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March 05, 2013 | 11:37 AMBLOOMFIELD — It's not your average newsroom.
Then again, it's not your average news program.
"The only real good music we have is the Beach Boys," said Kylie Auckland, one of the Star Center School fifth-graders of Star 19, the school's morning video news program.
On Friday, March 1, Auckland and three other fifth-graders were talking about what to play during next week's videos.
Laurie Knepper, Star 19 adviser and the school's building aide, said each classroom plays the group's videos every morning. Knepper, in technical terms, serves as the producer, writer and director of the show.
As Auckland was telling fifth-grader Maggie Gallagher about why she prefers the Beach Boys to "Kidz Bop," Knepper talked to Brandi Curtis about which songs would be appropriate to play for Star Center's younger students.
But music is a minor part of Star 19, only played toward the end of the show, which Knepper described as "the voice of Star Center."
The group puts together three- to five-minute videos of things staff wants students to know, such as the deadline to give the school secretary early dismissal notes or what's being served for lunch this week.
Star 19 students end each video with the sign-off: "From all of us here at Star 19 Morning News, lifelong learning starts today. Go Star Center!"
Knepper said probably the most popular aspect of the show is presenting Star Awards.
She said teachers and staff, whenever they notice a student did something good — maybe someone helped another child with a problem, or otherwise exhibited a positive character traits — write that person's name on a slip of paper.
That slip goes into a box. Every week, someone — usually Principal Chiper Tennessen — draws five names from the box. Those five will receive awards presented to them during the morning news show.
"When a student wins a Star Award and comes onto the announcements, it's like they've won an Academy Award," Knepper said.
In fact, the awards created a special moment for Knepper, who started as Star Center's building aide at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.
She said she first heard about the show through her three daughters, all of whom are Star Center students.
"I remember being here one morning and my daughter won a Star Award," Knepper said. "I looked up and the show was on the TV. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I even took a picture of the TV screen."
Only fifth-graders can be on Star 19. At the end of the year, they each receive a DVD of the year's videos.
To land the role of announcer, students needed to audition in front of office secretary Karen Aronson. Five fifth-graders made the cut this year — Auckland, Curtis, Gallagher, Michael Maletti and Kaleb Heim.
"We had to read a script and Mrs. Aronson had to videotape us," Curtis said.
Fridays are a working lunch of sorts for the crew. Knepper goes over upcoming events, things the children need to know. On March 1, Knepper told the children about Read Across America Week, the student council's penny drive.
"March is going to be really exciting," she said.
Knepper also talked about changing the "fun facts" segment to air only once a week. Maletti protested a bit, but the topic shifted and silence fell across the children as Knepper discussed more future tasks. She even discussed their vocal delivery on camera: "Be peppy."
Then, toward the end of the meeting, came the one question which generated the most enthusiasm: Any plans for this weekend?
One person said skiing, another said Timber Ridge. Heim talked about going to Florida for spring break.
The "I-can't-wait-for-the-weekend" vibe permeated much of the meeting. After all, it was Friday, it was lunch, and as Knepper reminded, "they're not professional actors."
But they're having fun.
Auckland said the most fun part of Star 19 is speaking.
"And you know people won't make fun of you," Gallagher said.
It's a confidence builder, Knepper said. For her, the most fun aspect of Star 19 is "it's different every time," she said.
But there's the sense that meeting the children, watching their personalities and abilities evolve, has something to do with why Knepper enjoys it.
Take Heim, for example.
"I already have lots of confidence," he said.
There are a few reasons Knepper said Star 19 is a valued institution of the school.
For one, it strengthens the sense of community prevalent at Star Center — this is the school's very own news program, after all.
Secondly, it's informational.
"I think (the students) know it's important to get the word out on what's happening in school," Knepper said.
Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, it's unique.
"I don't know of any other school that broadcasts their announcements," Knepper said. "We kind of know it's special … I think we're proud of it."