By: Megan McGaha
Passaic Valley High School (PVHS) has partnered with Montclair State University’s (MSU) School of Communication and Media Program to support the high school’s Broadcasting Program.
The Broadcasting Program is part of the school’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, and includes courses such as Audio Communications and Media, Visual Communications, Television Production, Advanced Television Production, Broadcast Experience, and Introduction to Communication Arts and Media, the last of which is now a dually-enrolled course, meaning that students who take it can also receive MSU credit upon satisfactory completion of the course.
Superintendent Dr. JoAnn Cardillo said the Dually-Enrolled Intro to Communication is the gateway course to the Communications program at MSU.
”We are preparing our students to be able to use the 3 credits in any general elective program [in college].” said Cardillo. “With regard to cost, our students will be paying a discounted rate for the 3 course credits because they are high school students. The actual course will run on our campus daily.”
According to the PVHS website, “This new addition to the school’s curriculum will greatly prepare students with a passion for media studies for a future in the subject. While this course does not take effect until next year, students and faculty members alike are looking forward to the new possibilities this partnership offers.”
One such possibility is access to MSU’s professional-grade television sets and equipment; a much-needed improvement for PVTV’s Broadcast program, as well as their TV Studio. As of two years ago, both the program and the studio were set to be closed.
It wasn’t always this way. Cardillo said PVTV was a premier program in its early years.
“The teacher who developed the program worked to get it to be a force in the community and during that time period television was the only venue to give information other than the newspapers both local and town wide. He retired.” said Cardillo. “Somewhere along the following years the program lost its steam and the focus was more on filmmaking than television production. There was still a small following of students but any innovative growth in curriculum writing and execution of the program was not there.”
It was the Passaic Valley community who renewed interest in the program.
“The community made it known to the district that they wanted a strong focus on the program going forward.” said Cardillo. “We now have all new curriculum and course work. We can now say that PVTV is in it’s renaissance and getting better everyday.”
Much of this is thanks to Mr. Randall Rossilli, who brought a wealth of TV production knowledge from both educational and professional perspectives when he was hired in 2017 to lead the PVTV program. Rossilli holds a Bachelor’s Degree from William Paterson University in Communications and a Master’s from Seton Hall in Education and Administration. He’s been nominated for 4 Emmy awards, and in 2008 his animated children’s film The Adventures of Young Thomas Edison, won an Emmy for Outstanding Children/Youth/Teen Program or Special. Rossilli has also received several other film and media accolades, and earlier in his education career was awarded the Apple Distinguished Educator Award.
PVHS has talented students as well. Junior Billy Pinckney created a website and YouTube channel, “Billy the Batboy’s Corner” over the summer of 2015 to share his interviews with athletes and sports commentators, which has expanded to include Michael Strahan, Joe Maddon, Nick Swisher, and many more. To date, he’s uploaded more than 200 videos and currently has 119 subscribers. His top video, “Tim Adleman 2017 Highlights” has 14,000 views.
According to the article on the PVHS website, Pinckney was inspired to interview the professional athletes after seeing professional journalists do it.
When interviewed in 2017, he said, “I thought it was cool how the professionals do it and I wanted to get into that field.”
Pinckney became the first PVHS freshman to be included in the school’s Media class, which is usually barred to freshman due to a Public Speaking prerequisite.
According to a 2017 post about him on the PVHS website, “An exception was made for Billy because his middle school math teacher, Mr. Vinnie Plateroti, a PV alum, knew of Billy’s talents and recommended that Billy take Media right away.”
“Mrs. Stephanie Roberts, Billy’s Media teacher, had Mr. Platerotti as a student so when he contacted her over the summer, she reviewed Billy’s work. ‘I looked at his website and videos and immediately reached out to Mr. Jared Fowler, assistant principal of Humanities, and asked if there was any way to get Billy in this class.’ When everything was approved, Billy was contacted,” continues the article.
Pinckney plans to pursue a career in Broadcast Journalism, but he isn’t the only one.
There are approximately 45-55 students in the Broadcast program this year, and the school is looking to increase the program to 60 students. Cardillo said the high school now offers a 3-course-sequence of electives, of which students often double up in their junior or senior year.
“Next year we will have a career and technical education sequence that is aligned with the requirements for CTE with the New Jersey Department of Education. That is where the partnership comes in with MSU. We needed a university partner to work with and our location to MSU and their program offerings were a great fit for us.” said Cardillo. “The studios at MSU are wonderful and our students are what they are looking for, serious students of Television Arts and Communication.”
“We have an eclectic talented group of students attending our school.” continued Cardillo. “Many go on to 4 year schools, a good majority 2 year schools and trade schools and work. We have had students go to ivy leagues in the past 4 years and two of our students in the past 3 years have been accepted to Oxford University. The first young lady went and loves it. We do not know if the young lady that got accepted this year will choose to go abroad but she is waiting to see what all of her options are.”
Cardillo also said that many PVHS students also go on to MSU and William Paterson University because they want to remain local.
“Many have jobs and will continue to work during their college experience.” she said. “We also have students who go to community college. Some receive STAR scholarships of 2 years of free classes if they meet the community college criteria for this honor.”
But although it’s convenient to work with such a local college, Cardillo said location “was only the tip” of why they chose to work with MSU.
“It is the caliber of the program that they are offering that attracted us to MSU. We are the first high school to collaborate with MSU in terms of dual enrollment and we intend on strengthening the relationship going forward.” she said.
The partnership will also allow PVHS students to “attend lecture series in communication whenever possible,” according to Cardillo; though they are still working out the details for this.
“We do not know how many times we will have visiting professors from the university on our campus.” she said. “We are also looking for university interns to be with us. That is being worked out between the administration of our school and MSU, but our PVTV teacher Mr. Randi Rossilli will be the teacher of record. He is qualified to teach the university course.”
It is also unclear how PVHS will utilize the MSU facilities, though it seems like they will be accessed through a combination of field trips and extracurricular activities. Cardillo said PVHS will transport the students to campus using their district owned bus as needed.
“Students will have to sometimes choose between other PV activities if they are after school,” said Cardillo. “But the students of PVTV are often the students that do our AV School club and help to produce our theatre programs.”
PVTV now has it’s own Youtube channel, which can be accessed through their website, mypvtv.com. It’s also accessible from the PVHS website, https://www.pvhs.k12.nj.us. They host a daily morning show called “Good Morning Hornet” that plays each morning at the school, and their channel has amassed 214 subscribers so far.