For weeks I’ve been watching the despair on my high school campus as our school board struggled with massive financial problems and we all feared equally massive layoffs. The worst case scenario in my district is nearly 400 teachers gone next year.
The board backed off a bit when the state finally came up with a budget…by reinstating more than 170 some-odd elementary positions by keeping class size reduction at the elementary level. Big sigh of relief all around.
But now the high school staffs wait their turn – and there are no reassurances of equal treatment. In fact what I’m hearing is additional programs are possibly on the block – journalism, yearbook. Possibly broadcasting. All electives, but all classes that encourage independent thinking and leadership.
I got my start in journalism in 1964 at Lodi High School. I’d caught the photography bug a few years earlier when I got my first camera and then took the equivalent of online or distant learning classes from the UC/University of California system. They’d mail me lessons, which I’d complete and return…they would grade and send me another lesson. Slow but very effective.
In high school I learned to come out of my shell, shoot well-composed photos, get names, understand writing and layouts. Alright – so I mostly wanted to be a photog, but I did learn a bit of everything in both yearbook (Tokay) and journalism (The Flame).
Now I was double or triple-bitten. My love of photography expanded to a love of photojournalism and lead to a nearly three-decades long career in TV news.
I have students who can’t imagine our campus without these classes – and I sincerely hope they aren’t all cut. I know the school board is faced with few choices…what to save? Music? Languages? Technology? Art? Sports? AVID? (no – not the nonlinear editing program – the college prep class) Journalism is one of the ties that bind a campus together. It is a mirror of the micro-society of the school and informs and entertains. It can dispel rumors with facts and recognize achievement.
What small-minded administrators and controlling school boards could not accomplish in other districts may take place due to budget cuts right here at home.
And generally what disappears does not easily reappear.