A group of parents and students began work last week to revive the Brooks Bystander, the middle school's student newspaper, out of print this school year after budget cutbacks removed a newspaper class as an elective option.
The Bystander?#34;or whatever its new name may be once students christen it, as tradition would have them do annually?#34;is headed by parent Laura Kliewer. She took the lead on the project in part because nobody else would.
"Devin really loved being in the class last year, and I was disappointed that they cut it," Kliewer said.
As co-chair of the Instructional Delivery group working on the Brooks Critical Issues process?#34;a means of identifying and implementing school improvement strategies?#34;Kliewer knew Principal Flora Green had been looking for months for a parent volunteer to lead the paper. When no one answered the call, Kliewer decided to do it herself.
Also answering the call last week were eight students, three who couldn't make it to an after-school meeting. Among the five at the meeting were eighth graders Alex MacMillan and Devin Kliewer-Foster, Kliewer's son. Both took the newspaper class last year, and will serve as the editors for this year's first edition, expected at the end of April.
Experienced ones will help edit,
Kliewer discussed news writing and rewriting with the students, and got them to brainstorm ideas for stories.
"Anything that would be interesting to the students and you'd like to write we can talk about," she said.
Kliewer-Foster, who wants to attend the University of Iowa to study journalism and become a baseball sportswriter, volunteered to cover an upcoming choral festival at Brooks and Honk!, an upcoming student play. Steven Villa, a seventh grader, chimed in that he'd help cover Honk!, too.
MacMillan volunteered to write an editorial for the April edition about the U.S. flag left out every night at Brooks.
"It's in really bad shape," MacMillan said. "It's disrespectful."
He said he felt comfortable in the role of critic of the school.
"This school has problems," he said.
Last year as a seventh grader, MacMillan wrote an editorial about the quality of food served in the school lunches at Brooks and took criticism from eighth graders for being too arcane. "Nitrates?" they asked him incredulously.
But taking flak is just part of journalism, he said.
"That's what normal newspaper people do."
Kliewer hopeful tradition will continue
Kliewer hopes the experience will improve students' writing abilities and give them confidence.
Also guiding the group is Kay Foran, spokeswoman for Oak Park and River Forest High School.
The paper will appear monthly, so just two issues will be produced this school year. Kliewer hopes they will have another parent lined up to take over in the fall. Although cutbacks removed the teacher and the option to take the newspaper class as an elective at Brooks, the budget for the paper remained. That's what will pay for production costs on the paper's eight-page editions, circulating to approximately 1,000 students and teachers, unless Kliewer finds advertisers.