At Watertown City Council meetings, it’s not uncommon for the city administrator to step in and offer friendly “notes of parliamentary procedure” when the council inadvertently gets carried away with discussions and debate.
But there’s one group of students in Watertown who probably wouldn’t need too many reminders. The Watertown-Mayer High School “Parli” team, a part of the school’s Business Professionals of America organization, recently qualified for the national competition in Orlando for the second year in a row by winning a state title earlier this month.
And this year, the team will actually be able to attend the national event. Despite qualifying, the team didn’t make the trip to the national competition last year because it fell on the same week as the school’s prom.
“None of us have been to nationals before,” said Allison Lague, one of the members of the eight-member parliamentary procedure team. “It will be a good experience for all of us. I’m hoping we do well and make it to finals if we can.”
Watertown-Mayer’s team was one of 100 from around the nation — two from each state — that qualified to compete at the competition at the annual BPA convention May 8-12 in Orlando. Watertown-Mayer actually had two separate teams that qualified to compete in the previous 12-team state competition. Lague said her team wasn’t necessarily surprised, but definitely excited to qualify for nationals.
“We thought we did pretty well,” she said of the state competition. “We were expecting to get first or second, but we were still really excited when we got first.”
Parliamentary procedure competitions challenge students’ knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order, a method of dictating procedures for official meetings for government entities, businesses or other organizations. The teams, after performing a brief mock meeting in front of judges, receive scores based on their general presentation, the minutes that are kept, how well they follow the proper order of business, and other items associated with parliamentary procedure. The students also all take a written test, which at nationals are averaged together and added to the team’s presentation score.
“For a team that really knows their stuff, that way even if they miss one thing in their actual presentation, if they had really good written scores, it can bring them up and let them place pretty high,” said Watertown-Mayer BPA advisor Brittany Wilkens, a computer teacher at the middle school.
Wilkens said Watertown-Mayer has been known to have strong Parli teams for a number of years. Local resident Russ Runck helps the team prepare during weekly 7 a.m. meetings on Thursday, and Wilkens said the dedication of the team, and their ability to turn what many people might consider boring into something fun, is a big reason for its continued success.
“They’re focused and they have a lot of fun with it,” she said. “Russ Runck has been helping them, and he does a really good job getting them motivated and showing them they can have fun with it. They’re not just having boring meetings. They’re throwing in just the weirdest things, but the fact they can still pick it up and run with it, and still follow the meeting order and not be thrown off by the funny jokes and comments, just shows they’re able to use the parliamentary procedure really well.”
Wilkens said not many Watertown-Mayer students have attended or competed in BPA nationals in recent years because it typically coincides with prom, but said that is hasn’t been unusual for large groups of Watertown-Mayer students to qualify. In addition to parliamentary procedure, there are 61 other competitions in which BPA members may also compete, many of which are written or computerized tests in accounting or other business related fields. Watertown-Mayer has students compete in many of the different contests.
“Especially at Regions, we have students at so many different events that it’s almost hard to keep track of,” Wilkens said.
In addition to competitions, BPA members are also active with several community and school service projects throughout the year, including the Stuff A Truck food drive. However, gaining practical business knowledge and experience is really what the organization is all about.
“It gives them real-world experience,” Wilkens said. “It’s an activity where they’re getting some business experience out of it, and if there is somebody who is interested in a business career, that’s one more thing they can add to their resume and job applications.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]