Debate wins back official status at OPRF

? Student-revived and coached team will have a sponsor and be able to compete in IHSA competitions next school year.

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An unofficial student-coached debate club at Oak Park and River Forest High School last week won in a year-long effort to return the activity to officially recognized status.

That status will allow the team to compete in more tournaments and practice and recruit within the school.

For years, the school had a debate team that competed nationwide, but eventually disbanded due to expense.

"I'm happy this is working out," said activities director Cindy Milojevich, making clear it was not a revival of the old days. "We certainly can't afford to fund them like it was in the past."

Last year, Brian Libgober and Dan Diamond re-formed the team and this year found success in coaching younger debaters. Libgober's mother, Diane Redleaf, served as the sponsor of the team, its publicist and advocate for official status.

"I think the WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's coverage of the team helped, and that the team did so well brought about the realization that it had to be a recognized activity," Redleaf said.

About 16 students competed this year and another dozen have expressed interest in joining the team next year, she said.

Redleaf hopes to step down as team sponsor, but said she would continue to help with fundraising. She estimated she spent $600 to $700 on the team this school year, and that through fundraising debate could be affordable for all students.

"Right now we can't assure that," Redleaf said. "It would be a shame if this were an activity that was confined to students whose families could afford it."

Milojevich said the search for a sponsor will begin within the school and, if unsuccessful, continue externally.

Other proposed activities were also given official status for next fall, but Milojevich would not name them Monday, saying she hadn't yet notified the groups.

Principal and Supt. Susan Bridge and other administrators make the final determination of which activities are supported and endorsed, but that decision is informed by a recommendation from an administrative committee that investigates each proposal. The process was established in the latest certified teachers' contract, which also established stipend amounts for activity sponsors.

Milojevich and the committee made some room in the activities budget by combining less-attended groups into logical groups. More combining may need to be done next fall, but Milojevich said groups have not been identified yet.
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