Students take to the airwaves
Steve Renzi/Special to The Explorer, Coronado K-8 student Kami Sharpe works at the teleprompter, typing in lunch menus for the school's closed-circuit telecast. The KGUR network is broadcast each day during homeroom.

Fifth-grader Kayley Mohr was facing every television newscasters worst nightmare — the camera was set on close-up, it was a live broadcast, the whole school was watching and then suddenly the teleprompter went blank.

She was left facing a blank, dark screen.

What did she do?

Welcome to KUGR television, the closed-circuit television network at Coronado K-8 School, home of the Cougars. Each morning, two student television crews — an elementary crew and a middle school crew — prepare and perform a school announcement program under the guidance of Anne Booth, the computer and technology teacher.

The program is broadcast during homeroom period. This isn’t like the boring public address announcements of years’ past. This program contains video clips of students and student activities, music, a joke of the day, the weather and informative announcements and updates. And, wonder of wonders, as the students sit at their desks, they watch and pay attention.

During the live television broadcast when the teleprompter shut down, Kayley Mohr performed like a seasoned pro.

Right on cue, without a moment’s hesitation, completely from memory, she recited the school’s “Paw Pride Pledge.” “On my honor, I promise to … Do my best, treat others as I would like to be treated, be respectful, responsible, kind and cooperative and to take pride in my school and myself.”

The teleprompter came back on. Kayley had done her job so smoothly and so well that almost no one noticed. Only teleprompter operator, Mercedes Martinez and co-anchors Lydia Havens and Mercedes Martinez realized what just happened.

The elementary students finish their broadcast and in walks the veteran news team — the middle school students. They immediately get to work. Cathryn Weatherly, who wants to be a nurse practioner, sets up and operates the camera. Olivia Meehan — wants to own her own software company — updates the school’s Web site. The day’s on-air team includes Jeze Zankvich, choreographer; Jessica Sullivan, newscaster; and Katie Mclaughlin, sportscaster. Nick Tarquin, who aspires to be a police officer, sets up and operates the soundboard.

“These students are definitely learning 21st century skills,” teacher Anne Booth said.

“We started out using the in-school television network by primarily having the principal read the announcements,” Booth said. “In 2004, we decided to change and make it more of a student production.”

“ Now, the students’ interest is so high that they must fill out an application and have three recommendations from other teachers,” she said. “They also must have good grades and show good behavior. Finally, there is an audition process. More and more kids are hearing about it and wanting to do it.”

Nick Tarquin agrees; he is working on creating an Macintosh iMovie for a future broadcast. “I am editing some video that we shot during ‘Pirate Day’ and then adding some music and sound. After it’s done, I’ll burn it on a DVD. Last year, one of my best friends did this, so I thought it would be pretty cool.”

Jessica Sullivan adds, “ I want to be a newscaster. At Coronado, I am learning new technologies like the soundboard, teleprompter, the video camera and microphones. Doing this, also makes me more comfortable being on camera.”

The countdown to begin this morning’s program begins…”Five, four, three, two, one.”

“Good morning, Coronado Cougars … Today’s lunch — spaghetti with meat sauce … Friday is the last day to turn in P.E. schedule changes … air bands for charity … on this day in history Elvis Presley was born … today’s weather … a mountain bike club is forming … the joke of the day: ‘What’s green and brown and crawls through the grass? A Girl Scout who lost her cookie … Remember to be kind to each other … a brief on-camera message from Principal Nelson … finally, the Pledge of Allegiance.”

The program ends. It was executed and performed flawlessly. After it is over, the students stay in the classroom for the first period and work on editing, video production and preparing a PowerPoint presentation.

A brief survey reveals that several of the students have a cell phone, Ipod and a laptop computer.

However, not everything has changed in school.

One of the announcements being prepared for tomorrow’s program is about gum chewing. It reads: “Coronado is a gum-free campus. If you are caught chewing gum, you will get a lunch detention. Repeat offenders will have to scrape gum off the sidewalks.”

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