Mattituck Morning Show’s 25th season closes

At 8:15 last Thursday morning, Mattituck High School seniors Jack Golder and Jack Kalish sat behind a news desk in their first-period TV production classroom, reviewing paper copies of the script that would soon scroll across teleprompters a few feet in front of them. At 8:16 a.m., they anchored one of the final episodes of the high school’s student-run Morning Show’s 25th season.

Their director, senior Will Gammon, sat on a stool just off camera. Normally, TV production teacher and Morning Show overseer Tiffany Pelczar assigns her students to a team and schedules them for a Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday slot over the course of a few weeks. But during the final few days of each year, she gives each of her seniors free rein to choose their crew and anchors; they can even choose a student from outside her class, a teacher or an administrator to sit behind the news desk.

Last Thursday’s pair of Jacks kicked off the broadcast without a hitch. After delivering some announcements, including where the gaming club will meet and a reminder to seniors to pay up and drop off their bags for an upcoming trip to Hershey Park, the feed turned to two students sharing information about a girls lacrosse fundraiser. The students behind the desk capped the broadcast as they always do: crumpling up their paper scripts and tossing them beyond the camera.

“I think it went well,” said Will, 18, of Cutchogue, who plans to study biology at Fairfield University. “The anchors performed well and it was a good show.”

Every Tuesday through Friday for the past 25 years, in lieu of traditional morning announcements over the loudspeaker, Mattituck High School’s upperclassmen have informed and entertained students and faculty through The Morning Show. Exclusively broadcast at the junior-senior high school, the five-minute program includes the morning announcements, the Pledge of Allegiance, community news, advertisements and even student-produced comedy sketches and music videos. 

Ms. Pelczar’s students learn real-world media skills while on a multi-year multimedia elective track that culminates with working on The Morning Show, but only a handful, like the class of 2024’s Skylar Rowe, who plans to major in communications and media at University of Rhode Island, pursue that line of study in college. However, Ms. Pelczar says working on and off camera affords each of her students opportunities for creative expression. 

Edgar Castaneda, who plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall, said The Morning Show allowed him to explore his passion for filming everyday scenes at home, which he would share with family and friends. A recent segment he produced for The Morning Show featured him and classmate Charles Pasca pretending to drive their cars into each other, culminating in a cavalcade of stock explosion effects and blaring sirens.

“I kept [taking media electives] because it was fun,” Edgar said. “I liked filming things and then making a project out of it. I did The Morning Show because I was able to do that even more, and actually make videos that can be broadcast to the school. I think that’s amazing.”

Long before Mattituck students delivered morning announcements from a high-tech TV production classroom, John Roslak, an industrial arts teacher who retired in 2016, built a makeshift studio in a converted bathroom using the school’s stockpile of unused video equipment, any gear he could creatively acquire from other district departments and his own two hands.

“We built our own teleprompters, at first just using plywood and glass and an old monitor that was lying on it’s back,” said Mr. Roslak, The Suffolk Times’ 2015 Educator of the Year. “That’s how we started out, [with] terrible mics, a little, tiny soundboard … Because I was the stage lighting and sound guy, I got to steal equipment from the auditorium when it was being redone. So we went from using yard flood lights to using theater lights with an actual lighting board.”

Mr. Roslak’s vision for a student-led Morning Show that fused practical technology education with creativity first went live during the 1998-1999 school year, and the cameras have kept on rolling ever since. Although he pointed to Ms. Pelczar as “much stronger” on the “artistic end” of the program, he always encouraged his students to rethink how they could deliver the morning announcements. He would often list story ideas — everything from sporting events to bake sales — on the board for students to choose. They would then develop a script, shoot footage and prepare an edited package suitable for broadcast.

“Instead of just saying ‘the French club is selling candy bars for $1 to raise funds for their field trip,’ [students] would make it a commercial,” Mr. Roslak explained. “It’s got more value to it instead of just reading that announcement. They could be creative about it.”

Ms. Pelczar described her students as self-starters who are often seen out and about filming assignments they need to prepare on tight deadlines.

“It’s every day; it’s fast-paced,” she said. “I have kids working on something that they’re going to put on the show today. Kids will often go out and get a story on something that’s happening. Say there’s lacrosse playoffs, which we had last week, they made a video that day and they had to put it on.”

As Ms. Pelczar’s students wrap up their academic year, they are juggling much more than their Morning Show duties. A handful of students recently interviewed Southold Town Supervisor Al Krupski and the heads of various town departments and are creating a series of informational videos that will be available to the public. Last Thursday morning, a pair of students were editing footage of the district’s sixth-grade moving up ceremony.

In the editing suite adjacent to Ms. Pelczar’s classroom, seniors Carolyn Conroy, Sofia Knudsen and Leah Weir toiled through more than 15 hours of footage they and a handful of others recorded throughout senior year. They documented every important event, from the Tucker Bowl to a trip to Breakwater Beach and even the senior prom. Now, they are busy editing all the footage into a nearly-hour-long senior film project.

“We show it on the last day of school, right before the last bell rings,” said Leah, 18, of Cutchogue, who is heading to the University of Florida in the fall. “It’s really cool and sentimental to see your whole year summed up in one video. It’ll be fun and really sad at the same time.”

The senior film screening is another tradition Mr. Roslak started during his tenure at the high school. “I thought it would be long-term,” he said when asked about the longevity of The Morning Show and the growth of Mattituck’s multimedia program that he helped initiate. “As far as outlasting me, that’s a gift.”

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