HSJ Headline News
Hawk Tawk students fight for journalism class
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
May 20, 2012
The Bozeman High School journalism class that produces the Hawk Tawk student newspaper will be canceled next year because too few students signed up, and while the school principal says the school will find another way to keep the paper alive, student journalists are fighting to keep their class.
“Hawk Tawk needs to be a class,” Claire Chandler, student body vice president and a writer for the paper, said Friday. “We just found out. We’re all very angry and all very sad.”
Student co-editor Jessianne Wright said the Hawk Tawk students plan a petition and letter drive and a public meeting Tuesday at the Bozeman Public Library to drum up support for keeping the Hawk Tawk class.
Wright said producing the newspaper as a club activity wouldn’t be sustainable, and eventually it would likely die.
Principal Rob Watson said neither the newspaper nor the yearbook is going to be eliminated, but they may no longer be taught as elective classes.
“My goal is to still have a newspaper,” said Watson, one of three finalists for the Bozeman schools superintendent’s job. “It will just be taught in a different form.”
Watson said too few students signed up for the second-year journalism class that produces Hawk Tawk. The School Board agreed a few years ago to Superintendent Kirk Miller’s recommendation that any classes with fewer than 15 students will be eliminated, as a belt-tightening move to help balance the budget.
Students said they heard that 12 students signed up, so it’s only three short of the cutoff. This year the class has about 17 students.
Watson said he wants to meet with students next week to brainstorm ideas to keep the newspaper going. It could be combined with the first-year journalism class, or a stipend could be offered to a teacher to work with students at lunch or after school.
“I want their input,” Watson said. “It’s still a valuable part of the school.”
A different problem faces the yearbook class. More students have signed up for graphic arts classes next year, so the graphic arts teacher won’t have room in his schedule for yearbook next year, Watson said. He added the school may hire someone else to teach the class or hire someone with a stipend to teach it as an outside-of-class activity.
But students said they don’t think the Hawk Tawk would survive for very long, or be as good a newspaper, if it’s downgraded to a club.
Wright, a senior, said so many Hawk Tawk students are busy with Advanced Placement classes, sports, speech and debate, extracurricular activities and college applications, few would have time to write for Hawk Tawk or sell advertising, needed to keep it self-supporting.
“Without a class, there can’t be a paper,” said junior Lane O’Donnell, features editor. “We don’t have the time. We won’t have as successful a newspaper if it was just a club.
“The lack of kids is not a lack of interest,” O’Donnell added. “The kids appreciate and the community appreciates Hawk Tawk.”
Jemma Douglas, yearbook co-editor, said the 21 yearbook students learn invaluable lessons about computer design and how to produce a $60,000 project.
The yearbook class counts as both a technical and vocational credit toward graduation, but Hawk Tawk only counts as a technical credit, not a vocational credit, students said. Changing that could help with enrollment, they said.
Chandler said it’s ironic that the Hawk Tawk embodies many goals in the School Board’s long-range strategic plan. Those include using technology to optimize learning and preparing all students for college and careers.
Wright added she’s really proud of how the Hawk Tawk has improved this year. This month’s issue features a cover story on the school’s Special Olympics team.
“Our last issue is extremely professional,” Wright said. “Everyone tried very hard. To publish something is a really rewarding feeling for students.”
O’Donnell said she wishes the students had known the class was in jeopardy so they could have found students to sign up for it.
“I feel a little bit like we are getting a form of expression taken away from us if the paper is cut,” Wright said. She said their meeting Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Bozeman Library is open to students and the public.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2633.