TV partnership segues into leg up for students
Public access station provides new studio
NORWOOD - At 7:43 a.m. at Norwood High School, television production instructor Ann Kraus called out the warning.
“Two minutes to go time,’’ she said. “Everybody ready? Don’t forget to talk to your camera people.’’
Around the bustling brown and royal blue studio, sophomores, juniors, and seniors were stationed behind professional television equipment. Three controlled the cameras, two sat behind the anchor desk, a half-dozen or so more joined Kraus and Norwood Public Access TV station manager Jack Tolman in the control room.
Two minutes later, the Norwood High School “Morning Update’’ began - right on time.
Norwood Public Access TV, or NPA-TV, moved into the new high school in September. But it was more than just new office space for the 10-person crew. The move also was a chance for the partnership between the public cable TV station and high school to develop and grow.
“Before, there was us and then there was the high school space. But it really didn’t make sense for us to have two studios in town,’’ Tolman said. “What really made sense was to build and create a partnership.’’
Before NPA-TV, the public access station was run by a local cable provider. But in 2003, Comcast renegotiated a license with the town and stopped providing the service. Instead, the company agreed to fund a new public access television center formed by the town’s Board of Selectmen.
Since then, Norwood Light Broadband and Verizon have also agreed to the same licensing terms, and the fees provided by the three companies fund NPA-TV’s entire $450,000 annual operating budget.
When the new high school was being built, Tolman and NPA-TV’s volunteer-run board approached the school with a proposal: The station would fund all of the equipment needed for a new studio in exchange for office space.
The Norwood School Committee and Board of Selectmen approved the idea. So now, 40 high school students and, most recently, middle school students are trained to produce television clips on $520,000 worth of state-of-the-art equipment.
“The quality of equipment we are training these students on means they are going into college and jobs a few years ahead of their peers,’’ Tolman said.
Leah Murphy, 17, spent time in the television program during all four years of high school. This year, she decided that television production is where she belongs.
It was her experience here, she says, that will help push her ahead of her class from the start.
“This kind of program prepares us for our next step,’’ Murphy said. “It’s hands on, it’s interactive, it’s fast-paced, and it’s sometimes intense. That will really give us a leg-up on wherever we go next.’’
Sometimes, that “next’’ is off to college and then right back to NPA-TV: Meghan Staffiere Corbett graduated in 2003, then headed to Framingham State University for a degree in communications, before returning to NPA-TV after graduation. She is the station’s public access coordinator and runs the newly formed youth video program for middle school students.
“I went through this program in 2003 and then college and I’m jealous of these kids,’’ Staffiere Corbett said. “They are better equipped than most colleges.’’
During a time when many extracurricular activities are being cut from high schools, Kraus said, the television program at Norwood is flourishing. So many students want to take her classes, she said, she has to turn away dozens just to keep class sizes manageable.
“These students are energetic. Very energetic,’’ Kraus said. “I tend to allow more free spirits and free thinking because it’s a creative class.’’
On a recent day, 11 seniors in Kraus’s Level Four class sat at Apple computers while she explained how to use the school’s new video editing software. This year, the students will produce a senior video, a television news style program called “Mustang Magazine,’’ inspired by the school’s mascot, and a lip dub - a music video combining lip synchronization and audio dubbing.
The staff at NPA-TV is still adjusting to the bigger space. Most of the boxes have been unpacked, and three plaques from a 2009 Alliance for Community Media-Northeast competition hung in an otherwise empty hall.
The awards are a reminder to everyone that NPA-TV is producing top-notch work, Tolman said. And in a few weeks, 15 more will be added around the office.
This year, NPA-TV took home eight awards, one more than last year. It has been winning the awards since 2009, the first year the station sent entries.
The winning entries range from a piece called “NPA-TV Presents: On the Ballot,’’ which took first place, to the Youth Video Club’s live coverage of a Little League game, which won third place.
“The youth video award was great because the students used the mobile broadcast truck to go live,’’ Tolman said. “It just shows the strength of this program.’’
In the coming months, NPA-TV staff will expand its program to town residents. Anyone who lives in Norwood can currently come in and be trained to produce a show, but Tolman said he wants to take it further and hold workshops and evening classes.Classes will include individual training and group sessions on basic camera skills and video production.
In the meantime, Tolman and Kraus are busy working with students and preparing for a year packed with productions.
The 7:45 morning announcements were over as quickly as they began. A recap would play at 6:30 p.m., but until then Kraus had students waiting next door.
She took a sip of coffee and headed to the classroom. “I have the best students in the whole world,’’ she said with a smile.
Natalie Feulner can be reached at email@example.com.