Schenectady County

Mohonasen middle school students turning announcements into broadcasts

“OK. There’s the bell guys, we’ve got to get rolling,” said Draper Middle School computer technician

“OK. There’s the bell guys, we’ve got to get rolling,” said Draper Middle School computer technician Lorene Gallo.

After the Pledge of Allegiance and a slick video intro, 11-year-old director Amanda Rice gave the signal to 12-year-old co-anchor Alyssa Foti that the Draper Middle School Daily Broadcast was on the air.

“Good morning. Today is a ‘B’ day,” she said.

The three anchors shared announcements about school activities and reminders and then threw to the sports anchors for updates on games and upcoming contests. A video package about girls’ modified softball and the new fitness club followed.

Then, it was time for the weather and little banter. Gallo directed one of the weathercasters to move to his left because he was standing outside the shot.

After about eight minutes, the show was over.

“Thank you for tuning into DMST. You may leave when your teacher dismisses you,” said an anchor.

“We’re out,” Rice said.

Then, the students began “striking the set,” putting away the small camera and makeshift teleprompter on a computer monitor and other props.

The students began broadcasting the announcements as a daily newscast in January 2010.

“I like it because it’s fun and I get to learn all the new technology stuff,” she said.

Rice also enjoys meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.

Gallo took on the challenge of producing the show.

“We had all the equipment here and nobody was really using it,” she said.

About 50 students are involved on a rotating basis in doing on-air reporting and anchoring, running the teleprompter, operating the camera and doing the weather, according to school officials.

For example, in addition to anchoring, Foti, a sixth-grader, also records songs on the piano that are used as background music. She said she is not too nervous in front of the camera. “The first few times, you get stage fright but after that, it gets better,” she said.

Gallo works on the project outside of school hours too. She shot the piece about girls’ modified softball team in her backyard the night before.

She is also in charge of scheduling the students. Working on the announcement broadcast motivates them to stay on their best behavior. Otherwise, she will take them off the schedule.

The children sometimes line up in the morning, seeking to get a job on the show. “They’re all very excited to be part of this,” Gallo said.

High school studies

Patrick McGrath, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the large group of students interested in participating will serve as a feeder program to the high school’s video production classes. This year, the school started two classes — video editing and live production — in a film, theater and television unit.

The high school has more professional grade equipment with actual teleprompters, two high-definition cameras, studio lighting and a dedicated set.

The weekly high school broadcast is more of a “60 Minutes”-style magazine piece with different segments. Live production teacher Malachi Martin said students go out into the field and do pieces about local community events and profiles on teachers and other items of interest.

It is not too hard to program the eight-minute show. “It fills up quickly, it really does. Sometimes we’ve had to push segments off a week,” he said. Seven students are in the class and are heavily involved producing and editing the segments, writing the script and running the cameras.

“The only thing I really do is direct the show,” Martin said, adding that students are starting to take over that task as well.

Garret Sisson, an anchor for the broadcast, said he has aspirations of going into sports journalism. His dream job would be a “SportsCenter” anchor on ESPN.

“I’ve always liked writing and I knew some people that were in that field,” he said.

Sisson said the hardest part is “the stress right before the show — making sure everybody is ready and you’re prepared mentally.”

Even Pinewood Intermediate School is getting involved, doing a smaller announcements show every Friday.

School officials have also been talking to people from Open Stage Media to rebroadcast some of these programs on Channel 17, the local educational channel.

McGrath said students take the classes as juniors and then as seniors have the opportunity to do internships. This is part of the district’s efforts to offer upperclassmen unique courses and also college-credit courses.

“We do have kids leave high school with almost an entire [college] year done,” he said.

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