To the editor:
Oakville High School’s Speech and Debate Team has been around since 1984, and former Mehlville Board of Education President Venki Palamand was one of the original members when he was a student.
My assistant coach Erica Brown was a member of the team in 1996 and now teaches at Buerkle Middle School.
Yes, we are on a very limited budget. In fact, our annual budget has gone down since Brenda Bollinger was the coach in the 1990s.
Another change since I was named head coach in 2002 is that the district no longer pays for nationals, which with room and board and airfare can run into thousands of dollars — more than my annual budget, but such a small fraction of the district’s budget.
The district stopped paying for nationals under Superintendent Terry Noble. Our first student to qualify for nationals was under Coach Bollinger, and Superintendents John Cary and Tim Ricker approved funding for our national qualifiers. We did not qualify anyone under interim Superintendent Jerry Chambers.
The St. Louis Public Schools, or SLPS, do have debate teams at most of the high schools, but they only do one style of debate: Policy Debate, which is the original style used in high schools, dating back to the 1920s.
I helped start the Urban Debate League in SLPS in the late 1990s when I taught at Cleveland NJROTC. It disappeared for a while in the early 2000s, but has been resurrected in the past few years under the leadership of Shawn Briscoe and it has qualified teams to nationals in Policy Debate a few times.
Editor’s note: Ed Taylor has been teaching and coaching at Oakville High School since 2001.