DP News: Local High Schoolers Run the Show in Goleta

Dos Pueblos High School’s TV and Video Production Program Flourishes on Friday Nights

From left, seniors Logan Surber, Gabriel Casselman (talking on radio), and Alison Togami run the livestream while Richard Rockenbach (headphones) provides live play-by-play commentary. | Credit: Carl Perry

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

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

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

Room T-3, home of student-run DP News, is a beehive of activity. The class, taught by Doug Caines and John Dent, has been producing a daily news show every weekday that’s blasted to every classroom after the mid-morning break.

As soon as the bell rings at 8:30, the excitement comes to a halt as the show’s executive producer, senior Gabriel Casselman, takes control. The team needs to be set up by 9:20 a.m., in-studio and camera-ready. While Caines is officially the teacher, Casselman 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 shared mission to create a smooth, entertaining show. One student rushes to find B-roll from the video archive, while another puts the final touches on a package about 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 the pep rally prep; the shot eventually makes a nice five-second addition to the morning broadcast. 

Casselman bounces around the classroom, answering questions and ironing out wrinkles as the clock clicks closer to nine. He’s been a part of the program for four years and has earned the full trust and confidence of his classmates and instructors.

Even when Casselman asks his teacher for confirmation on a script correction, Caines defers to the teen for final say. “If you approve it, it’s your script,” Caines tells him.

By the time the green light goes on, the crew is ready and the show goes on without a hitch. But the work is far from done, because tonight is also a big night for the DP News team.

On-field cameras catch closeups of Senior Night at 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 beginning of the pandemic, live-streaming high school football has become the norm, especially with the rise of the subscription-based NFHS Network. But while most of the games are streamed via low-quality AI cameras — typically set up way atop the stadium and resulting in a zoomed-out and blurry image — the DP News live stream is top-notch HD broadcast, complete with custom on-screen graphics, replays, and live play-by-play commentary, completely run by the students.

The team returns to campus a few hours before kickoff, and students begin lugging cases full of equipment from the classroom to the top of the bleachers at Scott O’Leary Stadium. Cables, computer monitors, cameras, microphones, and more are carried and then set up in a makeshift production booth, all wired through a TriCaster module that allows them to switch between feeds.

Just as in the classroom, Casselman takes charge. He’s joined by fellow seniors Logan Surber and Alison Togami, who run the switchboard and on-screen scoreboard; Richard Rockenbach, who handles play-by-play commentary; and a handful of students who operate the four cameras, monitor sound levels, or run between the booth and the classroom to fetch extra equipment when problems inevitably arise.

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

Tonight, it’s a stubborn video converter. Both on-field cameras are live and ready to roll, but one of the wide-angle cameras in the stands is refusing to show up on screen. Casselman, Surber, and Togami switch cables and restart equipment as game time approaches.

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

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

By the time Dent returns with a couple of pizzas for the team, the cameras are all set and the stream is ready to go live. He asks for a check-in, but he already knows the crew has everything under control. The kids take a quick break and grab a slice before showtime.

“They’re a really great team,” Dent says. “That’s what you hope for ― give them experience and empower them to have control. They run the class; they take charge. That’s the goal.”

Dent is especially proud of the upperclassmen, 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 started a daily news broadcast. In the early years, he ran the class with former baseball coach Dan Yokubaitis, who now runs 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 football in the county 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 program has also taken a cue from the success of the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, which has become one of the premier programs in the state through grant funding and eventually its own foundation.

“In public education, it’s tough to get funding,” Dent says. 

Thanks to both federal grants and money through the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, the program has been able to purchase all the equipment necessary for both the daily news and live sports broadcast, and Dent says the program is always trying to keep up with the latest tech.

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

Each year, the program also takes a group of about 30 to a four-day journalism conference, where the students are immersed in news culture and surrounded by like-minded high schoolers. These days, with students growing up alongside a rapidly changing news and media environment, the kids themselves have become de facto experts on modern technology.

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

For now, Dent and Caines are happy they can sit back on a Friday night and enjoy the game while trusting their team has everything under control, and once again, the show goes off without a hitch. 

See dpnews.org

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