Morning announcements made over the intercom are now a thing of the past at the junior and senior high school. Students now watch the daily announcements read live by their fellow students in a broadcast filmed in the high school’s own television studio.
The student anchors say the experience has been educational and enjoyable. Senior Biko Skalla, who reads the announcements, says he’s had to learn to “talk to the camera like it’s the school.” Co-anchor Dan George says he doesn’t get nervous, since the teleprompter is in front of him, and he’s received positive feedback from his peers.
Scott Wickham, who teaches the computer video production class that produces the broadcast, says it has been received very well throughout the school. Homeroom teachers say this was the first time students paid attention to the announcements.
The teachers involved tell a slightly different story. Wickham jokes that it has added stress to his morning, and that soon he’ll have to install a coffee pot in the studio. There was a morning, for instance, when there was no audio for the first few minutes of the broadcast. The teleprompter, too, has its own quirks, allowing each anchor to see only part of the screen. Business teacher Jackie Hayes says any time a single switch is moved, there is the risk that something can go wrong. Nevertheless, she says the students have handled it all with complete professionalism.
The move to a daily morning broadcast was a long time coming. The hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment that fills the studio was acquired gradually. Much of it came from NBC, who gave away much of their analog equipment when they made the move to digital. The rest of it was purchased with money the students have raised over the years. Students have filmed events in various schools, including Mustang Bowl at Morse Elementary and graduation ceremonies, and sold copies for a nominal fee. Half of that money went toward purchasing equipment and the other half was put aside for scholarships for those students involved. Last year, according to Wickham, over $2,000 was given to graduating seniors.
In addition to the money, the experience of working live in front of a camera helps prepare these students for their futures. Anchor Skalla hopes to attend Syracuse University for broadcast journalism, and says this is a “fantastic opportunity” for him to get experience. Stage director Curtis Jorgensen, too, plans to major in broadcast journalism, and is hopeful that his time working on the program will help.
Wickham says the group of students involved is great, and that when he called them in early on a Saturday morning for a dry run of the broadcast, not a single one complained. He calls this “one of the most gratifying experiences” of his 22 years of teaching.
The future of the studio can only grow, and Wickham has many plans for years to come. He hopes to develop an internship at Lighthouse TV, the town’s cable access channel, and provide a feed to it directly from the studio. Hayes says in coming years teachers will be able to film Regents reviews, for instance, and have them broadcast directly into students’ homes.