Vol. 25, No. 1: Great Things Happening in the New Year

89.5fm, Dayton's Home for JAZZ

Mortenous A. Johnson and Robert Menafee

Ponitz Career Technical Center, the home of WDPS-TV/RADIO, is a thriving hub of student talent and leadership ability.

A controlled, unruffled calm is in the air as the director of operations, King Jalaw Walker, sets the stage to be captured by his camera operator in the background. The final countdown to a live TV production has begun. Fast-rewind and you would have witnessed voice-talent preparing for drops, announcements, and transitions; program hosts and on-air personalities readying for live and taped programming; and the exchange of voices arising from a student-led and orchestrated team as decisions are made and the planning board is penned with names like Monk, Ella, Vaughn, Carter, Miles, Toots, Shorter, Coltrane, Grover, Tyner, and Rollins.

The Dayton Public Schools' Ponitz Career Technology Center High School students in the Media Arts/Radio/Television cluster develop collaboration, problem-solving, and leadership skills via real-world programs that integrate learning and work. In this fast-paced professional building, students produce and host programming content for DPS TV such as board of education meetings, school spotlights, and special events coverage. They are also responsible for WDPS, Dayton's only jazz radio station.

Posted throughout the unit, you'll find evidence of banners scripting necessary character traits and behavioral requirements, all of which support the core of CTE. "These efforts showcase the three R's of career technical education—relevance, rigor, and relationships," exclaimed one student in the studio. With the three R's as a foundation, students develop competence and a strong work ethic, which in turn generate confidence and leadership. In addition to the character reminders, a proudly displayed trophy and awards case is chock-full of students' local and national awards. For example, in 2011 the Ponitz video production team won regional and state Business Professionals of America (BPA) competitions with a public service announcement warning of the dangers of texting while driving. Students planned and executed the entire project—developing a timeline and plan of action, writing a storyboard and script, adhering to a schedule, and problem-solving throughout the production. When students engage in such real-world activities, they experience the "fun frustration" of tinkering with a process to resolve issues. This iterative/adaptive process creates a feedback loop that ultimately serves to build genuine leadership skills and the ability to work through complex projects. Such program content, in addition to enabling students to compete in state and national contests, opens up a larger world to students and helps them stake their places in it.

Additional highlights:

  • Stellar and Oscar-like statues noting Best in Show at the Tech Prep Showcase for Visual Voices (highest score in the history of Tech Prep Showcase)

  • First place winners in broadcast news production team at the State of Ohio's Leadership Conference for Business Professionals of America

  • Radio Seniors recently launched the Dayton Youth Radio project in partnership with WYSO radio, producing socially relevant personal stories and highlighting regional achievers.
  • The February 2013 issue of Ohio Schools, the magazine of the Ohio Education Association, included a feature story about Lamarr Henry, a recent graduate who is pursuing an undergraduate degree at the Ohio State University.

  • The 2014 Television Seniors were named First in the Nation at the Business Professionals Association Conference for Broadcast News Production.

Although the program's string of successes is primarily due to the motivation of students, in the background is a core of dedicated staffers and educators. Mortenous A. Johnson (aka the voice of WDPS), who provides radio voice talent, says that "what underpins student success is a cadre of dedicated and empowering teachers who go beyond the mundane, all in an effort to keep the program and students engaged with purpose and consistently focused on success." The dynamic faculty duo of Deb Pitstick and JoAnne Viskup (aka Ms. V) play a significant role, providing time and energy above and beyond the normal instructional work day, many resources to help students improve their skills and potential, and supportive counsel and direction. Four members of the Public Information Office—Patricia Battle, Jennifer Bryant, Ken Kreitzer, and Jarrod Williams—also help to ensure that students are professionally attuned and able to remain flexible in the face of ambiguity. Each in his or her remarkable way demonstrates a constant energy that is essential for student persistence and completion.

You're listening to 89.5 fm, Dayton's home for jazz.

For more information about WDPS fm, contact Joanne Viskup, Career Tech Teacher, jcviskup@dps.k12.oh.us or www.dps.k12.oh.us; Mortenous A. Johnson, mjohnson@wilberforce.edu, 937.708.5622, DPS voice talent and DPS leadership and mentor program; or Robert Menafee, robert.menafee@sinclair.edu, 937.512.2780, DPS leadership and mentor program.

© 2015 CORD