Minutes: 2018 Fall Coaches Meeting

Lewiston High School room V217, 156 East Avenue, Lewiston
September 7, 2018

Attendees: Brian Dodge (Deering), Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy), Larry Bartlett (Morse), Dan Haskell (Cheverus), Patrick Forgue (Maranacook), Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth), Gayle Giguere (Waterville), Nancy Hebert (Waterville), Michele Adams (York), Pat Spilecki (Lewiston), Kailey Smith (Lawrence), Jason Curry (Greely), Jacob Newcomb (Medomak), D’Arcy Robinson (Poland)

Summary of key decisions and action items

Key decisions/announcements:

  • The NSDA is proposing and seeking feedback on a bunch of changes to Public Forum Debate. New Business includes Moderator Pelletier’s summary and thoughts, plus discussion during the meeting. Submit additional feedback to Joe Pelletier.
  • With the retirement of  Paul Bibeau from coaching, Jason Curry has been voted in as Congressional Debate Moderator.
  • Brian Dodge elected or another term as president since Jason Curry stepped down as President-elect.
  • Kris Deveau is taking the year off from coaching and is stepping down as Maine District Chair for the NSDA.
  • Draft Extemp topics are available, but the rollout schedule is pending.
  • The Google calendar has been updated with the current tournament schedule. Some locations are still TBD.
  • The MFA encourages tournament hosts to pilot the questioning method (see Old Business) in Extemporaneous Speaking. Hosts should announce if questioning is happening via their invitation.

Action items:

  • Secretary L. Denk update State Championship Handbook to reflect changes from Spring meeting.
  • L. Denk create a standard form for judges to use for accreditation hours, which should be signed by respective tournament hosts.
  • L. Denk amend Congress ballots to include date and location.
  • Technology committee (L. Denk, S. Rouse, and Parent) reconvene to continue addressing annual technology needs (web site hosting, Tabroom.com setup for new season,etc.).
  • Technology committee (L. Denk, Parent) draft Judging Checklist (general and online ballot entry).
  • Speech moderators (Spilecki and K. Smith) evaluate and draft supporting language in Storytelling to guide coaches and judges on piece selection and the distinction of the event from others.
  • Maine District committee members (Haskell, Leland, L. Denk, Pelletier) work with Public Forum Moderator (Pelletier) to formulate a statement from MFA based on feedback collected at meeting regarding proposed changes to the Public Forum debate format.
  • Maine District committee members (Haskell, Leland, L. Denk, Pelletier) formulate a separate statement regarding proposed changes to the Public Forum debate format, especially in the scope of how these proposals affect our small district.

Breakfast and General Talking

Welcome and introductions

Vote on Parliamentarian for the meeting

Nomination: Jason Curry. Unanimous.

Officers’ Reports

Secretary Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth)

Spring minutes are available on the web site.

I still need to update the State Championship Handbook, Congress documentation.

Still need to create a form for accreditation hours.

Motion to accept (Leland, Spilecki). Unanimous.

Treasurer Ellen Parent (at large) by way of Dodge

In short, we are comfortable. We had a few higher expenses last year that will make this year cheaper, we bought a lot of 4th and 5th place ribbons. We also bought a printer from Sam, so we had a tech investment. Feel free to call me if there are questions or if we need more information.

I would bring up that many schools find the membership dues form to be a problem, the late fee is going unrecognized which leads to a hassle and delay in depositing money. I plan to work on creating new forms in the next few months.

Curry: Suggest that those who haven’t paid in full prior to the State tournament receive a reminder. Without paying they’re barred from competition.

  • Robinson: Per MPA we have to let people participate. I don’t think we can institute that rule.
  • Leland: If they don’t pay, they don’t have voting rights, then start instituting changes they care about.

Moved discussion of late fees to New Business.

Motion to accept report (Curry, Bartlett), unanimous.

Vice President D’Arcy Robinson (Poland)

Kris Deveau and Paul Bibeau both announced they’re leaving the organization. Please sign cards. We have a couple gifts for them in addition to the cards.

  • $50 has often been the standard for thank yous and departures. I propose more for these two, considering their contributions.
  • Kris has been coaching for about 15 years plus served as president, treasurer,  coach of the year more than once, coached at three schools, NSDA district chair, 2018 NSDA District Chair of the Year.
  • Paul took over as moderator of a category doing decently, but experiencing growing pains. Always with a smile he made sense of things and improved the event. Then we had the opposite problem in that we had to add chambers. He’s turned the event into a national powerhouse.
  • Motion: Purchase additional gift cards totalling $100 to each (Robinson, Curry). Unanimous.

Sept 20 meeting with MPA rep to update activity descriptions. Need help from Speech moderators and maybe PF. So excited I have a meeting this year. He’s coming to Poland.

Motion to accept (Adams, Curry). Unanimous.

President Brian Dodge (Deering)

Was contacted by many students from Yarmouth HS interested in a team.

We’re excited to see Waterville in attendance.

Would like to use office to personally thank Kris and Paul. Kris once drove to my house when I was sweating about being president. Paul offered to help me start a Congress team at Deering by coaching them himself.

Motion to accept (Adams, Curry). Unanimous.

Moderator’s reports

Speech: Pat Spilecki (Lewiston), Kailey Smith (Lawrence)

Pat updated the Speech judges briefing. Will send to Secretary for proofing and posting. It reflects removed, added, and adjusted events.

Review Extemporaneous Speaking topics. Gene Rouse, our moderator for the Extemp room.

DRAFT topics:

  • US Politics
  • Social Policies
  • Cyber Security and Regulation
  • Economic and Fiscal Policies
  • Effects of US Foreign Policy
  • Education
  • Brexit and EU
  • Russia
  • Middle East and Turkey
  • Africa
  • Effects of US foreign policy
  • Trade agreements
  • Denk: Usually Gene indicates how the topics roll out. Can you follow up?
  • Smith: Are we doing a student choice?
    • Spilecki: Probably. I’ll make sure we add that.
    • Denk: If we’re doing student choice again, I’d ask that we get ahead of the process to allow time to publicize the choices.

Congressional Debate: Jason Curry (Greely)

With Paul Bibeau retiring, Dodge opens the floor to nominations for a new moderator.

Robinson: Is there a point of order that, in order to vote for Curry, he has to resign as President-elect.

  • Curry: Not sure, but how about I tender my resignation? Accepted.

Nomination: Jason Curry (Adams, Spilecki). Accepted. Single ballot.

Curry reporting impromptu: We had a great year. I’d say we’re hitting a plateau/zone where we maintain a level of participation and quality of competition.

Motion to accept (Adams, Dodge). Unanimous.

Lincoln Douglas: Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy)

Kids constantly complain about the quality of judging (same problem we’ve always had). That’s the circumstance of volunteer and parent judges.

Some differences from national competition sometimes cause confusion. Flex prep is a current example (asking questions during prep time). Moderator’s opinion is that flex prep is stupid and the kids just shouldn’t agree to it.

Motion to accept (Curry, Adams). Unanimous.

Public Forum: Dodge for Joe Pelletier (Bangor)

The State of Public Forum is strong. Seems like coaches do a good job training PF judges, and we have enough available to offer training at tournaments for newer judges. Students seem to do well policing themselves on evidence issues.

Leland: NSDA is trialing a single topic for November and December (instead of changing to a new in December).

  • Denk: First, we have on occasion used our own resolution. Second, I don’t think my kids would be upset. I’m in favor.
  • Robinson: Does that mean only two resolutions for the year?
    • Denk: Up to four (Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec, Jan, and Feb)

Leland: NSDA is also proposing a bunch of changes, which we’ll discuss in New Business.

Motion to accept (Adams, Spilecki). Unanimous.

Vote for president-elect

Dodge: Preface by saying the fear instilled in me about being president was wildly exaggerated. I’ve enjoyed my time.

Nomination: Jacob Newcomb (Leland, Curry). Declined.

Nomination: Brian Dodge (Denk, Adams). Accepted. One ballot.

Technology committee report Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth)

Sam Rouse, Ellen Parent, and I met over the summer to address regular technology things:

Web site: Expect a new look soon. Sam is fighting with our domain host to put the new template in place. The design will not change the structure of our information.

Tabroom.com: We started building a clean tournament template, which makes setting up registration and hosting easier.

Online balloting

We’re still encouraging all coaches and judges to sign up for and use online balloting. This makes a tournament run so much faster. Ellen and I still have plans to draft some documentation to help people register and provide best practices for balloting.

Newcomb: If say 10% of people are still balloting on paper, a tournament will still run faster?

  • Denk: Absolutely.
  • Haskell: Yes.

Leland: There are some mixed feelings from students and coaches around online balloting. Some don’t provide detailed feedback. But at least you can read the comments they do leave.

Motion to accept (Curry, Adams). Unanimous.

2018-2019 Calendar finalization

Sept 7 Coaches meeting @ Lewiston High School

Oct 13 Novice Extravaganza @ Lincoln Academy (pro-am PF, full Congress with novice placing only, ODec, Prose, Poetry)

27 Bangor

Nov 10 Deering (debate and congress), Falmouth? (Speech)

17 Cheverus, Lawrence?, Erskine Academy? (Big Questions)

Dec 8 Poland

15 Maranacook

Jan 5 Medomak (debate and Congress) (Lincoln Academy support Speech at Medomak)

12 Maine NSDA Congress? @ State House or Greely

26 States @ Thornton Academy

Feb 2 CFL Qualifiers @ Poland (States snow date)

9 Maine District @ Brunswick

May 17 Coaches meeting

June 4 or 6 Maine Middle School Tournament @ Poland

Old Business

Adding questioning to Extemporaneous Speaking (Spilecki)

At national tournaments students ask the speaker questions after the event. We started to do that at States.

  • Denk: Can you clarify the structure? What kinds of questions?
  • Robinson: The questioner asks a single question; about a couple minute long, but unsure. The intent is to usually conflict in the presenter’s speech.
  • Robinson: This does conflict with Extemp double entering. It takes Extemp longer.
  • Denk: In the Spring we largely agreed that the benefits of questioning were strong, in hopes of expanding the event.

Recommendation: Encourage hosts to pilot questioning in Extemp. Hosts should announce if questioning is happening via their invitation.

Proposed Storytelling guidelines (Spilecki, K. Smith)

Denk: To summarize the ask, coaches and judges are looking for more guidance on Storytelling.

Smith: NSDA has a line about pieces could be directed to children. (General positive mumbling.)

Denk: I don’t think the props and costuming is in question, and in fact I think we like that as a distinction. The greatest concern has been around piece selection.

  • NSDA does not say a piece should be delivered in your own words. They require the piece to be published. But it’s unclear if it should be verbatim?
  • Forgue: Sometimes we’ve seen pieces that are fairly intense, gory, NC-17. So we wouldn’t necessarily want the audience to be children.
  • Leland: Maybe we want them to have an audience in mind and have them specify the audience in their intro. (Several affirmations.)
  • Robinson: Good storytellers play on their actual audience. They won’t likely have a fifth grader in the room, but an adult. It’s an art of communication.
  • Smith: This event is often very clear on who places where. So if a judge has a question, they should ask.
  • Smith: “Less presentational and more engaging.”

Dodge: So what’s the action item?

  • Denk: The original ask was for the moderators to bring some ideas to the meeting for us to discuss. We’ve started discussing, but might need more. Ultimately the result would be a sentence or two in the handbook to clarify.

New Business

Potential changes to Public Forum from NSDA (Pelletier by way of Leland)

Leland: Let me first explain before I share Joe’s opinion. Thank goodness we moved PF rules out of the by-laws, because this could be a huge mess. If the NSDA indeed enacts these changes, it will affect us. (1) We default to NSDA in a lot of places in our handbook, so we would have to vote to note default, if we disagree. Ex. The November/December extended topic. (2) Any NSDA coach can complain or support the NSDA as they like. We could give the NSDA feedback as the MFA, so we might consider that. (3) Regardless, the moderator will still have to adjust the event guide, which means voting in the fall.

Denk: Note: Whatever the NSDA adopts, even if we don’t, we still have to run the NSDA rules at qualifiers.

Moderator Pelletier’s thoughts

The NSDA has made several proposals for changes to Public Forum. I have not read any statement from the NSDA about timing, but my hope is that most of the changes that will be made nationally will not be implemented until Academic Year 2019-20. One change has already been put in place.

My overall thought on the changes is that they seem to be a solution, looking for a problem.  It sounds like a lot of the change is occurring because of a distaste for the Grand Crossfire, a three minute time late in the round where all four debaters can question and answer each other in what some would at best describe as “organized chaos”.  That said, I observe a lot of growth by Maine students over the course of the year to effectively use Grand Crossfire.  While early on in the year, it can be painful to judge at times, the Grand Cross can become a key component in rounds late in the season.

The one change already implemented is to combine September and October into one PF topic (been that way for a couple years I think) and now to also combine November and December into a single topic.  Unless a tournament director goes maverick and runs their own topic (Deering!), we’re pretty much forced to implement this change immediately.  An early November tournament host could elect to stay with the Sept/October topic—particularly if it is a good one—which would allow students two (or three as a Novice) tournaments on the first PF resolution.  If done, this would need to be made clear repeatedly, especially for new programs just starting out.  I would defer any decision on that to a host school holding a tournament November 3rd or 10th (Deering!)

The remaining proposed changes have NOT been implemented yet.  These proposals are:

  • Eliminate Grand Crossfire.
    • This is the biggest change; I think it is driving all the other ideas.
  • Increase Prep time from 2 minutes each side to 3 minutes each side.
    • This actually is a great idea. It is nearly impossible for two partners to work together within a round in only 120 seconds.
  • Add an additional minute to the Summary speech, the two speeches done next to last in the round, before each side launches a 2 minute Final Focus speech.
    • I rather like this idea as well. When PF was first introduced, the Summary Speech was two minutes and the Final Focus was only one minute—a true “final focus”. The move several years ago to a two minute Final Focus changed the dynamic of the round a lot. I think this change could restore the idea that the Summary looks at the round in totality, while the Final Focus is that one last speech to focus on the key arguments only.
  • Eliminate the coin flip before the round to determine side/order of speaking.
    • This would bring the NSDA into the same guidelines used by the NCFL at Nationals.
  • Flip the second speech by each side in the round so that “Negative” (are they eliminating the Pro/Con designations as well?) goes first, creating a Negative block of eight minutes to present their side of things, interrupted only by a 3 minute crossfire between the first two speakers.
    • This is similar in some ways to the negative block in Policy Debate.
  • Eliminate the paraphrasing of evidence, and develop guidelines for evidence exchange within the round (something that is seen on the National Circuit, particularly in LD and Policy debate. I’ve only seen limited exchange during a PF round at Nationals before.)

So my thoughts?  I think we’re stuck with the change made for topics, although again, an early November tournament could easily continue the earlier topic if it was a popular one.

I would recommend that we NOT adopt any of the above changes for this year.  If a daring host coach wanted to try out some of the changes—perhaps in late November or early December at ONE tournament, that would give us a chance to see what we think about potential changes coming.  If we did that, I’d suggest a coach consider:

  1. (Choice One:) eliminating Grand Crossfire and extending Prep time by one minute each, OR
  2. (Choice Two:) eliminate Grand Crossfire and extend the Summary Speech by one minute.

I don’t think either change should be made in January, as we prepare for States and National Qualifiers. It would seem likely that the status quo will be maintained nationally for this year.

As to the other changes: Reading between the lines of the document the NSDA sent out, I don’t think eliminating paraphrasing of evidence will go anywhere.  Exchanging evidence would rarely happen at the Novice level, and I think guidelines will help our Varsity PFers develop more and prepare for national competition.

The negative block is a big change to implement – I think it would confuse many of our lay judges (and a few coaches!) and I would recommend we not implement that until we see what the National Office is doing.
Ironically, the change that our kids would most easily adapt to, ending the coin flip and setting sides and speaking order – is the change that would most break with the 15+ year tradition of Public Forum and its unique aspect of doing the coin flip to begin the round.  The traditionalist in me hates the idea – but the coach in me knows that it would force our students to delve into both sides of an issue more thoroughly.

Bottom line: I would recommend NO CHANGES for this year through States, except to allow individual host schools to try one of the two experiments I’ve mentioned above as Choice 1 and Choice 2.

Feedback from attendees

November/December combination topics.

  • Leland: Might hurt more districts than others due to schedules. More topics is better than fewer. Kids could get bored with running the topic.
  • Adams: We don’t often have a lot going on those two months due to holidays. But you do run into the same opponents. The size of your district certainly affects your opinion.
  • Forgue: What we saw at nationals was, sure, repeat points and cases, but then you do see some creative cases and arguments, else be destroyed. I’m torn: I don’t want to see the same cases as a judge, but it might work either way.
  • Leland: Even this year we don’t have a lot of tournaments during those months.
  • Leland: This year we’re looking at three tournaments running the Nov/Dec topic.

Eliminate grand crossfire. It eliminates the time altogether. 

  • Leland: Grand crossfire is useful for lay judges to catch up on arguments and hear clarifications.
  • Leland: My students said they don’t want to eliminate. They like grand.
  • Bartlett: LD is a “me” debate—they get up and talk. PF is a partnered event. Grand is the first and only place the debater has to directly work with their partner during the round.
  • Forgue: The greater debaters win in grand crossfire.
    • Adams: They live for grand crossfire.

Increase prep time to 3 minutes from 2 minutes.

  • NSDA feedback: Encourages better exchange of evidence. Norms for evidence exchange should be developed.
  • Leland: I don’t think a minute added to the round is significant. LD is still slightly longer.
  • Pelletier: This is a great idea. It’s nearly impossible for the teams to work in a round.
  • Denk: Just a little annoyed that the NSDA seems to think extending prep is the solution to evidence exchange norms. They still need to define guidelines around evidence exchange. I don’t mind extending prep.
  • Dodge: I’m favorable.

Additional timing to one or more speeches. Summary: Add a minute to allow greater coverage; doesn’t extend round with the elimination of grand crossfire.

  • NSDA feedback: This might shift focus to the final focus, emphasizes crystalizing debate, which is good.
  • Pelletier: This could be a good way to distinguish more between summary and final focus.
  • Newcomb: There’s no way to add a minute to prep and summary?
    • Leland: The assumption is that that added time is an exchange for eliminating grand crossfire.
    • Newcomb: If grand is eliminated, I’d favor adding time.
    • Adams: I’m in favor of keeping grand, but adding time regardless (both prep and summary).

Eliminate the coin flip. NSDA said it guarantees competitors evenly debate sides and order; eliminates confusion for judges and tab for who’s speaking first.

  • Leland: Coin flip is unique to PF. Standardizing means speaking second is always the goal. Could implement in elims and prelims only.
  • Feedback from NSDA conference: Adopting aligns with NCFL (positive). This is such a tradition for Public Forum, but it would force our competitors to delve more deeply and evenly.
    • Bartlett: I disagree that it would force competitors to delve deeper. Competitors have to prepare to lose the coin flip.
  • Newcomb: As a judge, I’d favor not having to remember bringing a coin.
  • Forgue: It’s not unusual for a team to bring a case to win and a case to not lose. This, to me, says they would indeed have more incentive to bring two cases to win.
  • Leland: No coin flip could resolve confusion filling out the ballot.

Order of speeches. (1) Make pro speak first, but con always have first rebuttal. (Pro con, con con, con rebuttal, pro rebuttal.)

  • Conference feedback: Less than 10% were comfortable. Most feedback was discomfort with changing format at all. Hesitant to become like policy.
  • Pelletier: Huge change. Would confuse lay judges and even some coaches. Recommend waiting to see what national office does before considering adoption.
  • Adams: I’d be one of those coaches struggling to explain this to my con kids. Also not a fan of pro always speaking first.
  • Forgue: The variables of PF add color to this event that you don’t get elsewhere.
  • Bartlett: Two things I don’t like: (1) Seem to be eliminating the variables and randomness. I like the call for agility. (2) I keep hearing, “These changes are going to make it easier for judges and maybe coaches.” I’m not as concerned as making it easier for judges as I am for making a meaningful experience for students.
    • Leland: I somewhat disagree. I think it alters a little how competitors have to think on their feet. I don’t think it ultimately changes all that much. There’s barely any judging criteria in PF.
  • Denk: I don’t like the idea to change the order, but I’m not entirely sure why. It might be visceral response to change.
  • Bartlett: There might be fewer errors on balloting.
  • Leland: This would give pro an advantage every time, but that’s split because the second rebuttal is advantageous.

Eliminate paraphrasing of evidence.

  • Feedback from NSDA conference: Kids paraphrase now, which results in protest that paraphrasing is misrepresenting evidence. 47% agreed with proposal.
  • Leland: This is actually an issue of enforcement, not the paraphrasing itself.
  • Pelletier: Reading between the lines, I don’t think this will be implemented. Exchanging evidence rarely happens in novice, so irrelevant.

Denk: Overall, some of these proposals throw us significantly out of alignment with NCFL, to the point that it’s creating almost a new events.

Forgue and Leland: Increased prep time overall seems favorable across MFA.

Action items: District committee members in attendance work with Joe to formulate a statement from MFA. District committee members formulate a separate statement, especially in the scope of how these proposals affect our small district.

Outstanding MFA late fees (Leland)

Leland: Proposal: Tournaments hosts, as all members of MFA, we charge $8 per entry for schools who haven’t paid on time or the late fee.

  • Robinson: Some schools just don’t pay on time. It’s not the coach’s fault.
  • Bartlett: How big a problem is this? How many aren’t paying their dues or not paying the late fee?
    • Denk: It might be one school in particular.
  • Dodge: I echo the scope question.
  • Forgue: For the State Tournament, would it be possible to charge nonmembers a little more, even a flat rate?
    • Robinson: I don’t think that’s against MPA, but I will follow up with MPA rep. Historically, we want to encourage those to become members, so don’t penalize. In addition, those teams who can’t afford the membership need the year’s boost.
  • Leland: Charge all schools $5 admin fee, then reduce MFA dues by $5 per year.
  • Bartlett: Now we’re moving beyond the late fee. The solutions are starting to not address the problem of those who fail to pay the late fee.
    • Dodge: Echo.

Robinson: Simple idea: New schools reap the 50% discount on reg fees if they join the MFA. Otherwise they pay full registration fees.

  • Denk: Favorable!

Action item: Robinson report to MPA our challenges and concerns, solicit advice.


Language around term novice (Smith)

Novice is now considered first year. ODec allows only first and second year. Should we align ODec to avoid ambiguity.

Leland: Opposed only because NCFL defines ODec participation, so our definition is about preparing for NCFL. Novice reading is about preparing for interp.


Motion to adjourn (Curry, Forgue). Unanimous.

Post Meeting

CFL report (D’Arcy Robinson)

Pick up NCFL membership forms before you leave. Also available on the web site soon.

2019 nationals is in Milwaukee.

Maine District NSDA report (Lyndsy Denk)

  • Need new District Chair
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