May 22, 2012 / Staff Management

Large Stamford staff shares in yearbook work, fun

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Y-B-O-D – yearbook or die – is the rallying cry of the yearbook staff at Stamford High School in Stamford, Conn., when the advisers appear stressed. But the size of the staff – 49 students in 2012 – is not the reason for strain.

It can sometimes be a coordination nightmare, but the large staff is split between two classes. The teachers of the Design and Publication class – Wendy Wade, an art and photography teacher, and Robert Lutz, an English teacher – believe their structure benefits the students and the yearbook.

Wade and Lutz are in both classes, while staff members only take one. The classes are not set up as Yearbook I for beginners and Yearbook II for experienced students; at Stamford, both classes are doing the same work for the same deadline. Here’s how they make it work.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors are permitted on staff, and many students will take the class multiple years. Students with seniority move into editor positions, and students with a knack for the work have moved up sooner to fill open slots. The editor-in-chief oversees everything, with the rest of the editorial staff consisting of a senior business manager, two sports editors and an editor each for student life, academics, the underclassmen and the senior section. One student is assigned to design the ads.

The editors are mixed between the two classes. The 2012 editor-in-chief, Zoe Walker, communicates with the class she is not in using email and notes.


Stamford Staff writer Ryan Pirro, Academic Editor Jaime Fedele, Photography Editor Caitlin Barwood, Editor-in-Chief Zoe Walker, Sports Editor Alex Lyons, and Editor-it-Training Nikita Roach participated in a brainstorming session on how to implement Walsworth's "I love yearbook stickers" and mini business cards into their marketing plan.

All staff members cover events and create spreads, working on the same sections at the same time in both classes. For fall sports, one class covers varsity and the other covers junior varsity, and they all have assignments for academics coverage. Assignments also relate to the students’ interests – the senior section editor is always a senior, and students who participate in a particular sport or club cover those items.

Yearbook photos come from several sources. Wade teaches photography in the Design and Publication classes, plus teaches separate photography and Photoshop classes. While students in the photography classes are assigned the majority of the work, the staff is encouraged to get photos for their own spreads once they know photography basics.

Wade teaches spread design to the students, and Lutz teaches copywriting. They start with the basics for the entire staff, with a two-fold goal – enable the staff to create spreads, and equip the editors to edit, correct and proofread the staff’s design, writing and photography.

“The ultimate goal was to establish a system of checks and balances so every student understood and worked within the framework of a successful publication process,” Lutz said.

Lutz’s lessons start with basic journalism mechanics – active and passive voice, caption writing, tense, subject-verb agreement, and interview strategies necessary for coverage. He makes individual and group assignments, which help the editors to oversee the writing process. Meanwhile, the editors work with Wade on the design of the book for consistency.

While creating the book, the staff also works on book and ad sales. Every spring, the incoming staff gets its business ad sales assignments. In the fall, business ad sales continue, with cold calling using scripts, emails and visiting businesses. They also sell personal ads to parents and students.

During yearbook sales, the business manager knows who has not bought a book, even using shout-outs to students by name during the morning announcements to remind them to buy a yearbook.

Wade said they have tried to create a team-sport mentality within the staff. No one should ever be finished with his or her work; when they are, they are supposed to offer help to another staff member.

As smooth as this all sounds, it is still yearbook, and it can be hectic. That is when the staff relieves stress with its chant.

“I think they say YBOD when they see the stress on my face or notice my gray hairs. It is their way of making me laugh for taking myself too seriously,” Wade said. “I take it so seriously and I want them to take it seriously, too.”

And it all works.

“It’s really a cool process, putting together this product people will have for years,” Walker said. “We have really good advisers who help us.”

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.