following discussion, the Board directed that a summary document of the project be created to respond to inquiries.
NCSA resolution regarding nondiscrimination in employment advertising. NCRA’s National Committee of State Associations approved a resolution in July asking that NCRA expand its advertising policy to state that NCRA will not accept employment advertising that indicates a preference in terms of race, color, sex, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Noting that the expanded policy is consistent with NCRA’s existing policies and with how NCRA conducts business, the Board approved the policy language.
Comprehensive assessment of communications and public relations programs. The Resources, Opportunities, and Services Evaluation (ROSE) project identified a need for a comprehensive review of the Association’s internal and external communications programs. The Board heard a status report on these efforts.
Strategic alliances with impact for the freelance community. The Board reviewed a report from the Judicial Advocacy Task Force on its work plan for strengthening NCRA’s advocacy efforts with judicial and law-related organizations. The task force plan has nine goals with strategies and activities for achieving each goal. However, competing programs limited the funding available for this effort in the current fiscal year. The task force will refine its plan and report to the Board in February.
Backup audio media. At its July meeting, the Board approved changes to Public Advisory Opinion 38 regarding the ethics issues involved in handling requests from attorneys for reporters’ backup media. The Board also directed the President to appoint a task force to further explore the practical considerations posed by the existence of backup media and whether NCRA should offer guidelines regarding its use. The task force so far has identified nine activities to pursue in fulfillment of its charge. Following discussion, the Board additionally directed the task force to develop guidelines for consideration by reporters who choose to offer audiosync as a service.
State of the Nation Activities Report. The Government Relations staff is working with the Web team to create an online repository of information about various aspects of reporting in each of the states. The project will give individual members, state leaders, and NCRA leaders and staff a one-stop source for information about reporting in each state. Levels of password protection will enable visitors with differing needs to access appropriate information, thus maintaining confidentiality of sensitive material. The Board viewed a demonstration of progress to date.
Living History project. Since 1994, Past President Jere With has conducted videotaped interviews with distinguished members from the Association’s past. A task force was appointed in July to oversee preservation of the 48 interviews conducted to date and propose ideas for the future of the program. Director Will Callaway volunteered the services of his video company to digitize the 40 interviews that exist on VHS videotape. Director Rick Greenspan assembled a short montage of clips from several of the interviews to show to the Board. The Board directed the task force to proceed with obtaining transcripts of all recorded interviews to aid with future editing and to continue interviewing luminaries from the Association’s past at future conventions.
Member value proposition. NCRA offers an extensive menu of products and services that members rate highly in surveys. Nonetheless, the Association continues to experience a slow but steady decline in membership numbers and revenue, chiefly in the Student and Participating Member categories. The Board earlier this year directed that NCRA launch a high-level effort to develop a research and action plan for redefining the Association’s membership offer and value proposition. Four potential approaches for accomplishing that goal were presented for Board review. Following discussion, the Board directed staff to do further research into the alternatives, including the possibility of combining two of the research approaches, and present findings to the Board for a decision before the new year.
State membership material. The National Committee of State Associations in July approved a resolution requesting that NCRA create promotional materials to be made available to state leaders for distribution to NCRA members and nonmembers, emphasizing the importance of belonging to national and state reporter associations. The Board approved a motion adopting the recommendation.
Recognition of the RPR by states. NCSA approved a resolution in July requesting that NCRA advocate recognition of the RPR as a state certification requirement when states are seeking to adopt certification standards. The Board noted that the resolution reflects a longstanding NCRA policy and passed a motion adopting its language.
Emerging leaders program. At its July meeting, the Board directed that a task force be appointed to evaluate the feasibility and desirability of implementing an expanded program for the development of emerging leaders within the Association. The task force met and concluded that finances currently do not allow a high-level program of leadership development. The task force recommended several activities with low resource impact to help in the process, which the Board approved.
Fundraising culture. In recent years, the National Court Reporters Foundation, on advice from an outside expert, has redirected its limited staff, volunteer, and financial resources toward major gifts acquisitions, such as the Major Gifts Campaign and Angels Drive, and away from fundraising events, such as the Silent Auction. The shift has created confusion and misunderstandings regarding expectations between volunteers and prospective donors, among others. Adding to the situation are additional fundraising efforts, such as those on behalf of NCRA’s Political Action Committee. NCRF retained an independent consultant, Dr. James Gelatt of Prentice Associates, to review NCRF’s fundraising efforts as well as the association and professional cultures within which the fundraising efforts take place. The Board of Directors and NCRF’s Board of Trustees met jointly with Dr. Gelatt to discuss his findings.
Business case for NCRA Press. The gradual decline in membership, an aging lineup of books and audio materials, and the emergence of extremely competitive alternative sources of many of the publications sold through the NCRA Bookstore (e.g.; Amazon) have combined to reduce sales of products from the store. The Board reviewed and approved a business plan for revitalizing NCRA’s offerings of books and CDs, with a focus on better meeting the professional and educational needs of members.
Future financial scenarios. The Board reviewed several charts with historical information and future projections pertaining to membership, revenue, and expenditures. The data provides added background for ongoing discussions about the member value proposition and the vetting process for future programs and services developed through the Resources, Opportunities, and Services Evaluation (ROSE) project.
Communities of Interest and specialty directories. The ROSE process determined that NCRA’s Communities of Interest should be evaluated regularly for their strategic and perceived value in order to gauge the appropriate level of resources to be assigned to each. A related issue is determining how to integrate the various specialty directories that NCRA produces. Further consideration of this subject will be given at the February Board meeting.
Certification reinstatement procedure. NCRA’s Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters receives more than 100 requests per year for reinstatement of professional certifications. CAPR has in place a process for handling such requests. The Board expressed concern that certain scenarios could lead to the extension of certifications for several years without requiring any attempts by the Member to participate in continuing education. The Board recognizes the need for a flexible policy that accommodates genuine hardships while at the same time protects the integrity of the certification and continuing education process. The Board approved new internal appeal guidelines for reinstatement of NCRA certifications and directed CAPR to create language for review at the next Board meeting requiring evidence of good-faith attempts to maintain certification before reinstatement is granted.
Waiver of CEU requirements for long-term Registered Members. The Board reviewed a request from a member asking to be relieved of the CEU requirement upon reaching 35 years as a court reporter. The Board, noting that doctors and lawyers, among other professionals, are not permitted to stop learning simply because they have reached a certain age or length of service, declined to establish a standard by which reporters can stop earning CEUs yet retain their certifications.
Standard Setting Task Force recommendations. At the November 2005 Board meeting, Paul King of Professional Examination Service, the outside testing authority that helps NCRA create and administer our certification programs, provided a detailed discussion of how passing standards are created for the written knowledge portions of NCRA’s exams. He noted that tests can be measured by three characteristics: Do they in fact test what they purport to test? Are they reliably consistent from test to test? Do they accurately distinguish between those who deserve to pass and those who don’t? All of these issues can be (and in NCRA’s case are) analyzed by any of several statistical methods to make sure the program is functioning as it should. The Board at that time directed that a task force work with PES to evaluate NCRA’s current test construction and analysis methods compared with other potential methods. The Board reviewed the task force’s recommendations and approved a series of motions to implement them.
Online testing. The Board in July approved a motion directing staff to proceed with developing a business plan for online testing, utilizing PES for certification standard-setting and Pearson VUE for test administration, for consideration by the Board at its November meeting. Following review and discussion of the plan, the Board approved implementation of the WKT online test beginning in October 2007 and directed development of a business plan to determine the feasibility of administering online skills tests by May 2008.
Future convention sites. Contrary to predictions post-9/11, the meeting and convention industry is booming, and hotel capacity has not kept up with demand. As a consequence, costs for sleeping rooms and other expenses associated with holding a convention have begun to escalate. To gain flexibility in its negotiations with potential hotels for future conventions, the NCRA Meetings Department asked the Board to approve sites for NCRA conventions through 2011. Following discussion, the Board moved that the NCRA convention will be in Washington, D.C., in 2009; Chicago in 2010; and Las Vegas in 2011.
Skills testing. The National Committee of State Associations approved a resolution in July expressing concern about the disparity between certification skills tests and real-world conditions, and asked that NCRA explore new methods for testing skills for NCRA certification. The Board moved to accept the resolution and directed the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters to investigate the matter.
Distinctions between certification and credentialing. As part of the ROSE project, a concern evolved that individuals or the general public may perceive some NCRA certifications as conveying a meaning or guaranteeing proficiencies that the programs themselves do not. A review was conducted of each NCRA certification program to determine the extent to which it aligns with the following definition: Certification is a designation earned by a person who demonstrates that she is qualified to perform a job; certification indicates that the individual has a specific set of knowledge, skills, or abilities in the view of a certifying body. Based on the review, the Board directed staff to develop feasibility plans and value analyses for modifying three of NCRA’s 11 certification programs.
World shorthand records attempts. Following discussion, the Board declined to approve funding to conduct an attempt at setting a new world record for shorthand writing in fiscal 2007. The Board did direct the Contests Committee to identify and recommend additional categories of speed and realtime competitors and submit a report for the next Board meeting.