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Chapter Operations Overview

If Gunma JALT’s 2014 year could be summed up in one word, it would be “communicative”. This year, Gunma JALT's conviviality and camaraderie was apparent in several aspects of our group. Well-attended meetings and well-prepared speakers gave rise to many interesting discussions. Officers and other volunteers exchanged emails, phone calls and opinions to suss out how best to serve our members. And after a three-year hiatus, our journal Speakeasy made a phoenix-like return and was distributed to our entire membership both physically and, for the first time, digitally. Thank you, members and friends of Gunma JALT, for making this chapter what it is.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

President: John Larson

The President coordinated and communicated with other officers to make sure Gunma JALT was running smoothly. He represented Gunma JALT at the national meeting in June, while Treasurer Barry Keith and Program Chair Michele Steele attended the other two in his stead. He organized our local AGM and put together our Chapter Report. 
This year the job of President has been easy due to the positive contributions made by all Gunma JALT officers.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Membership: Sylvain Bergeron

The Membership Chair took attendance at our Chapter's reception desk during monthly meetings. His responsibilities also included processing new and renewing members to Gunma JALT.  He was also involved with verifying the monthly membership list, forwarding renewal notices to members whose memberships had become overdue, and following-up with fellow chapter officers. 

Compared with last year, this year’s Gunma JALT membership has experienced a slight increase. At the beginning of 2013, we had approximately 48 registered members, as of October 2014, we have 53. Attendance at monthly meetings has been quite good, with most meetings attracting between 15 and 20 participants.

Special thanks go to President John Larson, Treasurer Barry Keith and Publicity Chair Raymond Hoogenboom for stepping-in and overseeing the membership reception desk when the Membership Chair was not available.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Program: Michele Steele, Joël Laurier (regular meetings) and Morijiro Shibayama (Kusatsu)

The job of Program Chair is a busy one, but is also very rewarding. The Program Chairs not only recruit speakers for monthly meetings, they also serve as the hub which connects Facilities, Treasury, Social and each monthly presenter. As one would expect, directing communications between all of these different people can be challenging, but it’s also a great opportunity to have in-depth conversations with the presenters, and to make and maintain friendships and professional ties.

This was a good year for Gunma JALT programs. Both regular meeting Program Chairs procured quality speakers with a wide range of topics such as book publication, ALT roles in area schools, classsroom and vocabulary learning. Several of our presenters this year came from outside Gunma, and this has brought about a good amounf of traffic on our Facebook page. This higher awareness of Gunma JALT will hopefully bring more presenters to want to come here. Summaries of all of our programs this year, and previous years, can be found on our website at

Proposed: Gunma JALT should seek more local speakers, and speakers next year. 
Rationale: These presenters usually bring a higher turnout.

At the AGM, it was also proposed that Gunma JALT should seek presenters whose topics might be useful for teachers of primary and secondary students. 
Rationale: with the adoption of English as a subject in elementary schools, elementary and secondary educators are increasing and also seem underserved in the area of teacher development.
Results: Both ideas were received well and there were no objections.

There was also quite a bit of discussion about our workshop in Kusatsu. Our perennial workshop coordinator informed us that this year would be the last which he could volunteer. It would be extremely difficult for one person to do everything that he was previously responsible for, so after much discussion it was agreed that the next Kusatsu workshop would be headed by a panel of officers including but not limited to the president and program chairs. The panel will also liaise with the head of JACET's seminar.

Publicity: Raymond Hoogenboom and Makiko Shimizu

The Publicity Chair continued maintenance and expansion of Gunma JALT's email contact list, although not aggressively. If people came to meetings, he recorded their e-mail addresses and made sure they received meeting notices. We currently have 52 members and 116 non-members who receive our notices.

Meeting notices were sent out three times per meeting: The first notice was detailed (containing all necessary information such as title of event, abstract of presentation, bio of guest presenter, time, place, etc.) and usually went out soon after the preceding meeting. The second notice was identical to the first and went out a few days prior to the event. The third notice was a short reminder on the morning of the event. All meeting notices went to both members and non-members. Unless notices went into some spam boxes of our members, it is safe to say our membership community was well informed.

The usual structure of meeting notices is as follows:
  • sometimes a short friendly introductory message preceding the title of event
  • title of event
  • time, date, location, & name(s) of presenter(s)
  • abstract of presentation/workshop
  • biographical information on presenter(s)
  • address & guide to location
  • meeting fees
  • JALT Gunma logo
  • list of officers & e-mail
  • English & Japanese explanations of JALT

The Publicity Chair also sometimes forward shortened versions of announcements from JALT National to the wider Gunma JALT community.

Proposed: Explore moving Gunma JALT’s announcement service from Gmail to MailChimp.
Rationale: As an alternative to the limited options offered by Gmail, the Publicity Chair is currently exploring how to use an email marketing service called MailChimp. MailChimp offers many more design options and may be less prone to landing in members' spam folders. This is a work in progress which he hopes to achieve before the end of the year. There was a concern raised over whether MailChimp is a trustworthy receptacle for our member's private information. The Publicity Chair assured the attendees he would confirm MailChimp's privacy policies before continuing.

Proposed: Design and distribute bilingual fliers and posters.
Rationale: The Publicity Chair is also designing some general bilingual fliers and posters for JALT Gunma. Although Gunma JALT had good turnouts at meetings this year, it would be nice to attract more primary and secondary school teachers. Bilingual fliers may be an effective way to accomplish this.

At the AGM both of these ideas were met with approval, and there were no objections. The Publicity Chair made it known that both of these ideas are likely to be works-in-progress for some time. 

Treasurer: Barry Keith

The Treasurer kept track of the money coming in and going out of Gunma JALT. For each event, he used chapter funds to pay for the speaker’s honorarium, transportation, lunch and group refreshments. Also, the Treasurer collected dues from the Membership Chair for national, local and one-day memberships. In addition, he made monthly financial reports to JALT National by inputting the income and expenses in an Excel spreadsheet. Finally, the Treasurer complied all the year’s financial records for the annual financial examination in April. Gunma JALT is in good shape financially. We have approximately as much money as we have had in previous years. We could survive for at least a year on our supplemental funds even if we were not to receive our annual grant from JALT National.

One major change in 2014 has been the elimination of the annual examination. Instead, treasurers are now asked to provide a monthly accounting of revenue and expenses. This means there will be no annual examination and this greatly alleviates the treasurer's burden compared to years past.

Proposed: Stop reimbursing speakers separately for transportation. 
Rationale: Currently, we pay an honorarium and ask for the speaker to provide receipts for transportation. The speaker is reimbursed the exact amount. To simplify the process, Gunma JALT should pay each invited speaker a flat fee, from which the speaker can then cover their own expenses. This would greatly simplify the accounting process and alleviate the amount of paperwork.

Proposed: Eliminate the one-day membership fee. 
Rationale: The purpose is to encourage as many participants as possible, such as ALTs and public school teachers in our community. Repeat visitors will be encouraged to join our organization as either local or national members. If they feel they are getting a good value, they should have no objections to joining. The one-day member ship fee is not a significant source of revenue and may be hindering participation from people in our community. 

At the AGM the first proposal regarding speaker reimbursement was generally accepted without objection. The second proposal however, proved to be more contentious. Some were concerned that offering meetings for free to non-members would cause current members to question the value of their memberships. Another concern was that a system that offered free meetings might be abused. In the interest of time, the implementation of this proposal was put on hold pending future discussion among the officers via email.

Facilities: Hideto D. Harashima and Lori Ann Desrosiers

Facilities Chairs arranged and coordinated meetings in a variety of places such as Kyoai Gakuen and MIT on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Kusatsu Summer Workshop was held in a new venue this year: Kusatsu Skyland Hotel. Being unsure of the situation there, Facility Chair Hideto Harashima provided most of needed equipment. The hotel did indeed have a projector but not a screen. However, quick thinking and two sheets of paper did the job. The loud-speaker system was not satisfactory and the room was not air-conditioned, but it was equipped with some electric fans. Over all, Kusatsu Skyland Hotel was more comfortable than the venue Gunma JALT previously used, but the dining room was not very appropriate for a "party" atmosphere.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Social: Yoko Miyazaki and Renée Sawazaki

The Social Chairs prepared coffee, tea and snacks for break time at Gunma JALT monthly meetings.  They kept hot water pots at home so that they could take them when Gunma JALT had meetings at places other than Kyoai Gakuen College, where two pots are kept.  They tried to make sure at least one Social Chair attended and set up the snack table at each meeting, as these coffee breaks help enhance communication among attendees. The Social Chairs also organized the year-end party at an Italian restaurant in Maebashi. The cherry blossom-viewing picnic planned in April was unfortunately cancelled as the weather didn't cooperate.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Newsletter: Barry Keith (publication), Harry Meyer (submissions) and Terry Dassow (design)

The Submissions Editor accepted submissions to Speakeasy, proofread them, contacted the authors with requests for clarification and made suggestions for the revision of papers. He contributed to the letter from the editors, communicated with other members of the Speakeasy team regarding the layout (font type and size, spacing, which articles were to be published first, whether to include biographical information and chapter records), the character of Speakeasy (what kind of publication it would be), whether it would be color or black and white (based on available financing), and contributed to the proofreading of the final drafts.

The Publications Editor handled communications between the printer and the design editor. He also negotiated with the printer in order to preserve the professionalism of Speakeasy's new design without breaking the bank. Lastly, working in concert with President John Larson, he received the printed copies and made sure they were distributed to Gunma JALT members.

With help from the other members of the Speakeasy team, the Design Editor completely overhauled Speakeasy’s graphic design and brought it into the modern age. Using various modern publications as models, and after fielding many different trial designs, she molded the submissions received from the Submissions Editor into an elegant and professional journal, both online and in print. This hard work will pay dividends for years to come as the current design can serve as a template for Speakeasy 27 and beyond.
Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Recording: John Larson and Yoko Kamo (photography)

The Recording Secretary attended and summarized the contents of most of Gunma JALT meetings this year with Program Chair Joël Laurier taking up the slack. These summaries were sent to JALT National for publication in TLT and were also uploaded to our website.

Nothing was added to this section at the AGM.

Website: John Larson

The Website Editor maintained Gunma JALT's website and Facebook page. After each meeting was announced, he created a new webpage for that meeting with all the necessary information. The same information was used to make events in Facebook and in the JALT Event Calendar. After each meeting finished, he updated the webpage with the meeting summary. All told, there were about 20 updates to the webpage this year. Gunma JALT's Facebook group is moving along nicely, though it would be nice to have more participation.

Proposed: Consider moving Gunma JALT’s website to a paid provider.
Rationale: Gunma JALT's webpage is currently hosted for free using Google Sites. It is a simple but serviceable design and has served us well for over four years now. However, at the beginning of August, it was suddenly taken down by Google. Gunma JALT is in no way breaking any rules or guidelines of Google Sites, and it is impossible to say why the site was taken down. After many attempts to contact someone at Google to ask them about the situation, the website was reinstated. There was no explanation for the downtime, and there was no communication from Google whatsoever about the issue.
It is probable that not many members use Gunma JALT's website, but it still is a valuable resource as an archive of past events. The lack of recourse if Google were to decide to remove our website permanently is concerning. There are many free website services, but they all have the same problem - their administration is done automatically by computers, and sometimes computers make mistakes. The Website Editor proposes Gunma JALT consider using a paid website service for the safety and control it gives us over the website. Switching to a different provider will be a huge initial burden for the next Website Dditor, and yet it is probably worth the effort. It would be a tragedy to lose all of our archives irrevocably to a computer mistake that can't be undone. Such a service would cost less than ¥1000 a month for everything Gunma JALT needs. 

There were no objections to this plan at the AGM, but there was one reservation made prior to the AGM. The reservation was that the safety and control achieved by moving the website to a paid provider wouldn't be worth the monthly fee Gunma JALT would have to pay. So instead of fully moving forward with this plan, the website editor suggested creating a website using a free-trial period to check the feasibility and value of such a move before making the proposal again at a later date.


The election this year was very positive, with all volunteers accepted unanimously. Our officers next year were decided as follows:
President: John Larson
Membership: Barry Keith
Program: Michele Steele, Joël Laurier
Publicity: Raymond Hoogenboom, Kayvon Havaei-Ahary
Treasurer: Sylvain Bergeron
Facilities: Hideto Harashima, Lori Ann Desrosiers
Social: Yoko Miyazaki, Renee Sawazaki
Newsletter: Harry Meyer, Kayvon Havaei-Ahary
Recording: John Larson, Raymond Hoogenboom (Photography)
Website: John Larson