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Minutes: 2020 Spring Coaches Meeting

Debate and Speech

May 15, 2020

Summary of decisions and action items

Below are a list of actions attendees voted to enact: 

  • From the Spear fund, award $300 to the Maine State Champion of Humorous Interpretation and the remainder roll over into the principal. (The original award, which included covering transportation costs to the MPA annual meeting was complicated by the pandemic.)
  • Align debate tabulation tiebreaker rules to align with NSDA tiebreakers. (Secretary Denk to update State Manual documentation.)
  • Amend the Speech Handbook to allow Extemp students to access the internet during preparation time. (Moderator K. Smith update event documentation.)
  • Adopt the language from the State manual that requires experienced judges only in speech (E2.1) to apply to debate as well. (Secretary Denk update State Manual documentation.)
  • Allow hand signals at the judge’s discretion in Speech events other than Extemp. (Moderator K. Smith update event documentation.)
  • Encourage a standard of judging debate speaker points based on a 20-30 (10 point range) speaker point scale in debate judge ballots. (Moderators Pelletier and Melanson update event documentation.)
  • An increase in Congressional Debate judging scale from 1-6 to a 1-8 to align with NSDA. (Moderator Hughes-King update event documentation.)


Amy Trask (Bangor HS), Joe Pelletier (Bangor HS), DArcy Robinson (Poland Regional HS), Melanie Kyer (York HS), John Russell (Yarmouth HS), Tom Macisso (Kennebunk HS), Lisa Melanson (Cape Elizabeth HS), Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth HS), Jason Curry (Greely HS), Pat Spilecki (Lewiston HS), Nick Waldron (outgoing Erskine Academy), Randy Hughes-King (at large), Dan Haskell (Cheverus HS), Ellen Parent (Falmouth HS), Brian Dodge (Deering HS)

Welcome and introductions

Vote on Parliamentarian for the meeting

Nominated Jason Curry (Pelletier, Spilecki). Accepted. Single ballot.

Officer and moderators reports

President (Brian Dodge, Deering HS)

Fortunately for all of us in the MFA, our 2019-2020 season was finished before COVID-19 really took hold.  Our regular season and State Tournament all were held as normal and were uneventful in a good way.  However, it truly breaks my heart to see the national leagues being forced to make drastic and difficult decisions this spring and summer and, as the uncle to a senior in high school, I feel deep sadness for the loss of these opportunities for lifelong memories and personal growth for our students.  

While I would not advocate for any drastic change for the coming speech and debate season at this moment, I would encourage everyone to begin thinking about changes to policy we could put into place that will ensure everyone’s safety while maintaining the traditional tournaments as best we can.  Small measures like a “no handshake” policy can be easy to implement and cause minimal disruption.  

Finally, as this is the last report from me as president, I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for these past four years.  I am immensely grateful for the work that everyone does in this organization to make the behemoth that is the MFA function as well as it does.  I would like to specifically thank the officers and moderators who have made my tenure as president such an enjoyable experience.  

Vice President (D’Arcy Robinson, Poland Regional HS)

Well, to echo our illustrious president, glad we were done before COVID 19 changed everything this year. 

Still, during the actual year, Council of Nine continued strong and made many worthwhile recommendations that I hope we can still implement in the future. One that I felt had real merit was to institute a practice workshop after the national competitors had been determined in order to continue to work on their competition skills. We tentatively thought that late April would be a great time to consider. I hope to schedule the workshop next year. Overall, the council felt that the activity was running well but wanted it to continue to work on promoting equity in the organization.  There was also the concern that speech participation seems to be declining . To address this, they recommended trying to get demonstrations of speech activities into nonmember schools to create interest. 

The MPA was going to let MFA present during their spring meeting in April but that was cancelled this year. Hopefully, we will be able to present next year. The presentation would be a short overall of our activity, the need to encourage schools to join and a performance by a student. The organization’s relationship with the MPA continues to be strong and the MPA rep was present at the state tournament which he felt went very well.

Finally, I would like to personally thank Bian for his years of dedication and service to our organization. He was a fantastic president whose leadership was greatly appreciated. I admired the diplomacy and grace in which he handled any issues that occurred in the MFA. I especially enjoyed his sense of humor, practicality, and objectivity. 

Secretary (Lyndsy Denk, Falmouth HS)

You can find the minutes to last Fall’s coaching meeting here on maineforensic.org.

As a result of going virtual, the officers opted to defer some topics we’d noted this last season to the Fall when, maybe, we’ll convene in person. Those topics include:

  • Increasing the missing judge fine (Lyndsy Denk, Falmouth)
  • Sensitive subject matter in speech pieces, trigger warnings (D’Arcy Robinson, Poland Regional)
  • Stickers on laptops indicating biases (Lisa Melanson, Cape Elizabeth)

You’ll read more in Randy’s Congressional Debate report, but I spent a chunk of time helping update and create Congressional Debate documentation. Mostly I served to edit and organize. Randy did all the hard work.

I was pleased to learn that our web site does get some traffic. No, I haven’t looked at any actual metrics (I should). Rather I saw someone sharing one of our PF flow charts on a forum. The thread evolved into asking about flows with updated timings per NSDA, so that prompted me to make an NSDA version, which we needed to do anyway.

If anyone wants the secretary job, I’m happy to step down.

Treasurer (Ellen Parent, Falmouth HS)

Treasurer’s Report 2020

Link to view financials: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1JKxbJi6m8JoXdsNbWwLRlioo47PehwTPDRtNwxqNe1k/edit?usp=sharing

We had another year with some unanticipated expenses at States. Food costs were up significantly from most years, though still less than last year. We have a higher number of missing payments from States as opposed to previous years, which is not surprising given current circumstances. Many schools don’t settle their debts until March (if we are lucky) so I have a feeling that this was low on their priority list. I would propose that we waive late fees for this season when I resend invoices. The Spear Fund is creating roughly $1000 of income annually and market value of the principal is $33,344. We received $510 and should get the second half of it in July. 

President Elect (Jason Curry, Greely HS)

Yeah, I was around. It was pretty ok. The best part was getting Randy to become Moderator of Congress. He’s cleaned it up and organized it a lot, which was good because the schlub who had it before him was all gloss and no substance.  I’m really looking forward to continuing being me, but as even more of a figurehead and maybe someone who delegates challenges (Oops! I mean opportunities for success) to all the right people. 

Speech moderator (Kailey Smith, Lawrence HS)

My primary role as Speech Moderator this season was to field questions and concerns from coaches before, during, and after tournaments. Overall, I feel we had a positively charged, successful season for our speech students. I have addressed some of the most common concerns below.

There is a general concern among coaches about rule clarification and consistency. Some of these are simply rules that need to be addressed and changes perhaps made to the appropriate documents. Decisions need to be made regarding the following rules: 

  • Hand/time signals used in categories other than Extemp (I strongly believe hand signals should not be used in any of the pre-prepared categories).
  • Internet use in Extemp (we made this change mid season. I believe this has already been approved but needs to be adjusted in the rulebook). 
  • Introductions are always memorized. This should be added clearly to the rule book and to the ballot. What are the consequences if they are not memorized? There were concerns throughout the season as to what this rule actually is and how consistently it is enforced. Some students were marked automatically last, some were simply not marked first, while still others received no penalty. 

As always, there are concerns about judge training and conflicts. Early in the season I had created a simple, one page bulleted list of Speech category basics for judges to refer to. Many felt this simple document was helpful, in retrospect it may have been too simplified, while the handbook may be too cumbersome for quick reference. Amy Rouse created a booklet that falls nicely in between. I’ve attached the link and adjusted the share settings but let me know if you are unable to view it.  This may be something we would like to adopt or adapt, and could be provided for judges in the invitation as well as in the judes lounge. https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1HM1oBH_D2RRhu6rRQTW8Itf_j_eSg7Jw

While I strongly feel it is the prerogative of the coaches to properly train their judges, I understand sometimes this is an unrealistic expectation as coaches struggle to find judges. I would support Lyndsy’s suggestion to increase the fine for lack of judges. I think as the MFA we should reach out to local universities and offer judge training. Many education programs require students to get “contact hours” for either specific courses or degrees. We may be able to work with these schools to offer training sessions for both Speech and Debate with the intention of increasing our judge pool to assist coaches (myself included) who have consistent difficulties finding qualified judges. 

I would be happy to continue as the speech moderator but I leave it up to the Board. Because of conflicting schedules, I am only able to attend between 4-6 tournaments a year. With anticipated disruptions to and/or rescheduling of events this fall, I may be even less available. I would completely understand if the Board felt a moderator should be someone who is able to be more present throughout the season. 

Congressional Debate moderator (Randy Hughes-King, at large)

This was my first year as moderator of Congress. Our second year holding the Dale Denno tournament, our NSDA qualifiers, at the State House went very well and this excellent tradition will continue.

Among students there were no major ethical challenges during the year regarding plagiarism. Bills were original and checked for recency at the time of submission with frequent revisions by students as necessary. For low count dockets bills were pulled from the previous season as needed to allow diverse debate.

The largest challenge towards the end of the year was bill submission stacked for some tournaments and empty for others. An additional challenge to this was a slip in the student to coach to moderator process for bill submission which I take full responsibility for. Towards the end some students were emailing me directly. It is my plan to ensure additional resources on the submission process will be available to coaches and students alike to make it easier and improve the quality of bills moving forward.

There continues to be a struggle to get exceptionally talented students to move from the House to the Senate on occasion. For teams with many qualified students a rotation to the Senate is recommended, and overwhelming support for cautious House students to move up for the experience is encouraged.

Very well received were new support documents to judges for comment suggestions. More support documents and improved documents are being worked on digitally by an unofficial mini-committee of Lyndsy Denk, Jason Curry, Thomas Macisso, and myself. A more guided weekly briefing on paper will replace previously extemporaneous briefings. This will help judges adapt to digital balloting and deal with an unfortunate, and honestly tragic, decline in quality comments for students by judges in the year both digitally and on paper.

The ultimate future of Congress will essentially be ‘Congress in a box’ available in case of any illness, change of availability, or unfortunate eagle attacks on surviving current and former moderators.

Critically there was much discussion of judge affiliation in Congress as a category. Each week our judges come across in about three groupings: coaches themselves, parents, and unaffiliated judges. Stronger judge recruitment by coaches will be necessary if the ultimate dream of unaffiliated judges across the board is to ever be achieved. One issue was the churn of judges; towards the end of the season about a third of judges were appearing for one to three weeks as their lives and schedules allowed. A perfect world would allow sixteen people, unaffiliated, to be available for twelve weeks of the year. Until this happens the judge affiliation is at the mercy of coaches gracious enough to fill in the empty slots.

I could ponder whether the word ‘Congress’ has a negative connotation in the minds of potential judges thus reducing their numbers; either from a boredom perception or political one. The causes of this will remain a mystery to us all. 

Looking ahead to next year there are uncertainties about school openings, or even tournament schedules. Due to the number of students in Congress a digital alternative to the category isn’t realistically feasible in a fair way for Maine students at this time. In non-MFA work with high school students I’ve found home internet access is a significant struggle for students in places as remote as South China and Presque Isle. I will witness the Congress category digitally for Nationals and gleen ideas from there. All suggestions to remedy this in case of next season enduring more COVID-19 issues are welcome.

I am available and willing to have the honor of being Moderator for the next season; if another nominee seeks the role I’ll also gladly support them in any way I can.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate moderator (Lisa Melanson, Cape Elizabeth HS)

No report submitted.

Public Forum (Joe Pelletier, Bangor HS)

Public Forum Debate had a successful year, although our numbers were down overall.  Particularly concerning is the numbers in Novice Public Forum which often had to be collapsed into Varsity – making it that much more difficult to nurture the newer debaters (the youngins’) to stay with the activity.  I’m not sure whether the event isn’t attracting the interest or if the resolutions are to blame.  I will suggest that coaches with PF teams have an email conversation once we see what the new resolution will be to decide if we want to go with the NSDA resolution or if we want to recycle an older resolution that proved more popular.  As long as two or three tournaments within a resolution cycle agree to adopt the same resolution, we may find a more popular topic will attract more numbers.  I think coaches did a particularly good job this year providing judge training for new judges and that seemed to really help tournaments move along smoothly throughout the year.

Technology (Lyndsy Denk and Ellen Parent, Falmouth HS; Sam Rouse, at large)

Seeking webmaster. It involves posting invites and dockets on a regular basis, and updating other parts of the web site on a semi-regular basis. You work closely with those of us who manage Tabroom. Preliminary knowledge of styles and/or HTML helps, but we can also teach you. 

The Technology Committee convened a total of once in a virtual call in March to try to work on updating the web site. We purchased a new template a couple years ago that should still work; we just need to put it into place. It’ll be nice to have a refreshed look.

Considering COVID-19, there is a lot to learn about running virtual tournaments. While we all hope to enter the next season as we always have, it’s prudent to consider what it will take to maintain social distancing. Many districts are becoming quickly savvy. The National Speech and Debate Association opted to run a virtual tournament rather than cancel. Things we need to consider in the event of going virtual, much of which is coming up on coaching forums:

  • Equity of access. Instead of transportation challenges, we expect to run into internet and device  access limitations. Instead of finding enough rooms in a school to hold rounds, we expect some competitors to struggle to find quiet space to participate uninterrupted. This shifts the burden from the school to the individual student.
  • Judging learning curve. There is a fair amount of concern before and after a tournament of the learning curve.
  • Judging guidelines and policies. Coaches are lamenting feedback about a students’ environment (i.e. “The room you’re in isn’t conducive to competition/it could look nicer).
  • Competitor guidelines and policies. For starters, how do we feel about debaters using devices/chat/earbuds as a replacement for passing notes between competitors? There is chatter on forums about coaches being on the other end of those technologies.

Approval of Fall Meeting minutes.

Curry (Kyer). Unanimous.

Approval of Treasurer’s report.

Hughes-King, K. Smith. Unanimous.



Denk: While the by-laws say the president-elect should be voted in the Spring of even years, it’s more about voting one in at the start of the second year of the president.

Nomination: Curry (Hughes-King, Denk). Single ballot.


L. Denk (Curry, Pelletier). Accepted. Single ballot.

All moderators


Kailey Smith (Denk, Hughes-King). Accepted. Single ballot.

Congressional Debate

Randy Hughes-King. (Curry, Parent). Accepted. Single ballot.


Lisa Melanson. (Hughes-King, Denk). Single ballot.

Public Forum

Joe Pelletier. (Hughes-King, Haskell). Accepted. Single ballot.

Technology committee

Nick and Lyndsy talk offline about Nick taking over webmaster responsibilities.

General business

2020-2021 Calendar

View the working season calendar here. This link grants comment status to anyone, so if you would like to volunteer to host a tournament, please indicate as much.

A tournament season in a pandemic

Hughes-King: Nationals is online. Jason and I will be judging Congressional Debate and not sure how it’s going to work. All other events have somewhat easier structure to apply virtually. The big concern is access.

Denk: I’ve been seeing on forums…

Waldron: What does this look like technology-wise?

  • Denk: I’m not sure what the platforms are like.
  • Pelletier: Reagan Communicator has been online since 2012. Had some students participate. They used a programmed called Hop In. They outgrew Zoom. They’re limiting how many people can be in the room, limiting audience. I’ll take some notes about what works and what doesn’t.
  • Waldron: What was Hop In designed for?
  • Pelletier: Appears to have been for business. I have no idea what the cost is.
  • Hughes-King: There’s not a lot of difference hosting breakout rooms online.

Melanson: Just saw a Portland Press article about the MPA endorses esports. I think that’s a good idea, especially before a vaccine. Our tournaments don’t allow social distancing. I did a poetry symposium that was 6-hours long with a closing forum. Related to judges, we would need to worry about providing a handbook/guidance. Moving the season out of the Fall has the potential to be chaotic, unknown. Cape has hot spot devices to provide internet for hardship cases. Other idea: Have schools meet in own schools for competition.

Denk: Duo is going to be interesting. NSDA is going to offer Duo and, as a judge, I hope to see how that works.

Pelletier: For Speech, they’re asking for recorded pieces. As for judges, I’ve found it easier to recruit them since they don’t’ have to travel. And we’re looking at lower transportation costs.

Macisso: I’m concerned with scheduling if we go with a later start date for the season. Many of my students are involved with other activities; I’m sure many other schools deal with this as well. I know this is not a “typical” year by any means, but continuity when doable would be welcomed.

  • Denk: I had students express concern about losing out ont he experience when NSDA went digital. I think virtual tournaments will change who joins a team and who doesn’t.
  • Robinson: Similar. I do think we’re going to lose kids.
  • Parent: There’s something to be said about students who may not have the appetite now, they might be more open when things settle. Stress might be a big contributor to participation right now. Being recorded is also terrible, but people could adjust.
  • Hughes-King: There’s something meta when kids go to the student lounge. For example, a veteran student working with a novice. That dynamic disappears.
  • Pelletier: Great Communicator has a student lounge and some fun activities. They even have a puppy room (on video)
I would think a student lounge would have to be monitored. In between rounds a student can ask to be matched up with someone. There will be a two-person Zoom chat with canned questions. It would have to be monitored by adults.

Melanson: If we do shorter 2 round tournaments, could they be held on weekday?

  • Denk: There’s a potential that shorter, afternoon/evening tournaments are totally feasible, even 3 or 4 rounds. Virtual tournaments could likely run less linearly.

Hughes-King: If we’re going virtual, do we modify membership rules for students who might not have school sponsorship.

  • Dodge: This is an MPA thing.

Hughes-King: It would be valuable to develop guidance documents for the web site to support students in participating virtually.

  • Denk: We would want support documentation for all participant roles: Judges, coaches, and students.

Denk: I think it’s worth picking this up in the fall, so I’ll make sure it’s on the agenda. I also would like us to make a statement on the web site from the organization about how the health and wellbeing of all participants is our primary concern. But our goal is to keep this activity going.

Spear fund (Lisa Melanson, Cape Elizabeth)

Can we have a Treasurer’s report on funds available for MFA to award a top speaker scholarship?

What is the connection to the Spear fund and using those monies. Around $33,000 is availble to use and grows about $1,000 per year. We had talked about awarding to the HI State Champion this year and inviting them to speak at the MPA.

Parent: I don’t know precisely what the parameters are for taking from the principal. Robinson might have a better handle on what our plan was. I think we were going to use the money for lodging and transportation to the MPA meeting, which didn’t happen due to stay-at-home orders. We could still make a disbursement this year.

Robinson: The intent was (1) a student from select events would participate in a presentation to the MPA and (2) be awarded funds to get there. This year it’s open-ended because of stay-at-home. I think our MPA partner would agree that we would schedule this last year’s DI winner as a guest. I think he’d also be okay with awarding the money for the student’s use anyway.

Pelletier: Looking back at fall minutes, it looks like we were thinking of also attaching a small award.

Motion (Curry): I move that we give $300 to this year’s winner and $700 into a scholarship. (Pelletier)

  • Robinson: Is the $700 supposed to go into a general scholarship fund? Or were you thinking of a separate $700 scholarship?
  • Curry: You had mentioned previously about a scholarship, so was following your lead. What was your intent?
  • Robinson: I suggested rolling it into a general scholarship fund.
  • Parent: Logistics for a scholarship fund: Our MFA scholarships come out of our general fund. We have only one bank account and I really don’t want to have to open a second. We could not take the disbursement of income (the next check is due in July) and we could ask them to not cash the check and let the fund continue to grow interest.
  • Amended (Curry): I move to give $300 to the winner of this year and the remainder roll over into the principal. (Denk)
  • Curry: I think it’s worth awarding something in this time of potential financial hardship. Pelletier, in the chat, mentioned that fall minutes said a scholarship of $250 and $250 for expenses.
  • Melanson: I think that’s too conservative. If we’ve been rolling the funds back in to collect more interest, why not disburse the full $1,000? Put the majority into the student’s hands. It’s time to spend this money.
  • Robinson: The student who would get the award is not necessarily a senior. In the past we ran out. We could also give the winners of each of the chosen speech categories money instead of a full $1,000 to a single winner and potentially just awarding a kid cash.
  • Hughes-King: How does this fund grow in money?
  • Parent: It’s a fund administered by the state. The money is held in trust by the state and using their general investment channels.
  • Hughes-King: In that case, I would air a caution of issuing $1,000 due to the volatility of interest.

Denk: I move to give $300 to the winner of this year and the remainder roll over into the principal. (Curry)

  • Motion passes (12 yea, 2 abstain)

By-laws clarification of officer elections (Lyndsy Denk, Falmouth; Joe Pelletier, Bangor)

Table to fall. Not prepared to discuss.

States manual changes

Debate tiebreakers (Dan Haskell, Cheverus)

We should change our states ruleset to exclude H2H. I’m not sure we’ll be able to make the program do what we want it to do with the rulesets currently in place. It will only be an issue breaking from round 4 to round 5 when we cut to 4. I don’t think there’s a way to manually adjust the seeds when making the break.

Proposal: Align manual to NSDA tiebreakers for debate because it actually works in the system and is more efficient.

Denk: I completely trust everything Haskell says and endorse the change wholeheartedly.

Haskell: I copied the NSDA language.

Motion (Pelletier): Adopt all of Dan’s proposal to include dropping head to head and adopt NSDA guidelines as described. (Curry). Unanimous.

Allow internet access (in Extemp only?)

Denk: I think this was an agenda item I took down quickly during a tournament. Can have Smith chime in as Speech Moderator?

Smith: I endorse Extemp internet access.

Pelletier: The NSDA allowed us to pilot internet access two years ago. It was a success. And Gene Rouse has been allowing students to use internet because—woops—no one told him not to. In regards to any questions about equity and accessibility, maybe we can encourage host schools to provide devices. We would also recommend that, if a student’s computer dies, it’s on them. Overall, though, it allows students to find things quickly.

Macisso: At Harvard tournament, they allowed internet access.

Parent: Regarding Chromebooks, there are complications with saving things absent of internet access. We have to admit that students perform better with sources. There is value in creating a speech about which you know nothing about and finding research quickly and effectively. NSDA has had rules about when you can plug in; I think those are dumb. But it’s important to tell students they can’t assume they’ll have power access.

Motion (K. Smith): Amend the Speech Handbook to allow Extemp students to access the internet during tournament rounds to prepare speeches. (Pelletier) (8 yea, 6 abstain)

Clarify that all tournament judges must be experienced

(Speech lays out well). This should also be changed in States invite.

Motion (Pelletier): Adopt the language from the State manual that requires experienced judges only in speech (E2.1) to the Debate requirements as well.  (Placement to be figured out by Lyndsy) (Haskell). (12 yea, 2 abstain)

Providing more definition to LD divisions (Brian Dodge, Deering)

Dodge: Of the four States I’ve been president for, I’ve fielded lots of questions about LD divisions. I’ve spent too much time going with my gut to assign kids into divisions fairly. No one has ever challenged me. I don’t think anyone has found my rulings unfair. Novice is defined as someone in their first year of competition. So many people ask about what qualifies as “first year.”

Haskell: I think the handbook is fairly explicit. Juniors or Seniors aren’t novice. The gray area is “coach’s discretion” because, if we held to that standard, it wouldn’t be fair to the student.

Pelletier: Institutional knowledge: We’ve always left that line about coach’s discretion in there out of trust. We’ve always encouraged consulting with the moderator.

Parent: If I recall, there is some differing language between LD and PF. It becomes more of an issue when you have teams in PF that cross grade levels. I support erring on the side of coach discretion. I’d like to think everyone’s goals as a coach and host are about ensuring student benefit.

Pelletier: Point of clarification: Division language is in the by-laws, so this would mean a more sophisticated vote.

Waldron: I had a student who, by performance and because I didn’t know him well, I thought he was varsity. By throwing him in the deep end without experience, he fortunately had a good time. He probably would’ve been too good for novice.

Hughes-King: What I think others are saying is that it’s important to read the student. If someone is exceptional, it’s appropriate to move them up they’re exceptional.

Speech breakout

Review and edit pre-tournament briefing

K. Smith: A lot of the concerns around judge quality would be allayed if coaches could align on judge training and execute consistently. Of key, people were upset about how long the briefing takes, especially veterans, so I compiled something for newer judges to grab. Amy Rouse has pulled together a booklet of the event-by-event breakdowns.

Denk: I have mixed feelings about people complaining about the length considering how long other districts go. And some of the complaints are coming from the same people who complain about the quality of feedback.

Pelletier: Does this document imply that judges still fill out paper ballots? Should we make mention of Tabroom balloting in place of paper ballots?

  • Denk: All documentation should be assuming online balloting and mentioning paper as the exception.
  • Trask: There are still holdouts who will not use online balloting.
  • Hughes-King: For Congress we’ve been pulling people kicking and dragging, even though it’s not as easy to ballot online.
  • Waldron: Considering the reduction in comment quality and how it coincides with going online, is there a checklist that could be emailed to judges through Tabroom?
  • Denk: What Tabroom does have is a location to paste guiding text. This appears on the printed master ballot. I’m not sure where it appears online. I guess I’m an exception, but I was under the impression that it was faster to type.
  • Waldron: I recall many people borrowing directly from the paper ballot language, underlining, circling. Maybe it’s a crutch that we want to encourage people to move away from. I found myself writing less this year because I didn’t have a prompt.
  • Hughes-King: Idea from Congress, we tried a common comments sheet last year to help guide new judges on what to identify as frequent themes of what students need to know; might be more diverse and a lot of work for all the speech categories, but that could be a paper handout for speech judges as an additional when given an HI round, or Duo, etc, a sheet specific to what they are judging that round.
  • K. Smith: Typically, they will pick up one ballot to refer to for their comments.
  • Kyer: All good ideas and yet still these are all judge training issues.
  • Denk: There has been talk and we only had LD execute this years ago: Audio or video training. The NFHS has an online course for judging, although it’s aligned to NSDA events.
  • Trask: I like the one-pager idea. I also think the briefing could be longer.

Hand signals in speech events allowed?

Compromise: Starting in December disallow hand signals.

K. Smith: The handbook says hand signals should be allowed only Extemp. There has been concern and kids asking for hand signals in other events.

Trask: We need to clarify with students.

Huges-King: In the past, coming from debate to speech once or twice, I did hand signals not knowing the difference in rules.

Robinson: Nationals allows hands signals and it’s wild to refuse them.

Denk: I’m with Robinson. No one has ever been able to define to me where there is harm in providing hand signals in any event.

Kyer: Maybe I’m just lazy, but I don’t want another thing to have to manage while judging.

Robinson: I work with students and there are occasions where we rehearse so many times hitting a time of 9:31. Then they come out of a tournament where a jduges says they’ve gone to 10:31. Hand signals might be helpful to both the judge and competitors to reconcile what happened in that situation.

Denk: I’m not advocating that we require hand signals. A judge should be allowed to to provide them if they want. They should be allowed to deny giving hand signals.

Spilecki: What about the judge who’s typing.

Motion (Denk): Allow hand signals at the judge’s discretion in events other than Extemp. (Kyer) (6 yea, 1 abstain)

Debate breakout

Speaker point expansion (Ellen Parent, Falmouth)

Parent: We have 30 points, let’s use them. It implies there’s no room to improve. I don’t know how you normalize the change because people have a hard time changing. 

Pelletier: Current convention is to limit the base points to 25. It’s limiting on what it actually means. Ellen (had to leave meeting) wants to expand to full 30. I’d advocate 20-30. Allowing so low points is a clear communicator of who should not be advancing. Then there are students who get a 26 and think they’re outstanding speakers when they’re not. I don’t believe this is a manual change.

Haskell: Historical knowledge: I think this came up because, sitting iwthin the judges briefing we started saying, “We want you to stay within this range.” but then a judge would come in and abuse the range. So we narrowed the range to reduce room for so-called error. The national standard is to not use speaker points as the first tiebreaker, rather use them later. It might be a good way to balance if we demoted speaker points as tiebreakers.

Hughes-King: Where are the documentation repercussions? Also, Congress is the only place we offer a rubric. Would one help?

Dodge: In the interest of legalese, have we ever had a judge come in an give a wild number?

Denk: Yes. And when that happens tabulation staff flags in and brings the judge in to provide an explanation or confirm that it was a mistake.

J. Denk: I’ve given a 15 and it was for poor behavior in round.

Curry: What if you go 15-25 and save 25-30 for rarities???

Kyer: Whatever we do needs to be very broadly communicated. It doesn’t much matter what the range, but widening it is good.

Dodge: In teaching it’s convention that rubrics are a great way to align across teachers and organizations. I support the idea of a rubric. I also support defining the exceptional score. I’ve given out a 30 maybe three times.

Denk: Congress has similar language for the top score—top score is for an outstanding speech of even perhaps the season.

Haskell: The ballots don’t define a spread. I adovcate for keeping it simple. A 10-point spread would be easy enough. 

Dodge: What about putting that work to students?  The rubric I mean?  At least as a place to start?  So it’s less work for us? That could save us time and effort.

Denk: We can survey students what they want for the range and what they think the values should be.

Pelletier: Robinson, is this something the Council of Nine can address?

Robinson: Because we’re not meeting anytime soon, it’s worth giving them something to review.

Motion (Kyer): I move we go to 20-30 (10pt) speaker point scale in debate judge ballots. (Hughes-King) (8 yea, 6 abstain) 

From here we’ll also develop a rubric.

Public Forum topics hurting novice enrollment?

Public Forum consideration: If we think topics are hurting enrollment, maybe the October tournaments might agree on a jazzier resolution. (Joe Pelletier, Bangor)

Pelletier: Low numbers in Novice Public Forum. See moderator’s report for overview. Hopefully it’s a fluke. But maybe topics are a concern. I don’t see the need for a motion, but as a moderator I’ll keep an eye out and maybe engage with hosts about whether the topics are worth changing.

Hughes-King: What ways can we make this fun?

Robinson: I think the event has evolved out of what kids like and they’re responding to that.

Denk: Reach out to NSDA wording committees. I’d like to hear more from the students about what’s discouraging them.

Waldron: I had a couple students who were going to do PF, looked at the topic, did research, and balked that it wasn’t interesting. They changed to speech. At the time, I thought, why don’t we have student input on the topics. Do you want to stick with the NSDA topic?

Congressional Debate breakout

Judge training (Tom Macisso, Kennebunk)

Macisso: At the December Kennebunk tournament, I was approached by parents who said they would love to judge, but said they weren’t comfortable. Upon probing, they were just afraid of being fair to the students. I gave them some rubrics and vocabulary. I don’t want to make them a PhD in debate, but want to make sure I give them enough.

Hughes-King: I do want to give them a PhD in debate. Jason, Lyndsy, and I have been working on documents. One of our goals: Our judge folders were being cannibalized and we were losing materials. I’d like to give them a shortened manual/brief for them to carry. We’re also going to formalize the briefing document. Briefings this year were inconsistent. Tom has helped motivate me to work on this.

Denk: Part of our assessment shows that the existing documentation is there, but it’s lengthy and wordy. It’ll be a considerable effort to being it down to a usable scope.

Russell: I think it’s attainable to train judges with not a great effort. I agree that the existing stuff is way too extensive and overwhelming. I support more of a formula.

Macissio: The more we can do before the morning of the event, the better. A video would help. And let’s make sure we thank the judges.

Curry: This summer let’s convene several hours to sort through the stacks of materials to boil it down.

Russell: I support a video. Joe mentioned in chat shadow judging. Most of my judges have almost been offended when shadow judging became an option because they thought they were going to be an essential part of the debate.

Hughes-King: It’s absolutely critical that students get feedback, whether it goes into official judging or not. Shadow judges are not invaluable.

Curry: I’d reframe that to be a mentor judge.

Pelletier: I hear what you are saying John – and like the term “mentor judge”. Reminds me of the chamber at Nationals in Fort Lauderdale where the Parli took scorers aside and said “this is how you should score that session”. We filed a complaint with the NCFL about that one!

Point range

Motion (Curry): Congressional moves from 1-6 scale to a 1-8 scale to align with NSDA. (Russell) (11 yea, 3 abstain)

Kudos to our moderator

Denk: Hughes-King has been an exceptional moderator. His dedication to the job and effort that he’s put into overhauling the Congressional Debate documentation is outstanding.