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Daily announcements go live as students learn the broadcasting business

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Students at St. Joseph School in Herndon didn’t hear the morning announcements through the PA system, but instead watched their peers present them on smartboards Dec. 8, 2016. 

Announcements are now student-run operation with more than 35 students participating. 

“We’re happy to be able to provide such a positive, real-world experience.” Sara Beltran, director of technology and student activities

Every weekday morning, a different crew of students runs SJS News. Each crew has six to eight students. They gather in the library, transformed into a studio. Students are responsible for specific aspects of the program: they set up lights, check microphones, prepare visual backgrounds for the green screen and rehearse the script.

“Students break down (the equipment) and put it away,” said Sara Beltran, director of technology and student activities.

The prototype for SJS News began last year as a taped program shown every Friday that originated from elective class called Intro to News. 

“We talked about how to be good presenters, looking into the camera, speaking slowly, and how to write a good story,” said Christy Slifkey, moderator and computer teacher.

When new equipment was purchased for the school’s technology and STREAM program in 2016, Stifkey decided her crew from last year could stream the morning announcements live. 

“I hand-picked them based on their focus and charisma and ability to get things done,” she said. 

Moving from a recorded format to a live show was a tricky transition. Facility superintendent Danny Rucker said, “We had to do some testing.” The main concern was streaming the program from the studio to classrooms through the school’s Wi-Fi. Since increasing the speed of the school’s internet, the quality of the program has improved greatly.


The students have learned the technical aspect of the show. 

“They’re quick learners,” said Rucker.

“Everyone likes the new addition,” said Slifkey.

Eighth-grader Colin Rottmann is anchor from the original crew that now runs Friday mornings. Seventh-graders have joined their crew, and they train on the different roles. Though hiccups and other mistakes creep onto the set, such as microphones not working or reading from the previous day’s script, the students value the opportunity to improve their skills. When student anchors are seen in the halls, younger students cheer for them. Rottmann said they’ll shout his lunch-menu tagline, “Yummy, yummy,” to him.

Heather Brown, school librarian, said, “When students come into the library they have an epiphany, ‘This is where the news comes from?’”

The live announcements retain much of the content from the PA system model, but Slifkey hopes to expand beyond prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We’re looking forward to incorporating more students,” she said. One plan is to include students studying the environment to talk give the weather forecast.

“We’re happy to be able to provide such a positive, real-world experience,” said Beltran. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017