Communications High School, a small, personalized academy with a career focus, located in Wall, NJ provides a theme-based integrated curriculum in conjunction with community and industry partnerships. Monmouth County students interested in the field of communications acquire knowledge, skills and ethics in a unique and challenging educational environment.
CHS first opened its doors in September, 2000. They are one of five career academies within the Monmouth County Vocation School District. Approximately 320 students attend CHS.
Freshman courses include Technology Studies, (mandatory classes include TV and radio, communications technology as well as digital video editing, graphic arts, desktop publishing and web design), Biology, English, Mathematics, World Cultures, Fitness and World Language.
We had an opportunity to speak with Jennifer Cornine, Instructor in the Digital Video, Radio and TV department.
SVN: Jennifer, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
JC: I began my career in broadcast television in high school. I attended a program that allowed me to host and produce a state-wide magazine style show. The experience I gained in that venue allowed me to work in television production right after graduation. I produced local programming for a few years and then was offered a position managing a government/ educational access station. Shortly thereafter I was approached to take over a television production courseload at the local high school. I really enjoyed teaching and sharing my real world experience with the students.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
JC: CHS is very fortunate to be a career academy in the Monmouth County Vocational School District with a theme of communications; therefore television, radio and digital video production are an integral part of the school.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
JC: When the school was opened nine years ago, a production facility was included in the plans.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
JC: The Television/ Radio Production portion of the curicullum is divided into three sections. All freshmen must take the introductory course to give them a taste of studio production. In the junior year they may choose to take the morning news course. We produce school based news live to tape on a daily basis. In the senior year the students can continue on to the capstone course, Advanced Studio Production. We produce a monthly News Magazine out in the community. We are fortunate to have a vehicle at our disposal to shoot on location.
The Digital Video course is similar. Freshmen are required to take the intro course to learn the basics of single camera film style production. As juniors they may elect to take the intermediate level course and in the senior year they can take the advanced level course. The focus is on commercials, music videos, short sequences, documentaries and adaptations. They end their experience by producing a short film.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
JC: We have block scheduling at CHS which I believe is so important to production courses. A typical advanced level class will have 12-17 students.
Additionally, we have a thriving student run radio program, WCHS Overflow Radio. In its 9 years of existence, WHCS Overflow Radio has interviewed major label bands such as Eve 6, Anberlin and The Starting Line, as well as other well known bands, like Motion City Soundtrack, Underoath and We The Kings. WCHS Overflow Radio has also interviewed athletes from Monmouth University and the NJ Devils.
While conducting interviews and completing shows are the major focus of the station, learning is what we strive for the most, focusing on teaching and allowing students to learn through doing.
Over 9 years, the station has grown from a small high school radio station to a legitimate online radio station, featured on AbsolutePunk.net and on the MySpace profiles of the bands we’ve interviewed. As years go on, we hope to see WCHS Overflow Radio grow even larger and become even more successful.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
JC: Currently I have 9 students in my morning news class which is quite a challenge for a multicamera production with on location cutaways. Next semester I will have 17. We do cover special events within the school.
SVN: What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
JC: The students run the entire production. They rotate at least once through each job and typically settle into a core area of interest. They also each are assigned to produce packages for content.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
JC: We do not audition for talent. Students who have an interest in on camera positions tend to migrate to that area.
SVN: Do they write the content?
JC: All of the content is student written. In the sophmore year all students are require to take a semester course in journalism where they really hone their broadcast news writing skills.
SVN: How long does the show run?
JC: The morning show is supposed to fit into a four minute time slot, however we do tend to run over from time to time. The news magazine show is a full half hour production.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
JC: We try to submit to as many competitions as we can.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
JC: We currently do not run on local cable. Our students come from many sending districts which unfortunately means dealing with a multitude of cable companies. We are accessible on the district sponsored websites.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
JC: We have Sony HDV cameras and professional editing software. The students are encouraged to use a lav whenever possible and monopods/ tripods are a must. While professional grade equipment is desirable and definitely a bonus, I truly believe that students need to learn to tell a story with basic equipment. All of the bells and whistles out there cannot take the place of good storytelling.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
JC: Jump in and get your hands dirty! Let the students run the show and do your best to be a responsible facilitator. Remember the motto; by teens, for teens and about teens. Then your programming will always be relevant.