Schools of Excellence

In 2010, the GFCA switched qualification formulas for the Varsity State Championship from students' performance at one tournament (region) to their performance during the regular season.  As a result of this change, schools were allowed to qualify more than four students to the Varsity State Tournament.  Created by Claude Robinson, longtime GFCA supporter and owner of Robinson Rewards, the Schools of Excellence awards were designed to recognize team excellence by school size for overall qualifiers to the State Championship.  We began in 2010 with five different classifications.  In 2017, we added a sixth classification to reflect the growth in our community.

Past Recipients

Helen McClellan School of Excellence 

This award is named for 2004 GFCA Hall of Fame inductee Helen McClellan and is given to schools with less than 600 students. 

Helen McClellan taught at Bremen High School for 21 years and was debate coach for 16 years, winning region every year, finishing second in the state twice, and reaching the semifinals in the state eight other times.  She also was literary director until her retirement, with Bremen winning four state literary titles.  Bremen, during her tenure, became the smallest public high school in Georgia awarded a chair on the Barkley Forum at Emory University.   Ms. McClellan was a model coach for a small program.

  • 2010-2011: Lincoln County (Coach: Lee Robinson)

  • 2011-2012: Pace Academy (Coach: Shunta Jordan)

  • 2012-2013: Pace Academy (Coach: Shunta Jordan)

  • 2013-2014: Pace Academy (Coach: Shunta Jordan)

  • 2014-2015: Pace Academy (Coach: Shunta Jordan)

  • 2015-2016: Rockdale Magnet (Coach: Cherie Ullo)

  • 2016-2017: Rockdale Magnet (Coach: Cherie Ullo)

  • 2017-2018: Rockdale Magnet (Coach: Cherie Ullo)

  • 2018-2019: Westminster Prep (Coach: Paul Owen)

Sandra Silvers School of Excellence

This award is named for the 1994 GFCA Hall of Fame inductee Sandra Silvers and is given to schools with 601 - 1200 students.

Sandra Worthington Silvers taught and coached at Calhoun High School for 42 years. Her teams won ten State Championships, placed second at state an additional twelve times, and won the Barkley Forum for High Schools on three separate occasions.  In 1983, she was selected as the first ever Georgia Debate Coach of the Year.  She is credited with bringing national recognition to our state and the activity of debate. Serving as the only chairperson for the Georgia NSDA District, Mrs. Silvers provided leadership that expanded debate from a small group of schools to one of the strongest debate states in the nation.

  • 2010-2011: Lovett School (Coach: Ann Louise Swartz)

  • 2011-2012: Marist School (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2012-2013: Carrollton (Coach: Richard Bracknell)

  • 2013-2014: Marist School (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2014-2015: Marist School (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2015-2016: Marist School (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2016-2017: Marist School (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2017-2018: Woodward Academy (Coach: Maggie Berthiaume)

  • 2018-2019: Westminster Academy (Coach: Jordana Sternberg)

Ted Wolf School of Excellence

This award is named for the 1995 GFCA Hall of Fame inductee Ted Wolf and is given to schools with 1201 - 1600 students.

Dr. Ted Wolf served as the Director of Debate at North Springs High School from 1969 until 1977. He was coach of one of the most successful debate programs in Georgia. His teams won five All State Championships and five State Championships. North Springs either placed first or second at State every year that Dr. Wolfe served as Director of the program. His work and dedication established one of the strongest debate tournaments in Georgia in a time when Georgia debate teams could not travel to out-of-state tournaments. Without his leadership, debate would not have grown as rapidly as it did in Georgia. 

  • 2010-2011: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2011-2012: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2012-2013: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2013-2014: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2014-2015: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2015-2016: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2016-2017: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2017-2018: Henry W. Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

  • 2018-2019: Henry W.Grady (Coach: Mario Herrera)

Philip Wertz School of Excellence

This award is named after 1999 GFCA Hall of Fame inductee Philip Wertz and is given to schools with 1601 - 1900 students.

Mr. Philip Wertz has taught at Gilmer County High School, Moutrie High School, Brookwood School, and Thomas County Central, and he has coached numerous students to region and state championships in extemporaneous speaking and dramatic interpretation. He has seventeen region championships in debate as well as five state championships, three of which were in the GISA.  He has qualified a number of students to attend both the NSDA Nationals and the CFL Nationals, and he has been honored as Coach of the Year, STAR Teacher, and as a Jaycees Outstanding Young Educator. He has served as moderator of the Georgia Diocese of the Catholic Forensic League, an officer of the Georgia Forensic Coaches Association, and as member of Georgia Southern Peach District committee. His dedication and his hard work mark Philip's commitment to the forensic community. Philip is an exemplary model for anyone to follow. 

  • 2010-2011: Fayette County (Coach: Jeffrey Miller)

  • 2011-2012: Starr's Mill (Coach: Sean Hickey)

  • 2012-2013: Alpharetta (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2013-2014: Starr’s Mill (Coach: Sean Hickey)

  • 2014-2015: Valdosta (Coach: Pam Childress)

  • 2015-2016: Sequoyah (Coach: Matt Bartula)

  • 2016-2017: Sequoyah (Coach: Matt Bartula)

  • 2017-2018: Dunwoody (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2018-2019: Carrollton (Coach: Richard Bracknell)

Martha Dye School of Excellence

This award is named for 1995 GFCA Hall of Fame Inductee Martha Dye and is given to schools with 1901 - 2200 students.

Mrs. Martha Dye was a debate coach for 24 years, completing the last 18 years at Lee County High School.  She coached seven State Championship teams and won the region championship the last sixteen years she was at Lee County.   She was selected as the 1984 GFCA Debate Coach of the Year.  Martha never allowed the stigma of rural Georgia to interfere with her goal of providing her students the best educational opportunities. 

  • 2016-2017: Valdosta (Coach: Pam Childress)

  • 2017-2018: (Tie) Alpharetta (Coach: Adam Smiley) and Valdosta (Coach: Pam Childress)

  • 2018-2019: Dunwoody (Coach: David Gay)

Leslie Watkins School of Excellence

This award is named for the 2001 GFCA Hall of Fame Inductee Leslie Watkins and is given to schools with more than 2201 students.

Mrs. Watkins coached and taught at Brookwood High School and Peachtree High School. In addition to six state champion and six runner-up titles, her teams have won the Richard B. Russell Allstate Debates twice and debated in many outrounds at national tournaments. She has qualified twenty-nine students for NSDA Nationals. She was a long time GFCA officer and was on the Georgia Northern Mountain District Committee, previously serving as district chair. She was selected as the 1993 Georgia Debate Coach of the Year.

  • 2010-2011: Alpharetta (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2011-2012: Alpharetta (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2012-2013: Central Gwinnett (Coach: Deanne Bartow-Varitek)

  • 2013-2014: Alpharetta (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2014-2015: Alpharetta (Coach: David Gay)

  • 2015-2016: Alpharetta (Coach: Adam Smiley)

  • 2016-2017: Archer (Coach: Rob Knurek)

  • 2017-2018: Cherokee (Coach: Jamie Wills)

  • 2018-2019: Cherokee (Coach: Jamie Wills)