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Reunion marks 50 years since county schools' first instructional TV telecast

Reunion marks 50 years since county schools' first instructional TV telecast

September 24, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Bronson Staley's child reporters got interviews with Bob Hope, Jimmy Carter and William Donald Schaefer in the years Staley aired "Let's View the News" on Washington County Public Schools Closed Circuit Television System.

Staley was among 200 former school system television employees and their spouses who filled Elks Lodge 378 Saturday for a reunion marking the 50th anniversary of the county's first instructional telecast on Sept. 11, 1956.

Washington County was the first school system in the nation to teach students through a live television broadcast, an idea proposed by Schools Superintendent William M. Brish to test television's uses for instruction to relieve teacher shortages.

As a child in the school system, Chris Malott, 41, recalled getting picked to report the news with Staley. Until he became a television production specialist for the school system in 1987, Malott said he never realized how much work went into that program.

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Malott said he was the last person hired to work for the school system's closed circuit television system, which ended in 1992.

"I thought I was going to be there for 30 years. It was the first one in the country," Malott said. "It was the best job ever."

While Malott spoke, music teacher Ron Brown sat nearby laughing, pointing at a screen that displayed him singing and playing the guitar, wearing a chartreuse sweater.

"You had to pretend when you were looking at the camera that you were looking at a bunch of kids," Brown said. Teaching for television involved a lot of planning - Brown said he spent 10 to 15 hours preparing for one telecast.

Brown taught on television from 1973 to 1979, and again from 1981 to 1987. A 37-year teacher, Brown now teaches music to middle school students in West Virginia.

Tom Klipp, who now is a producer for NASCAR Images, got his start working as a cameraman for the school system. Klipp, 56, said he never thought he would work behind the scenes of the instructional television he watched in the school system growing up.

"We were all in an experimental business. Everything was live and fun ... Bloopers happened all the time," Klipp said.

Stan Johnson said he was one of the first people hired in television production for the school system. There were six channels that fed 45 schools, he said. The first day, the school system telecast 12th-grade English, Science and U.S. History, he said.

Johnson said cables from the van that acted as a remote unit were pulled into a room at the school system's Commonwealth Avenue office for the first telecast.

Organizers estimated that about 500 people worked with educational television during its 44-year run.

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