What a friend we have …

November 26, 2016


January 16, 1926 -November 28, 2016

img_20150927_114401422_hdrFor the last 26 months, it has been my joy and pleasure to begin many of my days having breakfast with my mother-in-law, Shirley. Shirley and Grant moved in with us in October 2014, due to her failing health.

Today she a far better place to live: A house with many mansions in heaven.

It would be simple to fill up a blog just with wonderful adjectives describing Shirley.

Caring. Nurturing. Kind. Considerate. Cheerful. Thoughtful. Understanding. Loving. They would all be correct, yet all so inadequate.

Shirley loved life. She was 63 when we met in 1989, and in the 27 years since then we cherished so many wonderful family times together. We attended more than a dozen Kerr Bash family gatherings. Kathy and I traveled together with her and husband Grant (and sometimes our son Tyler) to Florida, and to Texas, and to Alaska. We played dominoes in an RV home along the Chena River in Fairbanks one summer. We attended Cleveland baseball games with her mother-in-law, Edna Johnson, who was an avid Indians fan.

shirley-2We’ve been to baptisms, more than a few family weddings and – more recently – family funerals as Shirley’s older sisters passed away, one at a time. Just two month ago we visited Titusville, Pa., for the funeral of her sister Barbara Beers. Little did we know that it would be Shirley’s last time there.

Wife. Mother of three. Grandmother of nine. Great-grandmother of two (so far).  And still, words don’t really describe Shirley’s life. Her reach. Her impact.

Shirley was a mainstay at First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula for many decades. She sang in the choir there. She worked as a secretary. She helped out with Vacation Bible School. She was an integral part of the women’s group and the hospitality committee there. A post-funeral gathering or any social event at First UMC was not complete without one of Shirley’s desserts on the table. It might have been pineapple whipped cream cake (nicknamed Shirley cake) or her pretzel salad. Whatever she made, it was certain to disappear long before the reception ended.

shirley-4I initiated having breakfasts with Shirley. I wanted to make certain she was taking her medicines and getting a good meal to start the day. In turn, she made sure her husband of 64-plus years, Grant, got his medications when he awakened. The two have been married since 1952. They lived in a house on West 13th Street in Ashtabula for nearly 60 years. There was boundless love in that place as Shirley took on the primary responsibility for raising Kirk, Kathy, and Keith.

What I received from Shirley Kerr Johnson in her time living with Kathy and me (and later Tyler as well) goes far beyond words. She has a boundless optimism about the future. She cherished every new picture of her great-grandchildren, and every conversation with a grandchild. She gave Kathy and me advice, gently and lovingly.  “You work too hard,” she told me. Today, I don’t think I’ll ever take a walk in a park or a long respite from academia without recalling her words.

Still, this doesn’t adequately describe Shirley Kerr Johnson, or her impact on the lives of those she touched.

Shirley is the most beautiful of reflectors.

shirley-3She mirrors love – Christ’s love – in much of her interactions with others. She always saw the good side of every situation. She would encourage, never admonish. She chose kindness over harshness. She spoke caring words, positive words, and always had an empathetic attitude toward others. You wanted to be with Shirley, around Shirley, because she helped you feel better about your life, your future.

As Shirley’s health deteriorated in the last month, a chapter of the Bible which has provided me with a lot of comfort and strength is Psalm 73.  Verse 26 reads, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Shirley’s flesh and her heart failed here on earth, but God is showing His love through Shirley – even in her last days.

On Friday, Pastor Chris Bell of First UMC in Ashtabula and a member of the church choir, Linda Downing, drove 75 miles each way to visit with Shirley. We concluded with family member in a circle, holding hands, surrounding Shirley in her hospice bed. Pastor Chris asked Shirley to select a song for us to sing. She chose, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”

shirley-5What a selection! Joseph Scirven wrote this song, first as a poem in 1855 for his mother. He was living in Canada, and sent it to comfort his mother who was then in Ireland. The final words of the third verse of this hymn are: In His arms He’ll take and shield thee. Thou wilt find a solace there.

Shirley – today you are in His arms. We love you and will miss you, but we know you are free from pain and in an infinitely better place, and a place where we can all join you one day.

“Hunger Games” vs. “Citizen Kane”

October 17, 2016

We have hundreds of students taking film and move-making classes at Cuyahoga Community College each year. Film Appreciation, Screenwriting, and American Cinema are some of the courses we offer in my area, Journalism/Mass Communications.

So, what if we looked at the 2016 presidential election contest through the lens of Hollywood? J.J. Abrams, Nancy Meyers, Steven Spielberg, or Kathryn Bieglow would have no trouble coming up with appropriate roles for our leading contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

With each day’s revelations from WikiLeaks, Hillary Clinton more and more perfectly seems to match the character of Coriolanus Snow (actor Donald Sutherland) from the “Hunger Games” series of films. Snow is the manipulative president of Panem, willing to do anything to its citizens to maintain rule.  All power resides in the capitol, which controls the food supplies, schools, and just about every aspect of the population’s daily lives. Snow ruthlessly maintains iron first rule over an underfed and overworked population, even ordering carpet bombing of District 12 to save the capitol and preserve power.

snow and kane.pngCasting Central would find the perfect role for Donald Trump to be that of Charles Foster Kane (actor and director Orson Welles), lead character in Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” Like Trump, Kane makes his fame and fortune outside of the political arena, then enters politics for the first time by running for governor. He repeatedly accused his opponent, J.W. Gettys, of corruption in the general election. Kane seems headed for election, until Gettys makes public the fact that Kane is having an extramarital affair. Kane is disgraced and Gettys wins the contest.

No analogy will match a situation perfectly. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t murder or torture her opponents, as Snow does in the “Hunger Games” movies. And Kane? Well, in “Citizen Kane” he made his fortune as a newspaper publisher and editor. Last time I checked closely, it was just about impossible to find anything positive about Trump in most newspapers.

We’ve all heard the phrase that art imitates life. Yet in the 2016 election, is it the other way around?


“Hope: it is the only thing stronger than fear.”  — Coriolanus Snow

“My first official act as Governor … will be to appoint a Special District Attorney to arrange for the indictment, prosecution, and conviction of Boss Jim W. Gettys!” — Charles Foster Kane







“Hunger Games” movies are from author Suzanne Collins’ series of similarly-titled novels.

A few thoughts about HS speech & debate

October 15, 2016

(Me, far left, with the eight Revere High School students we took to the OHSSL State Championships in March 2016. One, Drew Espinal, is now a freshman at Johns Hopkins University. The others seven students are back this year. Phillip King, principal and big program supporter, is at far right.)

STUDENTS:  You MUST bookmark and visit our “sign out” site for tournaments here:


(HELP BY DOING THIS — Your coaches cannot keep track of 35+ students’ schedules)

When I first learned nearly nine years ago that some Ohio high schools offered speech and debate programs, my first thought was: “Why not my school?” At that time, “my” was Brecksville-Broadview Hts. (BBHHS). I knew how strong academically BBHHS was, and believed students there could do well if taught speech/debate basics.

My Wabash College debate team was the most rewarding extracurricular activity in college. I learned how to think in depth on subjects, and how to present contentions strategically, reinforce my own arguments and to rebut those of my opponents. It made me a better, more informed student during my years at Wabash. It helped me graduate with honors.

Fast forward more than 30 years. I approached Brian Wilch (now the principal at Hudson), and asked, “Could we do speech and debate?”  Brian’s answer was short, simple and strong.  “Yes. John, could you lead it up for us?”

I thought about it, talked it over with my son (then a BBHHS sophomore) and wife, and prayed about it. Believing it was worth the effort, I met again with Brian. Soon we began.

In October 2008, eight brave BBHHS students competed in the Cleveland District of the Ohio High School Speech League’s Novice Tournament. We eventually grew to around 14 students that first year. Two terrific parents came alongside to assist, Mark McCandless and Dr. Lloyd Yeh. Vicki Balzer, now at Magnificat High School, gave Mark and me “how to” start-up advice. We had two qualifiers for the State tournament that first season.

Since then, what’s happened at BBHHS with speech and debate is simply amazing. Today the program has about 40 members. Mark McCandless and his assistants are doing a superb job with the students. About 50 students there have qualified for State Championships in the past eight years.

More importantly, former speech/debate competitors from BBHHS are now attending or graduating from Harvard, Chicago, Vanderbilt, William & Mary, Washington (St. Louis), Penn, and other terrific colleges and universities.  We – the other parent leaders and I – learned that participating in speech/debate helped give these students an advantage in the college admissions process.

I led BBHHS for three years, then relinquished the reins but stayed on to assist three more years. I met many dedicated coaches, including  Tony Paparella of Revere HS. Revere once had a phenomenal speech/debate program in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, then it had died out. Tony, who did speech and debate when he was a student at Revere, revived the program when his own sons attended HS. Like me, he did this on a volunteer basis. He later convinced the Revere Schools board to allocate funds for speech/debate, and to pay a stipend for a coach.

I’d decided to leave BBHHS in 2013-14. I was studying for an advanced degree at Kent State University. At my last state coaches’ meeting (so I thought), Linda Miller, director of the state speech league, made a brief but passionate plea about a coach for Revere.  “The program is down to five students, and there’s no one to lead it,” she said.

I called Tony. He told me that he had stepped down for business reason, and no successor had lasted. Next thing I knew, Revere HS Principal Phillip King called me. He and I met, and soon Revere offered me the position of speech/debate adviser there. More thinking and praying was next. This wouldn’t help me in my studies at Kent State, but I’d witnessed the huge difference participation in this activity made in the lives of students. Revere’s support for the program was also impressive. So I said yes.

What a blessing these past three years have been.

It was hard at first. I got to know the teachers and the system at Revere. The faculty and a very powerful academic program helped. So did two student families. One was James White, a 2015 Revere graduate, and his mom Marie. They saw the benefits of this program and dedicated time and effort to helping it grow. The other assistance came from the Espinal family, especially Alexis (2015 graduate), Drew (2016 graduate) and their parents, Drs. Susan and Eric Espinal. They are unbelievably supportive.

We have grown steadily at Revere. Last year we had four State Championship qualifiers, 9th grader Melise Williams, sophomores Leah Espinal and Megan Warburton, and junior Anthony Pignataro. Anthony then surprised a lot of people (including himself) by becoming the Eastern Ohio District L-D debate champion of NSDA, the National Speech and Debate Association. He competed in the National Championships in Utah in June.

We had 18 students in speech/debate just two years ago. We are double that size this year. We have three terrific college student assistants: Ammar Abidi, David Burnett, and Noah Paulsen, helping out.  We will compete well against other schools in the Akron District and all over Ohio.

But success at tournaments is a side benefit of being part of speech debate. What students gain prepares them for college and beyond. They learn to:

  • Think critically – Anyone can toss an opinion on a social media site, but Revere students in speech and debate master how to analyze and “go deep” on topics and understand them excellently.
  • Communicate effectively – One can’t summarize debate or speech down to 140 characters. We build speaking skills. We learn to speak with room-filling energy. Debaters learn how to “build up, then narrow down” arguments. Individual Event speakers put passion and emotion into their speeches.
  • Live humanely – Our world is becoming ever-more shrill and uncivil. Revere students in speech and debate are thoughtful, articulate voices of compassion, of reason and purpose.

That’s just some of the benefits of speech/debate. New Revere student and parents – get ready to grow. Thank you, Revere Schools, for supporting this excellent opportunity for your students.

The 2016-2017 schedule is below:  Dates in BOLD ITALIC are Middle School events also.

REVERE HIGH SCHOOL     DATE                                                                             JUDGES NEEDED

October 8-9                        POSSIBLE – Georgetown (PF and Congress only)

October 22                          Novice at Glen Oak                                                           (NONE NEEDED)

October 29                         at Edison                                                                                              (EIGHT)

November 5                       Laurel                                                                                                    (EIGHT)

November 12                    Brecksville Broadview Heights                                                         (EIGHT)

November 19                    Copley                                                                                                  (EIGHT)
Selected returnees – Might go to Glenbrooks in NW Chicago
December 3                       Olmsted Falls  (one of locations for State tourney)           (EIGHT)
Selected returnees –Princeton (Dec. 2-3-4, via Bus, with Medina)

December 10                     Vermilion                                                                                                 (EIGHT)

December 17                     Stow Monroe Falls                                                                          (EIGHT)

January 7                             North Canton Hoover                                                                    (EIGHT)

January 14                           Wooster                                                                                              (EIGHT)

January 21                           Norton                                                                                                 (EIGHT)

January 28                           Solon (Open date in Akron and Canton)                                  (EIGHT)

February 4                          OHSSL Akron “Littles” at Wadsworth                                       (EIGHT)
This is the main State Qualifier tournament

February 10-11                  Possible National Circuit Tournament

February 17-18                  Eastern Ohio “Bigs” at Copley                                                     (FOUR)
This is the secondary State Qualifier Tournament

March 3-4                            OHSSL States at Berea/Midpark and Olmsted Falls            TBD

March 11                             State Novice / Middle School States at Medina                  TBD
This is also a Statewide Middle School Tournament

March 25                             Eastern Ohio “Congress Bigs” at Our Lady of the Elms

April 29                                “Big Questions” Debate at REVERE HS!
Student Leaders: Anthony Pignataro, President; Leah Espinal and Megan Warburton, Vice Presidents; Grace Cao, Secretary; Melise Williams, Troy Pierson andEmily Albert, practice captains

Prayers for this election

September 24, 2016

There are times when those who believe in Christ Jesus might forget the words in 1 Peter 5:7,  “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

With this foremost in mind, here are a few guidelines in prayer and in action for believers as we watch the 2016 Presidential Campaign wind down to its final days, beginning with the first Presidential Debate on Monday night.


For nearly 230 years, the U.S. has depended upon civic involvement through voting to determine our leaders. We have held debates, shed blood, and changed our governing document – the Constitution – to allow more and more Americans to cast ballots in elections and chose the course of this land. Let’s pray that voters will seek to discern between truth and falsehood, put the national interest above self-interest, and seek God’s wisdom (James 1:5)

Image result for intercessors for america pray elections


Many times in the 2016 election cycle, the media and its coverage has become just as controversial as our two major candidates for office. At their core, media outlets should remember their highest obligation is to accurately inform and report on events – not to become supporters and/or endorsers of any one candidate or party. “Seek the truth and report it” is the first cannon of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Pray that truth in reporting for the remainder of this election will become a high value, and that bias will decrease or even disappear. Let’s also pray that messages of hope – optimism for our future – will receive time and attention as well.


Candidates, family members, and top campaign aides become the subjects of microscopic inspection during campaigns. This intense scrutiny discourages some very well-qualified civic leaders from even seeking elected office. Every candidate, indeed every elected and potential leader in our nation, needs prayer support. Let’s pray that candidates for office would surround themselves with Godly advisers, and that the candidates would focus on issues and not on negative attacks that only further soil public discourse. Let’s pray that candidates would be courageous and stand for right and righteousness, even if it’s unpopular.


Many reading this learned the Lord’s Prayer at one point in their lives. “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” is Matthew 6:10. As believers pray about national elections, we should also make our own desires subservient to God’s ways and His will. Our heart’s longing should be for God’s purposes to come about in our cities, states, and nation.  Let’s pray that the U.S. would rturn from evil, and seek first the kingdom of God. Let’s pray that the election results would please God, and that He would see a change and release blessings and favor over our nation once again. Finally, let’s pray that God would be honored in the entire election process.  (More reading in Proverbs 8:15, 21:1, Daniel 4:25, and Romans 13)

CLOSING THOUGHT: Pray that as November 8 arrives, we would see candidates and a country more God-like in word, thought and deed.



Some content excerpted David Butts “Election Prayer Guide” and the National Day of Prayer Task Force.  © 2014 Harvest Prayer Ministries, Prayer Connect magazine




History, videos, and lesson plans on Presidential debates

September 17, 2016

A resolution. A constructive speech either in favor of or in opposition to the resolution. Evidence supporting contentions in the speech. Direct cross examination of each other. A clash on issues raised. Rebuttal and summary speeches.

All of these are standard fare for high school and college debaters. And nearly none of these will happen on Monday, September 26, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet at Hofstra University in New York for the first of four debates (three Presidential, one Vice Presidential) this fall. The 2016 Commission on Presidential Debates series will begin 56 years to the day after the first-ever televised Presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960.

In fact, virtually all Presidential debates have lacked the elements that comprise a debate. Some news observers and even one of this year’s moderators, Chris Wallace of Fox News, are instead calling these events simultaneous news conferences.

Back in 1960, there were far fewer media choices. Seeing the major candidates standing toe to toe and responding to a reporter’s questions was fresh, new and exciting. About 70 million Americans tuned in on that September night in 1960, the largest audience ever to watch a televised event at the time.

Image result for kennedy nixon debate
Donald Hewitt of CBS, who produced that first debate, talked about its significance in an interview 40 years later for Joe Garner’s book Stay Tuned. “It was like Miss America. You picked the more attractive of the two men. That’s how Jack Kennedy beat Richard Nixon….,” Hewitt said. “Jack Kennedy making speeches is a bore. Jack Kennedy debating Richard Nixon is an event.”

Even more important, according to Hewitt, was the confluence of political leaders and television executives. The Nixon-Kennedy debates radically transformed the landscape of American politics. “In the middle of this thing, the politicians are looking at the television executives and thinking, those guys have a reach in everybody’s living room,” Hewitt explained. “The television executives are looking at the politicians and saying they are a source of unlimited advertising dollars. That a bottomless pit.”

“That night changed the face of American politics That was the night that television and politics eyed each other, flirted with each other, got engaged, and eventually got married,” Hewitt added. “And because of that you cannot hold office in the USA or even think of running for office unless you’ve got the money to buy television time. Politics in America is now a money game, and it all weaned off  the night of the first television debate.”

Hewitt was right. In the 2012 election cycle,  candidates for all federal offices in the U.S. spent seven billion dollars on campaign activities.  The plurality of those billions were devoted to purchasing television ads. Even with the rise of the internet and mobile media, TV is receiving the lion’s share of campaign dollars. Ask anyone living in a “battleground” state (such as Ohio) what commercials are running on television right now — they’ll tell you.

Here is a link to the video which accompanied the book “Stay Tuned” about the 1960 Presidential debates. You’ll see Walter Cronkite, Hewitt, and — of course — Nixon, Kennedy, and debate moderator Howard K. Smith.


THE NEW NIXON: A notable outcome from first Presidential debates: Richard Nixon abhorred future one-on-one clashes with an opponent as a result of the 1960 election. When he re-entered the political realm and won the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 1968, he eschewed debates and instead produced live “made for television” events called Man in the Arena. Today we would call these programs part political advertisement, part infomercial, and part reality television. It was a precursor to another form of political TV which became quite common in the 21st century, the town hall meeting. Producing Man in the Arenawas a young television expert who had learned his craft with the Mike Douglas show, Roger Ailes.

Ailes selected about 20 “man in the street” panelists for the program, some of whom would ask questions of Nixon and also make brief statements about conditions in America in 1968. Bud Wilkinson, a regular on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and former Hall of Fame college football coach, hosted the program. Nixon and Wilkinson engaged in friendly banter at the beginning of each broadcast. It worked, as viewers came to see Nixon as a fighter for the middle class. In November 1968, Nixon outpolled both Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th president of the U.S.

The New York Times’ Tom Wicker called the Man in the Arena television programs a “masterly new political concept.”  The viewing public thought that Nixon was being questioned freely, “while running little risk of a hostile inquiry, a damaging answer, or some other mistake,” Wicker wrote. Nixon would hear nothing of a debate in the 1972 Presidential election. But after Watergate and Nixon’s departure in 1974, there was a consensus among the Republican National Committee and the Democratic Committee that there should be debates.  Thus — starting in 1976 — we’ve had at least one debate in every election cycle ever since. It took some time, but the Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987 to “…provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” It governs the debates today.


It’s really impossible to prove whether a candidate might win or lose an election as a result of or more Presidential debates.  Those conducting polling in 1960 reported that a vast majority of undecided voters that year ended up casting ballots for Kennedy. Yet no one could prove whether the debates tilted a “scale in the minds” in Kennedy’s favor.

Most Presidential debate observers do point to a few poignant moments in debate history. The first was in 1976, when reporter Max Frankel of the New York Times asked a question about US-Soviet Union relations of President Gerald Ford. Frankel was a member of three-reporter panel, plus moderator Pauline Frederick of National Public Radio. It was the second Presidential debate, taking place in San Francisco in October 1976. Ford’s response to Frankel was a gaffe, insisting that Poland was a free nation at the time. It was not, and the misstep might have cost Ford the election. See the clip:


In the first 1984 debate between President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Reagan was hesitant and halting, and looked even older than his 74 years of age. Although Reagan was ahead in the polls, voters were wondering if he was up to four more years of the physical and mental challenges of the Presidency. In the second Presidential debate in Kansas City, the “Great Communicator” masterfully turned reporter Henry Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun’s question about his age into a response so funny that even Mondale laughed at it. Reagan then paused and reached for his glass of water to let his zinger linger. He won re-election in a landslide the following month. See the clip here:


There was a Cleveland connection to the 1988 Vice Presidential Debate, which was held early in October in Omaha. Northeast Ohio Cong. Dennis Eckart was an “opponent stand in” for the Democratic nominee, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, for practices ahead of the clash. After the debate, Cong. Eckart told local media outlets that, in fact, the Democrats had anticipated that Senator Dan Quayle, Republican VP candidate and Bensten’s opponent, might attempt to compare himself to John Kennedy. Watch Senator Bentson’s double response – first to Quayle’s statement, then to his ‘unfair’ retort afterward:


NOTE: in the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, VP Joe Biden echoed this with a remark to Republican Candidate Rep. Paul Ryan about tax cuts: “Oh, Now You’re Jack Kennedy?”

Here’s a link to a web page explaining the formats which will be used for all four of the presidential debates in September and October 2016:


If you are a teacher in grades 3 to 6, and are planning a lesson in language arts or civics, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has some great resources on Presidential debates. The link below includes objectives and outcomes, connections to curriculum standards from National Standards for Civics and Government and from NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts for grades 4, 5, and 6.  Here is the link:


Here are some good additional links to lesson plans and resources for many different grade levels:



The link below is a terrific resource for using all aspects of the election in the middle school and high school classroom:




Garner, Joe “Stay Tuned: Television’s Unforgettable Moments,” © 2002 Garner Creative Concepts



For information about the Commission on Presidential Debates, transcripts, video excerpts and more, link here: http://www.debates.org/


Pictures from: History.com and the Reagan Presidential Library

Revere Talking Minutemen, ’16-’17

August 22, 2016

Welcome to speech and debate in 2016-2017, Talking Minutemen. I’m posting this blog primarily for the benefit of those students in speech/debate who were not able to attend our “back to speech and debate” gathering at the Espinals on August 13, or who have joined us since then.

Right now we are looking at as many as 45 FINAL GRAPHICstudents in speech and debate this year. That’s great, and we want to let you know a little about what competition is like, who our coaches and student leaders are, and – a bit more – when we will start practices.

First a bit about me.  This is my ninth year coaching speech and debate and my fourth year with Revere. I was the guy who began the speech and debate program at Brecksville Broadview Heights back in 2008. I have coached dozens of state qualifiers and two students who have competed in the national speech and debate championships, including our president Anthony Pignataro.

If you’ve not done so already, look at a few web sites.  First, here is our web site:


Here is the state’s web site: www.ohssl.org

Here is the national web site:  www.speechanddebate.org

You’ll learn a bit about how speech and debate works through viewing these web sites.

Next: We have a terrific set of student leaders for this year. They are:

  • Anthony Pignataro, senior, president and Lincoln Douglas debate
  • Megan Warburton, junior, vice president and Public Forum debate
  • Leah Espinal, junior, vice president and Congressional debate
  • Grace Cao, junior, secretary and Individual Event speaker
  • Melise Williams, sophomore, Individual Event captain
  • Troy Pierson, sophomore, Public Forum debate captain
  • Emily Albert, sophomore, Congressional debate captain

If you attended one of the many speech or debate camps, then we have worked with you and assigned you to a speech or debate category.  If you signed up at Frosh Fest, we are going to begin your 9th grade participation in speech by competing in one of five different individual events: Original Oratory, Declamation, Program Oral Interpretation, Informative Speaking, or International Extemporaneous speaking.

Also, we have FOUR assistant coaches this year.  You will hear more about these later in the academic year, but rest assured that we will have approximately one coach for each 8-9 students who are part of our program. One of my favorite sayings is P-P-P-P-P-P, for proper practice and preparation promotes perfect performance. We will be giving you every opportunity to improve your speaking and debating skills through practice.  Our practice sessions will be held on Wednesday evenings.  Watch for details.

Additionally, we have assistance from a great parent/booster organization, called Revere Speech and Debate Boosters (RSDB for short). They will help us by providing (among other things) judges for speech tournaments.  On average, we need to have one judge for every four students who compete on tournament Saturdays. You will hear more about this soon, but we want you to know that we will be asking each student (parent) to contribute $$$ for judging and to judge a few tournaments.  We will send that information to both you and your parents.

We will also be providing training for parent judges in October – On October 14, 15, and on October 26.  Details forthcoming.

By the way, you might want to share this web site with your parents if/when ask you about how important speech and debate might be to your future:


We do need three things from you. If you are a newcomer (first year in the program) please EMAIL the following to our Secretary Grace Cao, who’s email is:   gwcao161@gmail.com

They are:

  • A parent’s name and email address (with whom our RSDB can communicate)
  • Your cell phone number
  • Then, we need you to circle and save SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 on your calendar. That is the first speech/debate tournament of the 2016-2017 season.  It is known as the Akron and Canton Districts NOVICE tournament, and it will be held at GlenOak School near Canton.  ALL FIRST YEAR COMPETITORS are encouraged to attend this tournament.

If you are signed up for Debate (Public Forum or Lincoln Douglas), you will be hearing from Anthony or Troy about “Debate School” beginning on September 14. This will be the first of three, one-hour education sessions where we will teach more details about debate and prepare you further for the season. The sessions will be on Wednesday, Sept. 14-21-28.

If you signed up at Frosh Fest, Captain Melise Williams will be in touch with you soon via email. We want to work with you to select an individual event, and begin to have you thinking about that first speech you give.

A couple of final things:

1)      Speech/debate is considered an “academic letter” activity at Revere  If you attend the Novice Tournament plus seven additional tournaments in the course of the you, and you attend practices regularly, you will be eligible to earn an academic “R” for speech/debate this year. So look at our calendar for the season (you can find it on the web site), and circle and save the Saturdays for competition. (Again, look at the calendar on the web site. Basically these are every Saturday beginning at the end of October, except for Holidays, from October 29 through January 28)

2)      Watch for SIGNS.  All returning speech/debate competitors PLUS those who attended summer camps and have committed to speech/debate will have signs up on their lockers soon.  NEWCOMERS – Your sign will go up on your locker as well, after you’ve attended a couple of practices and have committed to speech/debate for Revere.

Below are a few tips for 9th graders who are new to Revere High School, courtesy of our officers and your coach.  BE PREPARED when classes begin on Wednesday, August 24.

TIP 1 — WRITE IT DOWN: Research shows that when you use an assignment book and/or planner and write down your assignments, you have 40 percent better odds of completing them.

 TIP 2 – PRIORITIZE: What’s most important? What’s next in importance?  Always do what’s the most important first in your studies. The test on Friday should receive a lot more time/attention than a 10-point quiz coming up on Monday, for example.

TIP 3 – GET INVOLVED!  There are so many amazing clubs and activities at the high to join. Don’t do nothing.

TIP 4 — DON’T SLACK OFF! All your grades count toward your high school transcript when you apply for a college or university. What you do in your freshman year WILL SHOW UP with  all your other classes on application forms.

Speak With Room-Filling Energy,

Coach K.

Meetings and prep time!

May 11, 2016

_20160206_180559This is an update for nearly 50 different students at Revere High School and Revere Middle School who are interested in speech and debate.

We have a brief “planning meeting” for next year’s grade 9-12 students (classes of 2017-2018-2019 and 2020) on Thursday, May 12, beginning at 7 a.m. in Room 200 for returnees to the program for 2016-2017. We will have next year’s draft schedule (yea!), talk about the Revere Middle School summer camp (scheduled for June 20-24), and review some exciting upcoming event (such as Anthony Pignataro going to Nationals!)

If you are a Middle School student, about one-half of the slots have been taken for our Summer Camp, which will be June 20-24 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the High School.  Your $100 check reserves you a spot.  You can drop off the check in an envelope at the High School, or even drop it off at the Middle School and ask them to interoffice send it  to the High School. Make checks payable to Revere Speech and Debate Boosters.

If you are a returning speaker or debater, it is REALLY IMPORTANT that you improve your skills by attending a camp over the summer.  Below are links to a couple of web sites that will help you do just that:



If you haven’t seen it already, here is a link to my little video about upcoming activities.

Finally, remember these three dates:

STUDENT MEETING — Thursday, May 9, before classes (7 am) Room 200

AKRON ROUNDTABLE — Lunch period on Thursday, May 16 (I’ll have permission slips)

PARENT MEETING — Thursday, May 26, 7 pm in the Library. We need to have more parents involved to make the larger numbers of students work out OK for the program next year.

WAKE FOREST?  PRINCETON?  If you’ve heard these rumors, they are true. We are looking at trying to attend one or two “national circuit” tournaments next season.  Details to come soon.

Last year we proved “It Can Be Done” as we sent eight to the State Championships and one to Nationals.  This coming year, We Will Do It Better Still!

Coach K.