The Parkland School District is located in the semi-metropolitan region known as the Lehigh Valley.
The Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania is made up of Lehigh and Northampton counties and is home to the three cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton, as well as numerous townships and boroughs. With more than 500,000 residents, it is the third largest metropolitan region in the state of Pennsylvania. Out of 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Parkland High School ranks 19th in size with enrollment of approximately 3,200 in grades 9 - 12. Parkland High School was constructed in 1999 and sits on a beautiful 128-acre site. The building houses a green house, two theaters, visual arts studios, electronic music lab, and a full TV production studio.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
My name is John W. Greth Jr. and I have been a teacher at Parkland since 2004 and have been involved with the Television and Film Program from that time. My experience with television production started when I was in high school. I attended Bloomsburg University and earned my degrees in Mass Communication and Secondary Education. I chose to student teach at Parkland High School because of their reputation for supporting the Arts as well as their dedication to providing students with excellent opportunities. I was hired right out of college and I have been teaching English, Theater, and Television and Film Production ever since.
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
Our school district provides all the funding needed for our courses and for the television studio. Parkland Productions, our film club, fundraises for additional equipment that the students request.
Did you have equipment available?
We have completely renovated our studio and upgraded our equipment in the last 2 years. This upgrade was prompted by a very generous donation of over $50,000 from the Parkland Education Foundation. We consulted with AVT (Applied Video Technology), to guide our school studio upgrades. They were able to create a two year conversion plan to allow the continued use of our facilities while upgrading our studio and equipment. They were able to provide detailed and personal professional development and tutorial sessions for the students. Our school district provides funds for yearly upgrades for the facility and equipment. We also fundraise with popcorn sales and other student fundraisers to acquire equipment requested by the student film club.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
There are around 27 students who are actively involved in the daily broadcasts through PMN on Parkland TV. The classes offered at the high school involve Intro to Mass Communication, Video in the Digital Age, Production and Directing Film and Video, Morning News, and Midday News. In the multiyear program we offer we have nearly 100 active students. We also have the Parkland Productions Media Club that all students who are interested in any aspect of media production can join. This club creates independent film and video projects as well as entering student film and photography competitions.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
There are 5 courses available for television and film production. Introduction to Mass Communication is the first class our students take. This course focuses on the essential concepts on TV and video. This hybrid, hands-on theory course allows students to develop the interpersonal communication skills needed in today’s corporate world as well as to gain invaluable technical skills using their own devices and studio equipment. Our second course option is Video in the Digital Age. This program explores the creative development of video concepts and introduces students to basic production techniques as they relate to the development of video geared for the internet, streaming services and television distribution. Another option we provide is Producing and Directing Film and Video. We focus on cinematography to set lighting, lens choices, camera choices, and so many other cinematic concepts. Finally, we offer two opportunities for students to experience live television production, Morning and Midday News. It is designed for those motivated students who wish to pursue college level independent broadcasting study. It emphasizes the skills of reporting, camera work, scriptwriting, and editing under the time restrictions of a daily news program. Our courses includes about 80-100 students.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
There are about 15-20 kids who are a part of the morning news class. They are required to come to the studio before school starts to prepare for the live broadcast. We have a wide variety of shows airing daily that students produce. When important events occur in the high school, in other buildings and in the community, we cover it.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
Absolutely. Parkland TV is responsible for covering all of the school’s events, and making sure every aspect of Parkland is showcased to the students, staff, and community. We cover theatre productions, produce highlight videos for our sports teams, announce club news, and celebrate academic achievements through our platforms. One thing we love about our school is how well rounded the student body is, and we try to make sure that our news crew captures their talents.
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?
Every two weeks, we rotate who has what job for our daily broadcasts, in both the morning and the midday classes. One week, a student might be on air reading announcements; the next, directing the show. We want to be sure everyone has a chance to experience the many aspects of such a complicated, team-based job. We also have more permanent roles for students who are more involved, such as an executive director, managing editor, news director, etc. This system allows everyone to have a place in the production, while also making sure we run smoothly.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
Not at all. Everyone in the classes gets to be an anchor at some point. We have some really great on-air talent in Parkland TV, some who never expected to like being on camera so much. There are a lot of students who are nervous about being on TV, but with the rotation of jobs, we encourage everyone to try new things, even if it means that being in limelight is out of their comfort zone!
Do they write the content?
The students write the script for the news broadcast before every class. Whoever is on script for the week will compile all of the information we need to announce and write it up. We also feature shows that the students produce each week. They’re in charge of finding a story in the community, and telling it through their camera. These shows play on the morning and afternoon announcements, throughout the district, YouTube page, and on our school district TV channel on Service Electric Cable TV and RCN cable companies.
How long does the show run?
Our morning show has a run time of 6 – 10 minutes. Our afternoon announcements end around 4 minutes.
Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by your local Emmy chapter or SkillsUSA?
We are looking forward to finding an outlet to project our future broadcasts.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
Absolutely, all of the schools in the district are able to access our show. Our show is available through Service Electric & RCN. Follow us on twitter @parklandsdtv or subscribe to our Youtube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7PBoxHyuZp1EC2qzgLK71Q
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
You can find us on YouTube at “Parkland TV” and on Twitter @Parklandsdtv
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Newtek Tricaster 8000
Adobe Creative Suite
Final Cut Pro
Flip Q – Teleprompter System
Sony Nx Cam HxR – NX100
Ikan Light Kits
Have any quick start tips?
Regardless of the equipment a school or a student has, most phones have cameras that are clear enough to begin telling stories. Before our studio’s digital upgrade, that is how most of our students started. The students would identify a story they would want to tell. Then they would research and storyboard their ideas. The students would use their cameras with a TRRS adapter to connect an XLR Microphone to get quality audio. We decided, “If it doesn’t sound good, It will not look good”. Using an IMac with iMovie we created simple and professional looking stories to share with the school community. We are excited to use all of the professional quality equipment but the procedures and best common practices make the quality of our work stand out.