Westchester’s public schools are no slouches, either, when it comes to producing polished public speakers. Leading the charge is the debate team at Scarsdale High School, the overall County leader in total debate points scored this season, according to the National Forensic League. “We’re the most active chapter north of New York City,” says Coach Joe Vaughan, the physics teacher who’s supervised the team for nearly 13 years. In the past five years, the school has produced more than a dozen state champions across a variety of categories.
On any given weekend, you’ll almost definitely find a few of SHS’s 85 debaters facing off against other smooth-talking area kids. (At the time of this interview, team members were preparing to debate the Supreme Court decision that allowed for super PACs to form.) Vaughan attributes the team’s amazing record to this incredible level of commitment. “We meet three times weekly, and I’m at an event pretty much every weekend, too,” he says. Last year the National Forensic League bestowed on him one of its coveted Diamond Awards, given to instructors who’ve demonstrated exceptional dedication and distinction in the activity.
The team has racked up plenty of recent victories, too. Last year saw the triumph of Geoffrey Kristof, who achieved top ranking in Lincoln-Douglas debating (a one-on-one, timed form of debate). Several more team members ranked in the top 100 nationwide. “We’re the most winning of any academic or athletic team in the school, and students know it,” says Vaughan. “And I think it helps. Nothing succeeds like success.”
Also Distinguished: Byram Hills High School in Armonk, Harrison High School, Hastings High School, Lakeland High School in Shrub Oak, Pleasantville High School, Pelham Memorial High School, and The Ursuline School in New Rochelle all find top spots on the National Forensic League Rankings.