Two weeks after seventh-grade reporter Danny Skinner interviewed his principal about the broken soap dispenser in the boys’ bathroom, the dispenser was fixed. Alas, two weeks after that, the dispenser is again broken.
He plans to write a follow-up.
Tuesday afternoon, tales of Danny (pictured) and other energized young journalists were shared at festive launch party at the school for The Celentano Sentinel. It’s an impressive 20-page newspaper complete with news, opinion, sports, and even advertising, created and written by the kids of the K-8 Celentano School on Canner Street.
Above the fold of the inaugural issue is a statistics-based “New Haven hit harder than state by economy” story. Beside it is a more feature-y piece called “The secret lives of teachers.” Its tantalizing lede: “Teachers love coming to school. But what do they do when they leave?”
It turns out one of the science teachers goes curling, a popular Canadian sport, with her husband every Thursday night. To learn more, you’ll just have to pick up an issue.
While many city K-8 schools have new letters or bulletins written by the kids, the Celentano Sentinel is the only serious, substantial newspaper, according to Ilene Tracey, the school system’s director of K-12 instruction.
The paper emerged because a year ago an enterprising Celentano English teacher, Matthew Presser, wanted to show his kids that their impassioned essays about subjects like local cops and teachers being laid off might produce some action.
He sent the essays written by Alexis Cole and Kaitylyne Andrews and other students in his seventh-eighth-grade class to Mayor John DeStefano. The mayor showed up within two weeks, got an earful, and soon brought in journalist Laura Pappano to help create a student newspaper.
She helped recruit a half-dozen high school journalists like Zanira Abubakar, who’s the front page editor for Co-Op Arts and Humanities online paper Co-Op Voices. Zanira worked with Danny and another young writer, Michaela Williams, on the piece that turned out to be titled “Students can help with bathroom breakdown.”
They mentor Celentano’s sixth to eighth-grade journalists, who in turn mentor the junior journalists including second and third-graders.
The whole entourage of 50 or so kids meets under Pappano’s direction every Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m. as part of the after-school enrichment program at Celentano.
As Danny gave a reporter a tour of the bathroom he had covered for his story, he said Principal Keisha Hannans, whom he interviewed, was not upset at all by his journalistic prying.
“She was happy someone else was paying attention,” he said.
And Danny was happy that the stall locks and dispenser were repaired so quickly. “I didn’t think it would happen that fast,” he said.
At a reporter’s request, he took the Independent on a tour of the bathroom, where he demonstrated that the stall locks were still intact.
But the dispenser was ripped off again. Assistant Building Manager James Tate had left a large plastic bottle of soap and a small cup for the kids to use.
Tate suggested that the next replacement should not be cheap plastic, but metal.
Danny was listening.
Back at the party, the other Celentano and Co-Op journalists were enjoying their achievement. Kaitylyne Andrews said she particularly enjoyed interviewing Ms. Everson, a social studies teacher.
Before the story, she said, she thought her teacher just went directly home every night to grade papers. Turns out she goes to the gym and actually has a life.
Has there been a change in the student-teacher relationship? “She tells us more, like, girlie stuff,” Kaitylyne reported.
Pappano announced that based on their work, the kids and their new paper had just been accepted into the National Elementary Press Association, headquartered at the University of Alabama. Applause filled the newsroom.
For the next issue, funding permitting, the reporters hope to travel to Hartford to get the skinny on state politics.