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Courtesy Roanoke City School District
"The people they are becoming is really the important thing to me," said Westside Elementary debate coach Jeff May of his team, which earned a national honor for Roanoke schools.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Roanoke City Public Schools recently earned national recognition for Westside Elementary School's debate team.
The school system was named last week as one of five districts of comparable size to be dubbed a first place winner in the American School Board Journal's 19th annual Magna Awards program.
System officials, who surprised Westside students and staff with the news Monday, said the district earned the award because of the school's debate team.
The debate program, which started three years ago, was, at its inception, the only elementary school team in the state. It quickly gained attention and a year ago traveled to Marshall, Texas, for an exhibition debate at Wiley College.
The school's administrators coordinated Monday's surprise. Students and staff simply thought the debate team was having an assembly to show off their skills to the rest of the school. They briefly practiced some of their debate arguments before a special guest took the stage.
School board Chairman David Carson told the crowded auditorium he and Superintendent Rita Bishop would be traveling to San Diego next week to accept an award for the school system because of the school's debate team.
The packed auditorium erupted with cheers and applause.
"It's a big deal, big deal," he said.
The Magna Awards honor three grand prize winners, 15 first place winners and 15 honorable mention winners.
Roanoke was one of five first-place winners with a population between 5,000 and 20,000 students. It was the only local system to earn the award, though several other Virginia systems were honored.
Albemarle County Public Schools was one of the three grand prize winners. Hanover County Public Schools and Arlington Public Schools both received honorable mentions among school systems with 5,000 to 20,000 students.
Jeff May , Westside's debate coach, said it's wonderful for the students and the school system to be recognized.
"We knew that we were being considered," he said. "We had no idea we'd take it home and win it."
May said the debate team has been important for students. It's held them to high expectations and helped them gain confidence,
"The people they are becoming is really the important thing to me," May said.
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