Minutes: Spring 2019 Coaches Meeting

Lewiston High School, 156 East Avenue, Lewiston
May 17, 2019

Attendees: Pat Spilecki (Lewiston), Brian Dodge (Deering), Tom Macisso (Kennebunk), Nick Waldron (Erskine Academy), Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth), Joe Pelletier (Bangor), Amy Trask (Bangor), D’Arcy Robinson (Poland Regional), Lisa Melanson (Cape Elizabeth), Larry Bartlett (Morse), Dan Haskell (Cheverus), Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy), Jason Curry (Greely), John Russell (Yarmouth)

Summary of key decisions and action items

Key decisions/announcements:

  • Congratulations to our 2019-2020 officers (VP and Treasurer) and moderators:
    • Vice-president: D’Arcy Robinson (Poland Regional)
    • Treasurer: Ellen Parent (at large)
    • Speech: Kailey Smith (Lawrence)
    • Congress: Randy Hughes-King (at large)
    • Lincoln-Douglas: Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy)
    • Public Forum: Joe Pelletier (Bangor)
  • Vote to amend Speech Handbook entry on Original Works to clearly allow multi-genre, programmatic pieces: After “any genre” we add “(including multi-genre)”.
  • NSDA District Committee for 2019-2021:
    • Joe Pelletier (chair, Bangor)
    • Dan Haskell (Cheverus)
    • Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy)
    • Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth)
    • Brian Dodge (tentative acceptance, Deering)

Action items:

  • All coaches: Cross-train judges as much as you can. Use moderators to support training. This empowers tournament officials to place more clean judges, especially in Congressional Debate.
  • Congress coaches: Please serve as the submitter of all docket items. Review items for attribution as well as format prior to sending to moderator. This helps reinforce standards that avoid plagiarism.
  • Debate coaches: Be aware of plagiarism based on issues we hit this season in Congress. See discussion in LD report for insights.
  • As requested, tips for Tabroom:
  • Tournament hosts: As soon as possible provide information for WiFi access, even prior to tournament day.

Breakfast and General Talking

Welcome and introductions

Vote on Parliamentarian for the meeting

Nomination: Curry (Leland, Robinson). Single ballot.

Officers’ Reports

Secretary Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth)

The minutes from the Fall meeting are on the web site. As always, if moderators or coaches have resources they would like to update or add to the web site, I’m happy to help.

Treasurer ­­Ellen Parent (at-large)

This year we took a loss for the first time in a couple years. The good news is that it was a one time increase for use of services at Thornton Academy for States. Other expenses were roughly in line with the expectations and we’re similar to previous years.

We may wish to discuss ending the system of purchasing binders as very few people were interested last year and the internet makes it a lot easier for coaches to purchase for themselves at a discount.

We are still in a good position with our reserves, but we should try to increase membership in the next few years.

Otherwise, nothing major to report.

Approval of Treasurer’s Report (Curry, Leland). Single ballot.

Vice President D’Arcy Robinson (Poland)

We have a new MPA liaison as of this last year. He attended States and was very impressed, and would like us to present at the MPA eventually to generate more interest. We need to plan how and what to present within the time constraint.

MPA sent us a pamphlet to codify in alignment with national organizations about what speech and debate is. One thing missing: Congress bill format.

Council of Nine thought much of the season was smooth. They’re concerned about population of Speech competition and would like to pursue shoring up the numbers.

President Brian Dodge (Deering)

Would encourage a refresh of judge packets and training documents

State tournament went very smoothly. The worst was tech difficulties showing a video from Gov. Mills. We just deferred it to the end of the day.

The one issue: Near the end of the year the officers dealt with several plagiarism concerns. Most baffling were instances of students defending instances of plagiarism as valid.To clarify, we don’t tolerate plagiarism.

  • Russell: Was this across events? Mostly Congress.
  • Russell: Can you clarify the policy around individuals on teams sharing speeches and bills?
    • Curry: I’ll cover in the moderator’s report.
  • Macisso: Do we have a place to look back? We might look into it.
    • Denk: We post all dockets to the web site and have since we started the site.

Moderator’s reports

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

K. Smith (Lawrence) portion: Most chatter is asking for more consistent judging and judge training/resources.

Spilecki: Indeed populations are low.

Updated pre-tournament brief (view only). Will need Tech Team’s help adding Tabroom-specific details.

We encourage coaches to ensure they’re bringing requisite judges and that they’re trained.

Congressional Debate: Jason Curry (Greely)

This was my first year as moderator of Congress. We managed to recruit some Maine congress members to judge.

Unfortunately Dale Deno, the congressman who helped us host NSDA qualifiers at the State House, passed to cancer.

Regarding the plagiarism cases: We’re unsure if this is a new issue. We (entire executive board and relevant coaches) investigated and adjudicated on three separate issues of plagiarism. These were instances.

  • Waldron: What kinds of reasons were kids giving that they thought it wasn’t plagiarism or was okay to copy?
    • Curry: I didn’t get a sense from the kids that they thought they were violating at all, even though it’s spelled out in several places.
  • Melanson: I had one of the plagiarizing students and was unaware of what was going on. The docket item was forwarded straight to the moderator without my knowledge. When I sat down with the student, he was apologetic and thankful for the experience to learn.
    • Curry: Indeed we encourage that coaches send docket items rather than students.
  • Russell: What’s the consequence? Disqualification from a tournament or the season?
    • Denk: We treated it case-by-case.

We’re struggling to have competitors move up to Senate. In Senate we’re capped at 2 per school. In House, then, we’re struggling with flooding of the chamber. Alternately, in Senate, the level of competition is decreasing because there aren’t enough joining. Coaches, there’s no loss in letting any and all kids check out Senate.

  • Russell: This is filtered from my students: They heard that schools were sending more skilled students to House to get a trophy.
  • Russell: Can we ensure that the more experienced are in Senate?
    • Curry: I don’t think we as a body should be dictating to coaches who should go in which chamber. As long as a school has more than two who can enter Senate, then how is the organization supposed to dictate?
    • Curry: I’ve heard coaches ask about other students who should be in Senate but aren’t. Coaches often respond along the lines of, “If you put this student in Senate, they’ll quit the event.”

We had new approaches to judging this year as a result of Tabroom.com. The new system allows judges to enter adjudications fully anonymously, whereas before there were judges sitting around the table haggling a bit more. Consequently we found scores with a wider variety.

  • Macisso: Why did we put the new system into place?
    • Curry: We were told to.
    • Macisso: I’d like to find a happy medium.
  • Melanson: Can we work toward unaffiliated judges in Congress? If we can cross-train more it should work. It eliminates that awkward situation of judging your own student.

I would encourage students/coaches to spread out their bills across the season. Sometimes I received upwards of 6 docket items for a tournament, some of which were sometimes related. I often went back to ask to hold bills until later. This increases fairness of speaking time.

I propose that I step back from moderatorship for a year. Randy Hughes-King, at large but very passionate and involved, has expressed interested in alternating years with me.

Lincoln Douglas: Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy)

There are a variety of ways in which plagiarism can happen:

  1. Take a teammate’s case. It usually doesn’t work to their competitive advantage anyway.
  2. There’s an entire industry of canned cases that you can purchase. The kids who want to win, but aren’t great as writing cases tend to buy cases.
  3. Briefs, purchased with cards already cut. This is a gray area because if you’re making a case based on a bunch of cut cards is that plagiarism if you’re not attributing.
  4. Misinterpreting evidence intentionally or making up evidence. Explicitly against the rules. This is the form debate challenges take.

If we wanted to come up with harsher rules we could. The easiest to tackle is lifting cases from teammates. But can be confusing. For example, if they write a case together is it plagiarism?

Otherwise lots of good, few problems. The above hasn’t been a huge problem this year, but has in the past.

  • Waldron: To clarify and earlier question, I wasn’t looking for coach blaming, but seeking root cause and how prevalent it is across other events.
  • Leland: I discovered after the season that one of my competitors purchase a case with utter failure.
  • Denk: I’ve hit more than one of the above and, right, they don’t work well. I discourage purchased briefs because the student often doesn’t know the briefs nearly well enough and they flounder. I’ve also had my own debaters lift from their team. I don’t think the MFA can come down on team-level lifting, but can resolve to encourage coaches to hold their students accountable.
  • Haskell: Some of the briefs are free.
  • Bartlett: Sometimes it’s willful disobedience, sometimes it’s ignorance.
  • Leland: This is a pervasive problem nationwide. I’ve overheard an assistant coach at nationals lament how they had to write a new case for a competitor who advanced.
  • Waldron: How do we enforce the positive? Can we, for example, reward original cases?
    • Haskell: I think the results are telling. How can you win? Read more and know your case.
    • Denk: Bartlett mentioned some of this is ignorance, so bring it up across all events how to use content and attribute appropriately.
  • Robinson: Writing a team case can be a launching point, so collaborative writing can be valuable learning. Kids also sometimes need to look at the briefs and canned cases to see what they’re up against.
    • Denk: Concur. That’s real life.

Public Forum: Joe Pelletier (Bangor)

Everything Leland and Curry said about plagiarism applies to PF.

We had low numbers in novice, but very high in varsity.

Judges: This year I didn’t hear nearly as much as the past about quality of judges. We seem to be on a good trend.

Mavericks: We still had some. I would reiterate that it’s up to tournament directors to allow/disallow, but would encourage it as a last-resort in the student’s best interest. We’ve also had luck with hybrid teams. We still cannot allow mavericks at States or qualifiers per larger rules.

  • Denk: There were rumors of a student conspiring to maverick. They registered with a partner who would agree to drop last-minute. Please be vigilant and have conversations about ethics.

Technology committee report (Lyndsy Denk)

Sam Rouse is still paying for web service and such and is happy to donate those funds accordingly.

We are still efforting to migrate to Google Apps for the latest apps and functions.

We delved deep into using Tabroom.com for Congress balloting. For the most part is made things faster. We discovered opportunity to add validation protocols to make sure everything stuck and was accurate.

I’m working on investigating more features of online balloting in Tabroom, mostly to see how we can support the judges in rules and guidelines.

Sam Rouse would like to submit the MFA for his employer’s charitable giving program and needs to connect with the Treasurer.

Bartlett: Can we have something written to link up to Tabroom?

  • Denk: It exists and I’ll send out again.

Bartlett: For tournament directors, it would help to have advanced notice about how we’ll be connecting to WiFi. There’s often confusion.

  • Denk: Every school is different.
  • Trask: With invitation or prior to tournament, can we provide information up front?


Dodge: I won’t be president for a third term, so…

  • Motion to vote for a new president (Dodge). Not seconded.

Vice President

Robinson: I’m happy to serve again.

Nominations: Robinson (Pelletier, Curry). Single ballot.


Denk: Parent is open to giving up treasurer, but willing to continue serving.

Nomination: Parent (Denk, Curry). Single ballot.

All moderators


K. Smith would like to continue serving. Spilecki would like to step down.

Nominations: K. Smith (Denk, Waldron). Single ballot.

Congressional debate

Nominations: Randy Hughes-King (Curry, Pelletier). Single ballot.


Nominations: Leland (Waldron, Pelletier). Single ballot.

Public Forum

Nominations: Pelletier (Leland, Waldron). Single ballot.

2019-2020 Calendar

Sep 13 Coaches meeting

Oct 5 SAT


19 Lincoln Academy (Novice)

26 Bangor

Nov 2 Yarmouth

9 Harvest Hoorah @ Falmouth (all events)?

16 Big Questions @ Cheverus (south), Erskine Academy (north)

23 Lawrence

30 Thanksgiving

Dec 7 SAT Poland

14 Kennebunk

21 Christmas

Jan 4 New Years Day (Wed) Speech @ Lewiston

11 Winter Blast @ Cape Elizabeth

18 NSDA Congressional Debate Qualifiers @ State House

25 States @ Brunswick?

Feb 1 NCFL Qualifiers @ Poland

8 NSDA Speech and Debate Qualifiers @ Greely?


22 Break?


May 15 Coaches meeting


New Business

Trigger warnings (L. Denk for K. Smith)

Best practices for delivering trigger warning, allowing competitors to excuse themselves from the room, how judges should manage/evaluate.

Especially in Original Works, if there are sensitive topics (ex. rape, self harm) some students are feeling triggered. We’re asking coaches to advise competitors to add a trigger warning.

  • Denk: Added color: Judges are also concerned for the students.
  • Robinson: This starts with the coach. It’s your responsibility to flag it before a tournament to ensure the student is safe and taken care of. Then there should be a sincere conversation with the student about how much they’re putting out to the general population. The principal should be made aware that the student is running such a piece, perhaps even gaining sign-off (similar to drama policies) if necessary.
  • Melanson: Coaches, please read your students’ pieces. We might also need sensitivity to which judges we assign to OW (and other events with sensitive material).
  • Pelletier: Years ago a judge was triggered, so we flagged that judge. Unfortunately it was after the fact. I don’t know how to preventively.
  • Leland: For NSDA we have to submit piece names in advance. We could implement a box in advance in Tabroom.com.
  • Denk: Tabulation can hand a piece of paper to the judge prior to a round.
  • Robinson: With advance notice of subject matter, a judge can recuse themselves at the start of a round.
  • Waldron: There are some topics that are obvious and some are not. How do we deal with that?
  • Russell: So this is about quality of judging, too? Student should be aware up front.
  • Denk: Tabulation procedure is that we check in with the coach to make sure a student is safe and taken care of, then we talk about how subject matter can affect quality of judging.

Macisso: I’m seeking advice and support for how to accommodate someone on the autism spectrum.

  • Curry: We had scenario this year that sounds similar. Parents showed up to support the student.
  • Pelletier: The coach involved made the moderator aware up front and we announced it to the others students. It worked well.

Original Works definition around programs (L. Denk for K. Smith)

Denk: [summary of blurry recollection] My memory is not clear, but I think we had a judge come to tabulation looking for guidance on how to adjudicate an OW that was in a program format.

  • Trask: The standing guidance is that this is broadly open. It could be any genre as long as it’s original.
  • Melanson: I don’t see how we can say you can’t deliver a program.
  • Robinson: We ought to specify in our description that it’s acceptable to be multi-genre.
  • Waldron: [quote from handbook] It seems clearly open to me.

Motion: After “any genre” we add “(including multi-genre)”. (Waldron, Trask). Y 9, No 0, A 4

Congress adjudication with Tabroom

Macisso: There seem to be a lot of new judges and lacking some training. We have nice rubrics that we should promote to encourage judging consistency.

Greely: We absorbed a lot of our briefing time linking judges to online accounts.

  • Denk: I encourage coaches to work with judges prior to a tournament to get online.

Pelletier: Encourage judges at lunch to discuss. Advise that they don’t change adjudication, but to help newbies learn.

Encouraging unaffiliated judging in Congress

Melanson: Can we make more judges in Congress unaffiliated?

Greely: This event is the easiest to manage unaffiliated judges. Encourage Congress coaches to train in other events.

Pelletier: When I judged in a chamber of my own kids, I would often defer to other judges to take the lead on that kid.

Alignment of middle school competition season (L. Denk)

Denk: The Falmouth Middle School coach reached out to me in January asking for support from the high school team on coaching and judging. This was a revelation to me that there are several middle school teams active in the winter, including a tournament at the end of January. In addition, the last few years has seen low attendance at the Maine Middle School Tournament. I’m concerned that we’re missing opportunities to foster middle school teams for several reasons:

  • We don’t have consolidated communications.
  • Our tournament doesn’t align with when middle school teams appear to be active.

Melanson: I’ve had students coaching that season.

January season included Falmouth, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth Academy, Cape

Other middle school teams: Cheverus, Poland (up until this year), Dirigo, Bangor is trying, Kennebunk

NSDA rules proposals and how they affect the MFA (J. Pelletier)

NSDA allowed us to pilot some things this year for the qualifiers. We opted into a couple and declined others. These are relevant to our organization in terms of alignment.

The changes the NSDA proposed to PFare now off the table. Responses around the country were apparently broadly panned.

Debate internet rules

Allowing internet access in debate and/or Congress rounds: We declined, but should discuss.

  • Leland: One pro, now competitors have easy, quick access to validate what your opponents are claiming. In this case we’re asking students to master a different set of research skills for better or worse (perhaps worse). Then again
  • Haskell: Pro, we’d be in alignment with NSDA, which is likely to happen.
  • Dodge: I’d like to see Maine hold out as long as possible for Leland’s reason.
  • Waldron: Pro, encourages time management to not be Googling. It could be an opportunity to talk about skills prioritization.
  • Denk: I brought this up to my students and they echoed points above.
  • Bartlett: I’m more in the middle. LD is all about the preparation prior to the round. I’m hard-pressed to believe they’ll reach victory by quick research in a round.
  • Robinson: Access to quick research is taking the speaking communication out of debate. This idea is leaning toward the Policy debate is now, in which competitors are nose-to-laptop, asking their coaches for resources and guidance, which isn’t research.
  • Leland: Debate is a certain set of skills. If we like the current skills, then introducing a new skill, we’re rewarding a different skill and changing the dynamic. It becomes muddy about what the event is.

Extemp internet rules

We opted in and it seemed to go well. Other than some internet connectivity issues with the host school, it went well otherwise. NSDA clearly states that connectivity is not a tournament responsibility; it’s on the kids.

Debate tiebreakers and eliminations

Lots of explanation that’s confusing to many, continue in the Fall. In general:

  • The rules resulted in unexpected qualifiers. It’s unclear if it was a fluke or indeed a more fair approach.
  • Some of the tiebreakers used aren’t clearly defined, so the group is interested in details.

Speech enrollment

Dodge: Deering is always hoping to expand, but I need help. Kathryn Toppan and Ellen Parent are both possibilities for supporting Deering Speech.

  • Denk: It’s in my personal interest that Deering and Casco Bay build a partnership for my step-daughter.

Spilecki: Lewiston might be growing in light of recent success and publicity around Poetry Out Loud (student making it to national competition).

Melanson: How is POI doing?

  • Denk: Small, but okay.
  • Melanson: We might consider numbers to evaluate reducing categories.

Robinson: Increasing numbers is a factor of increasing competition. Without the numbers we have students who aren’t challenged, aren’t pushing themselves to the caliber they could.

Robinson: The all-day Saturday is a standing complaint.

  • Waldron: My team has adjusted the narrative to position tournaments more as opportunity.

Other challenges:

  • Other co-curriculars are struggling to gain enrollment (sports even).
  • Socioeconomic divide (Robinson) creating stigma against participation.

Melanson: Emphasize the value of speech and debate. There are students being accepted to top institutions without athletics.

  • Denk: I make the case about the skills development being universal for the rest of your life, in job and in life.

Melanson: There’s all kinds of community around this event these days.


Post Meeting

Portland CFL report (Director D’Arcy Robinson)

16 member schools. Would like to maintain.

For nationals we’re filling debate, but speech is lacking. We’re building a great reputation as a diocese.

Milwaukee this year for nats. There will be a Friday night meeting, as usual. Check out the tournament web site for lots of information.

Next year is Chicago, then back to Louisville.

Maine NSDA report (District Chair Joe Pelletier)

Melanson: Tell us more about Phillips-Exeter joining our district.

  • Pelletier: NSDA gave us the opportunity to provide feedback on P-E’s leaving the Mass district and coming to ours. My phone call with the national office made it rather clear that the decision was made regardless of our feedback.
  • Denk: My students weren’t please, but I stressed the value of diverse competition and turned it back to them to rise to the occasion.

We had 22 active schools. 14 participated in Congress and 12 in Speech and Debate qualifiers. This gave us Level 2 status, which meant qualifying 2 per event. We’re maxed on accepted entries in debate and Congress, but 5 categories without entries. Of 16 speech slots, we’re filling only 5. Despite the manual being explicit about a non-qualifier, the system and national office allowed her as an alternate.

NSDA is increasingly student-centered and willing to bend the rules to encourage student success.

Denk: Related to the need for recruitment, I use service point opportunities as an engagement mechanism. By participating in activities related to public speaking, the kids get more jazzed about their membership.

District committee election results for 2019-2021 committee

Joe Pelletier (chair, Bangor), Dan Haskell (Cheverus), Matt Leland (Lincoln Academy), Lyndsy Denk (Falmouth), and Brian Dodge (tentative acceptance, Deering)

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