Jan 252012

Photo by Naomi Hatch —

Students in the Snowflake High School broadcasting class set up for the morning announcements. Anchors Shayla Peterson (left) and Kylie Muder (right) get ready to go on air with Megan Helmick at the camera and Morgan Helmick adjusting the lights.

By Naomi Hatch —

Snowflake High School students with dreams of television news careers have the opportunity to try those dreams on for size, thanks to the efforts of Denice Westover.

Westover was the program teacher spotlighted in a presentation made earlier this month by Northern Ari-zona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) Superintendent Matt Weber to the Snowflake School Dis-trict Governing Board.

“She is a forerunner in designing dual enrollment programs with EAC (Eastern Arizona College),” said Weber. “Mrs. Westover has always been willing to help her students in the workforce.”

Weber displayed photos of her students on a 2011 trip to Burbank, Calif.

In an interview, Westover noted that several years ago she heard about the Stardust Foundation, which would provide equipment to start a journalism program through Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

“My lab was pretty dilapidated, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try,” said Westover. She wrote an essay on how she would use the equipment and what the goals were for SHS. Westover and administrators were inter-viewed and had to sign an agreement that the journalism class would be totally student operated.

She received a $50,000 grant that purchased IMAC computers, printers, scanners, cameras and micro-phones.

“Since then the program lost funding due to the economy,” she said, “but we were able to keep the equip-ment.”

Westover was one of 32 teachers nationwide chosen to receive a grant from Reynolds to attend training at ASU with all expenses paid. “It was pretty intense, day and night. They worked us hard,” she recalled.

The journalism and digital media classes were merged, and “we focus on technology issues, the how to’s of getting the job done,” said Westover.

Freshmen learn the history of the profession and about the golden age of communication. They receive an introduction to Apple computers. Sophomores have classes in editing, motion graphics and some animation. “They are building skills,” Westover explained.

Juniors and seniors participate in the NAVIT program and earn credits from EAC. They take classes in media, and web authoring and development the first semester, and the second semester they concentrate on video editing.

In the first semester of their senior year, they focus on writing for the media, learn scripting and receive an introduction to studio production. In the second semester they focus on video production, learning how to use switch lighting, sound and daily broadcast.

Westover noted that NAVIT paid for the development of the studio remodeling of the whole building, as SHS already had the equipment.

The Broadcasting Program is still in need of donations of equipment, though. One of the greatest needs is camcorders that will take a microphone. All but two of the classes use the camcorders.

“There’s not a lot of opportunity to see this in the real world when it comes to film and production. You have to go to Burbank,” said Westover.

For the past five years students have raised money through videoing athletic events to pay for the senior trip to Burbank, where they visit studios such as the LA Film School, Universal Studios and NBC. “It gives students an opportunity to see what its like,” she said.

Senior students are very disappointed because, due to the cutbacks, they will not be able to make the trip this year. Instead, students will go every other year. The teachers have concerns that paying for 50 junior and senior students will be prohibitive as opposed to paying for the 17 seniors that would go this year. Teachers find that they lose many of their junior students in their senior year.

One student said that he is disappointed because he won’t have the same opportunity as others, and this is the career he wants to pursue.

Westover noted that one of the students who participated last year is now attending the LA Film School.

“Last year students took a lot of awards, some nationally,” said Westover.

Seniors from Westover’s and Info Tech instructor Wood’s classes make the daily announcements. They alternate between classes; one class works on a project while the other class sets up the studio. They decide on a director, anchor, light and sound technician, and what stories they will use. The students plan, write and pro-duce the same day, working under a deadline.

“If we can get the funds, the goal next year is to build a web server,” said Westover, noting that the inten-tion is that they will stream athletic events on their own website. They will look to local businesses to be sponsors.

Students explained that in Wood’s class they learn connecting networks so they can broadcast their show.

Broadcasting is not the only Career and Technical Education program offered through NAVIT. It also of-fers cosmetology, nursing assistant, welding, fire science, auto tech, industrial maintenance and educational professionals. They have had heavy equipment operator classes, but due to the lack of students and the econ-omy, that class will likely be dropped.

NAVIT pays 65 percent of maintenance and operations costs, and 40 percent of capital outlay to member districts to use toward individual CTE satellite programs, and provides dual enrollment with Northland Pioneer College and EAC, paying tuition for students attending those community colleges. In 2010, approximately $500,000 for soft capital was cut for two years and $1.5 million was cut due to the elimination of ninth grade enrollment in April 2011. Some of those cuts were passed on to the school districts, so two employees were eliminated through attrition. “We kept cuts as far away from students as we could,” said Weber.

“We do anticipate having one more program here in the fall,” said Weber. “I can’t say what it is because they’re working on it.”

He also noted that they would like to offer Industrial Maintenance Operations at SHS because the Catalyst paper mill is located nearby, but “they’re reluctant to replicate a program.”

“We appreciate the many hours Mrs. Westover and Mr. (Alan) Ramage, NAVIT director, put into this,” Weber concluded.

Photo by Naomi Hatch —

Gavin Couture tests the sound in preparation of the announcements that will be given by the Snowflake High School broadcasting class.