DP News: Local high schoolers are running the show in Goleta

It’s Friday morning at Dos Pueblos High School and the campus is already teeming. Children have one eye on the upcoming school day and the other on the weekend.

One of two camera crews on the field sets up the rig. | Credit: Carl Perry

Tonight is the biggest soccer game of the year for Dos Pueblos, against San Marcos, their crosstown rivals from a few exits down the 101. That means groups of students scramble to decorate the Goleta school’s Greek amphitheater ahead of the lunchtime pep rally.

Room T-3, home of the student-run DP News, is a hive of activity. The class, taught by Doug Caines and John Dent, has produced a daily weekday newscast that is broadcast to each classroom after the morning break.

Once the bell rings at 8:30 a.m., the fuss dies down as the show’s executive producer, Senior Gabriel Cassleman, takes control. The team must be lined up, in the studio and camera ready by 9:20am. While Caines is officially the teacher, Cassleman runs the show.

Each student in the class has their own job for the day – from creating graphics to writing the sports recaps to anchoring on air – and over the next 50 minutes they’re all on a common mission to put on a smooth, enjoyable show to create. One student rushes to find B-roll from the video archive while another puts the finishing touches on a package through the school’s coding club. Yet another runs outside to set up a GoPro camera in the amphitheater for a wide-angle time-lapse of Pep Rally prep; The shot ends up making a nice five-second addition to the morning show.

Cassleman bounces around the classroom, answering questions and ironing out creases as the clock ticks closer to nine. He has been part of the program for four years and has earned the full trust of his classmates and instructors.

Even when Cassleman asks his teacher for approval for a script correction, Caines gives the teenager the final say. “If you approve it, it’s your script,” Caines tells him.

By the time the green light comes on, the crew is ready and the show is moving on smoothly. But the work is far from over as tonight is also a big night for the DP News team.

On-field cameras capture close-up footage of Senior Night in Dos Pueblos. | Credit: Carl Perry

It’s the last home football game of the year and the last live sports broadcast for the video production crew. Since the pandemic began, live streaming of high school football has become the norm, especially with the rise of the subscription-based NFHS network. But while most matches are streamed via low-quality AI cameras – which are typically placed high up in the stadium, resulting in a zoomed-out and blurry image – DP News’ live stream is a premium HD broadcast, complete with custom on – On-screen graphics, replays, and live play-by-play commentary entirely run by the students.

The team returns to campus a few hours before kick-off, and students are lugging crates full of gear from the classroom to the stands at Scott O’Leary Stadium. Cables, computer monitors, cameras, microphones and more are transported and then set up in a makeshift production booth, all wired through a TriCaster module that allows them to switch between feeds.

Just like in the classroom, Cassleman takes charge. He is joined by fellow seniors Logan Surper and Alison Togami, who run the switchboard and on-screen scoreboard. Richard Rackenbacher, who edits the play-by-play comments; and a handful of students operating the four cameras, monitoring the sound level, or running back and forth between the booth and the classroom for extra gear when inevitable problems arise.

“Ninety percent of the time something goes wrong,” says Cassleman.

Tonight it is a stubborn video converter. Both on-field cameras are live and operational, but one of the wide-angle cameras in the stands refuses to appear on screen. Cassleman, Surper, and Togami switch cables and restart equipment as game time approaches.

Togami has watched the show evolve over the past four years and says she never gets bored of working Friday nights. She says the show comes with a lot of responsibility at a high level, but the end product is worth the effort.

“There’s a lot more work, but it’s a lot more special,” she says.

When Dent returns with some pizzas for the team, the cameras are ready and the stream can go live. He asks for a check-in, but already knows that the crew has everything under control. The kids take a short break and grab a piece before the show.

“They’re a really great team,” says Dent. “That’s what you’re hoping for – give them experience and give them the opportunity to take control. You lead the class; they take responsibility. That is the goal.”

Dent is particularly proud of the high schoolers who act as mentors to their younger classmates. “They inspire their own peers,” he says.

Dent has been part of the program since 2004, when Dos Pueblos first launched a daily newscast. In the early years, he coached the class with former baseball coach Dan Yokubaitis, who now directs a similar multimedia production program at Bishop Diego High School. More recently, Dent encouraged the school to bring in Caines, who has taught media and coached county football for the past 15 years. During the pandemic, Dent took a step back to teach the introductory classes and let Caines take the lead.

The news show has also drawn inspiration from the success of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, which through grants and eventually its own endowment has grown into one of the state’s premier programs.

“It’s difficult to get funding in public education,” says Dent.

Thanks to state grants and funds from the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, the program has been able to buy all of the equipment needed to broadcast both the daily news and live sports, and Dent says the program is always trying to keep up with the latest technology .

“We’re always trying to upgrade,” he says.

Each year, the program also takes a group of about 30 people to a four-day journalism conference, where students are immersed in news culture and surrounded by like-minded high school students. Today, as students grow up in a rapidly changing news and media environment, children themselves have become de facto experts in modern technology.

“I’m not the expert in the room anymore,” says Dent.

For now, Dent and Caines are happy that on a Friday night they can sit back and enjoy the game while trusting their team to have everything under control, and once again the show is running smoothly.

See dpnews.org

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