0
Votes

Morning Announcements: More Than A Voice

Crestwood sixth-graders Ashley Pique and Jenny Morrash reviewed their script and got their hair ready. Sixth-grade teacher Betty Nicholson worked the camera as each classroom tuned in for the morning announcements.

"Good morning, Crestwood. Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance," said Ashley.

Mursal Akram, grade five, was brought in as a special guest to give the brain teaser in honor of April being the math month, and Amber Thichangthong, grade six, was making another special announcement concerning the school's credit union.

SCHOOL MORNING announcements have entered the age of technology. Schools across the county have television equipment that is utilized in a similar manner. While some are just a camcorder and VCR, others are full-blown labs. Crestwood assistant principal Lauren Sheehy noted the steps they've made.

"The days of the announcements have come and gone. With technology and all, we should be doing it this way. Students take ownership and responsibilities in the building," she said.

Crestwood principal Pat Zissios noted the educational advantage.

"The children behind the camera are very poised. It helps them develop their public-speaking skills," she said.

Ashley agreed. She's the student council vice president, and Jenny is the president.

"We've done this a lot. We're not nervous anymore," she said.

Whether it’s used for morning announcements, special projects or a separate curriculum, the technology is another facet of education. The recent renovation at Providence Elementary School in Fairfax included a television lab, although it is a city school manned by county employees.

Terence Woolsey, Fairfax County Public Schools coordinator for multimedia center, talked about the educational value in the area of writing, organizing, responsibility and deadlines.

"I think it has a lot of value. It engenders a community spirit. It allows them to exercise creativity," he said.

Fairfax Station resident Maureen Glassmacher's daughter Kaitlyn was the news anchor at Mantua Elementary School last year. Glassmacher’s children went to Mantua in Annandale for their special classes for deaf students. She noticed the influence it had.

"I was so surprised she did it. This gave her a lot of confidence," she said, and she went in one day to see the morning show.

"Having seen it, I think it's great. It does have some value," she said.

Her son Brian is in fifth grade this year but hopes to do the show with a sign language interpreter next year.

"They have to apply for it. He wants to," she said.

The facilities at Mantua were funded as a part of a settlement with Texaco from a mishap that occurred in the past, according to Woolsey.

"They provided extra money. It really made Mantua one of the top elementary schools," he said.

The situation with Texaco first occcurred in 1991 and the settlement was finalized in 1993-1994 according to Supervisor Gerry Connolly (D-Providence).

"It was a long-term underground spillage, a combination of tanks and trucks spilling over a period of 20 years or more. They [Texaco] were in clear violation of current standards," he said. This stemmed from a Texaco station on Little River Turnpike.

The Environmental Protection Agency has since completely cleaned up the area, according to Connolly, but payments were made to Mantua Elementary school as well as some surrounding homes.

"Amount to the school was hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

WHILE SOME see it as a positive addition, others question the need. Diane Smith has a daughter at West Springfield High School and two daughters in the fifth grade at Old Keene Mill Elementary. She's been at several budget meetings for the whole school system and sees the television labs as a luxury.

"It's wonderful to be offering these things, but not necessary. Community college doesn't need to be in the schools. Somebody's got to pay for all this stuff," she said.

Erin Lynch has a seventh-grader at Hayfield Secondary and has a stronger opinion of the extras.

"I think it's ridiculous we spend money on that," she said.

According to Fairfax County Public Schools information specialist Mary Shaw, the individual schools allocate the money in their budget.

"Budgets for the TV labs are included in the individual school budgets," she said, pointing out that a basic setup is only around $800, but they can go much more. Woolsey looked at the freedom individual schools have, as well.

"Some of the principals have invested in them. This is something supplementary to the regular curriculum," Woolsey said.

THE ACADEMIES in the county — at Chantilly, Edison, Fairfax, Marshall and West Potomac high schools — have more specialized television-production facilities for high-school classes. Though they have the facilities, the morning announcements are not part of their uses.

Phil Harris is the television-production instructor at Fairfax High School Academy. Providing students with job experience is what he is focusing on.

"They're going to want experience. All the equipment we have is the real McCoy," he said.

One of his former students, Brian Franco, went straight into a position directing the morning news at USA Today.

"He's 19 years old," Harris said.

Fairfax Academy attracts students from all over the county. They have done a number of television specials for Fairfax County as well as Arena Stage in Washington, the National Institutes of Health and TRW. These were paid jobs.

"That brings money back into the program," he said.