Morse Elementary’s television studio

Grace Titus, Emily Falk and David Henkel (Photo by Mookie Forcella)

Grace Titus, Emily Falk and David Henkel (Photo by Mookie Forcella)

Last month, the high school completed an in-house television studio. Now, Morse Elementary School has joined in. At this rate, Saugerties will be soon be a Mecca for young television talent.

Last Wednesday, students filmed the newest episode of Just Print It TV under the guidance and supervision of Special Ed teacher and JPI founder Joe Defino.


Defino, who went to school for television and radio production, is a self-professed videophile. Before he became a teacher, Defino worked as a TV producer for five years. “It’s continued to stay in my blood and it’s something I’ve been happy to share with the kids,” he said.

JPI TV grew out of Just Print It, the school’s “periodic newspaper,” which Defino began 22 years ago. JPI TV began modestly in February 2010, without the equipment and space usually required for television production. This year that changed, thanks to a state grant.

Glancing about the retrofitted art room, you see the neon of the green screen, contrasting the two cameras and microphones arranged before it, black and orange chords taped in snaking patterns across the floor, two large monitors, a mixer, and luminous soundboard, and behind each piece of equipment, a student.

It was amazing to see some 20 elementary school students behind the camera, all silent, focused, consumed in their own individual task, yet working simultaneously toward their common goal — the equipment is expensive, and this venture wouldn’t be possible if the kids didn’t rise to the occasion.

“They absolutely love it,” said Defino.

“It’s exciting and it’s kind of confusing,” said David Henkel, a sixth grader and camera operator. He wanted to get involved because his cousin studies photography. “That’s going to be my minor in college.” He plans on majoring in education.

“It’s like you’re in the ‘behind the scenes’ videos in a movie,” said Anthony Sauro, another sixth grader. “Sometimes it’s funny when you can see through people on the screen.”

This did indeed occur at a point later on during shooting, eliciting chuckles from several of the students. They laughed much harder, however, when, while tweaking some settings in preparation for a shot, Defino accidentally turned Just Print It editor-in-chief Grace Tytus’ face sharpie-black.

The programming is student-generated. Students propose a treatment, answering questions like: What is the objective? Why is it important? How would you prepare for the shows? Who would you interview? Why do you think you should be able to make this?

Once their proposal is accepted, students sit down and outline their show with Defino. “I give them kind of a skeleton outline and they work together to flesh it out and make it happen,” he said. Students then have production meetings, in which they complete and rehearse their segments before shooting. Defino takes home the footage to edit and upload. “I’m not going to embarrass them by putting up stuff that isn’t up to snuff,” he promises.

This week students were shooting the premier episode of Inside Just Print It, with host Emily Falk, who interviewed fellow students on topics like disaster relief and science fair projects. Also in production was the newest episode of JPI TV Sports with hosts Ty Gallagher, Alex Mooers and Riley Merritt. Wearing matching black blazers over their various sports shirts, the boys discussed a wide variety of sports.

Mooers said of the process, “It’s exciting! It gives you little bugs in your belly, but it’s kind of scary that you’re going to mess up.”

Asked how he prepares, Riley said, “I usually get a bunch of stats and sheets and watch SportsCenter the night before.”

A seasoned veteran of some 11 shows, Ty said of his experience in the program, “I’ve learned a lot. You get better every time you do it.”

Ty concluded the segment with a bit of promotion: “Remember to Google us, watch us, like us, and share us.”

We will too: Episodes can be found on