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Fifth-grade anchors keep Kalfas pupils up to date

Fifth-graders Kenyon Rizzo, Deja Barnes and Chelsea Thomas don't have to dream about anchoring a television news show.

They're already doing it.

The three 10-year-olds ply their trade at Henry J. Kalfas Magnet School on Beech Avenue, where they broadcast the school news, weather and lunch information on their own closed-circuit television program, "News at Nine Live."

With the help of Principal Diane T. Coty and Theme Specialist Paula M. Spacone, the show comes off crisp and remarkably professional, right down to cameraman Tevin Hamilton, 11, and news prompter Lynasia Holland, 10, who make sure the anchor team is in focus and can follow the script with cue cards.

Coty said she came up with the idea for the program last year.

"I can't remember why," she said. "I think I heard about someone else doing it somewhere. Besides, the high school does it, so why shouldn't we?"

Coty said she believes Kalfas, with 426 pupils, is the only elementary school in the district with such a program.

The pupils love it.

"I like it very much," said Kenyon. "I don't know know if I'll do it when I'm older, as a profession, but it's fun. My favorite part is being on TV."

The mornings are hectic as the team enters the mini studio at about 8:45 a.m. and immediately dives into rehearsal mode before the show airs 15 minutes later.

On a recent day, Kenyon went over the daunting task of reviewing the large amount of news he had to deliver, while weather girl Chelsea went over weather reports and birthday announcements, making particularly sure she correctly pronounced the names of her fellow students who had aged another year.

Meanwhile, Deja -- dressed like a professional in a colorful skirt and long-sleeved shirt, and black, calf-high boots -- reviewed the lunch menu for the day. She hoped it would be one of the school's more popular offerings.

"My favorite is turkey with gravy and mashed potatoes," she said.

In the rush to be ready, Lynasia called the team to attention and did the countdown to air time: "4, 3, 2 and . . ."

>The day ahead

As Lynasia reached the one count, Kenyon came on screen and said: "Good Morning Kalfas" and headed right into the news, announcing that Mr. Edwards and Mr. Trevor would be the new student-teachers for the next six weeks. He offered them "a warm welcome" and said, "We are sure that you will love it here at Kalfas and not want to leave."

He then wished the fifth-graders taking their local social studies assessment tests good luck and gave a report about the fund-raiser the school would have at the Niagara Falls Boulevard Pizza Hut.

Kenyon normally files a report each day. The previous show, he gave a well-balanced report about how Nickelodeon and Kellogg's are the targets of a junk-food lawsuit in Massachusetts, accused of pushing junk food through their ads to children.

"They are being sued by a group of parents who are trying to stop such marketing to kids," he reported.

He then tells teachers where they may pick up their new laptop computers.

After, he announced, "There'll only be a half day of school tomorrow, which means we'll all be treated to one of those wonderful bag lunches." A listener wondered if Kenyon was being funny or just informative.

Kenyon passed the torch very smoothly to Deja: "Speaking of lunches, what will we be having today, Deja?"

The lunch girl responded: "Well, Kenyon, we'll have that All-American favorite, hot dog on a bun, beef barley soup, vegetables, that ever popular fruit cup and a cookie."

Chelsea jumped in immediately with a "Thanks, Deja," and tells the viewing audience, "It will be a very mild but cloudy . . . day. Temperatures will be in the high 40s and low 50s. We might even see some sunshine."

She also said happy birthday to John Mays and Sheila Sconiers.

As the show ended, the anchor team stood up, waved to the audience and told fellow students to "have a great day." Lynasia put down her prompt sheets that kept the anchors on script, and Tevin extinguished the camera.

The principal smiled. Another successful show has ended.

>New programs planned

Coty said Spacone has done a great job with the program. Spacone often prepares the news copy, and broadcasting students from Niagara Falls High School who run the Our Schools Channel, Cable 21, have trained the grade-schoolers.

To keep the ball rolling, Coty said Kalfas is putting together a half-hour cable television special called "Kids Zone," to air on the Our Schools Channel sometime this semester.

Spacone said the Kalfas youngsters already have taped several segments, including a production of "American Idol Kids," an exercise show starring the school's latchkey students; and two cooking segments, one with students Paul Urban and Jared Brown making a Mexican dish; the other with Jalisa Kelly, Terra Hilson and Sara Cooke making an apple dessert.

"Hopefully," Coty said with a laugh, "we won't lose our backers after the pilot airs and we'll be brought back for a second season."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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