As a School-of-Choice, Fitzgerald has created a state-of-the-art Communication Arts Academy to provide a designated number of high school students training in video and audio technologies, web design, and the performing arts.

Each of the curriculum sequences includes the required high school curriculum and specialty classes in the chosen area. Classes at Fitzgerald Communication Arts Academy are taught in our specially designed studios using the latest equipment and technology to support the hands on curriculum. Students in the program can become eligible for certification and internships as well as credit and scholarships in post high school institutions.

We had a chance to talk with Brooke Keller.

SVN:  Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?

BK:  I am a graduate from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education, a major in English and minors in Middle Level Education and Speech and Dramatic Arts. I also have a Masters in Educational Leadership from Wayne State University.
I began teaching English and Speech at Fitzgerald High School in 2003. My mentor teacher was the TV Production teacher. When he was promoted to Assistant Principal he suggested I take over the course. Eager to learn, I bought an Avid Editing Suite for my house, and stayed up late at night learning how to edit. I also attended a few courses at Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts and Avid and Adobe After Effects training at Media Power.

SVN:  How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?

BK:  When I first took over the course the school was going through a bond issue and their top priority was expanding the Communication Arts Academy. As part of the bond I put together a proposal for 15 Avid Xpress Pro editing stations, 6 Sony PDX10 cameras, a Ross Synergy Switcher and a few more odds and ends. The bond passed and a completely new studio was created! We are still enjoying the benefits today. There was some debate over whether to use Mac (Final Cut Pro) or PC (Avid). The ultimate decision was made by the school board, opting for PC’s because our entire district runs PC’s and they felt we wouldn’t have any tech support for Mac.

SVN:  How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes?  How is it broken down?  Is it a multi-year program?

BK: Our maximum capacity for students contractually is 33 per course hour. I teach one hour of Advanced TV Production, which lasts the entire year (3 trimesters) and includes Consortium Students students from surrounding high schools who wish to take the classes that are not offered at their own high school. I also teach three sections of Intro to TV Production which lasts for two trimesters each. (Our calendar is broken into 3 semesters). I also teach three sections of Broadcast Speech which only lasts one trimester.

Students are encouraged to follow the following course path:
Freshman Year – Computer Skills course or Computer Repair
Sophomore Year – Introduction to TV Production
Junior Year – Advanced TV Production
Senior Year – Broadcast Speech and Independent Study

SVN:  Can you tell us a little more about the sessions:  How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?

BK:  Intro to TV Production (73 minutes/5 days a week/33 students) – The projects include: Camera Angle Scavenger Hunt, Action Sequence, Scary Movie Trailer, Production Logos, Music Video, Stop Motion Animation, How-To Video, and Musical Slideshow

Advanced TV Production (73 minutes/5 days a week/33 students/ full year) – The projects include: Video Challenges (Sound Effect Challenge, Inanimate Object Dialogue, Superhero Interview, 360 shot, Rack Focus, Disappearing Student, etc). Each student also teaches the class a 15 minute lesson, or shares a shortcut or tip that they have learned on their own from using the software.

Broadcast Speech (73 minutes/5 days a week/33 student max – I have 22 this trimester)
The projects include: Broadcast of the daily announcements, News Report Speech, Editorial Speech, Sports News Segment, Radio Broadcast, Self Analysis Essay

SVN:  How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?  Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?

BK:  We rotate jobs between 5 groups. Group 1 will do the broadcast every Monday, group 2 every Tuesday, etc. We film the day before we air the Daily Announcements.
Special Events are covered by the Advanced TV students. Groups of 2-3 students per Special Event. They interview the person in charge of the event, film the event, and create a 10 minute documentary of the event to submit. We air this on our local cable channel.
At this time we do not do a weekly broadcast but we are interested in doing so.

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?

BK:  We have a real cable channel that broadcasts a 2-square-mile radius. The students in the Advanced TV Production class are ‘hired’ for jobs. Jobs include: Station Manager, Engineer, Operations Manager, Business Manager, Art Team, Production Team, Promotions Team, Special Events.
For the daily announcements jobs include: Teleprompter Operator, Camera Crew, Talent, Switcher Operator, Director, Studio Director, Lighting and Set. Students rotate through these positions.


SVN:  Do students audition for on-air positions?

BK: No.

SVN:  Do they write the content? 

BK:  No. Teachers and coaches email me information for daily announcements and on my prep hour I condense it into a script. There were too many errors with students doing this themselves.

SVN:  How long does the show run? 

BK:  Our daily announcements are usually 5 minutes long.

SVN:  Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?

BK: Not currently.

SVN:  Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide?  Local cable access?  On your school/district web-site?

BK:  Not our daily announcements, but we do run an informational cable channel with district information, pictures and some video.

SVN:  Can you share your equipment list with our readers?

BK: 6 Sony PDX10
2 Panasonic DV30
8 Velbon Tripods
1 Ross Synergy Switcher
3 Sony Studio Cameras
1 Green Screen wall
15 Avid Editing Suites
6 Shure Microphones
1 Lowel 3 Point Lighting Kit
3 Sony DSR11 Capture Decks
1 Mackie Audio Board
1 Teleprompter
SVN:  Have any quick start tips!
BK:  Search online, there are a lot of helpful sites out there.
Learn with your kids, it’s ok to rely on them for help. Many students are very technologically inclined!
Try new things! Get ideas from TV/Movies you watch.