Ask Mike Podcast: Yearbook Deadline System with Chisholm Trail High School

Written by Shiloh Scott

For season five, episode seven, Ask Mike podcast host Mike Taylor, CJE, interviews the Chisholm Trail High School yearbook adviser and copy editor about their 2023 school year and their effective yearbook deadline system. Cortney Wood is in her first year of advising yearbook. She’s new to advising but has experience working on yearbook staffs in high school and college. Copy editor Sydney Hawkins is a high school junior and in her second year on the yearbook staff. Wood and Hawkins shared their experiences creating a yearbook in the 2023 school year.


The previous adviser, May Beth Lee, pulled Hawkins into the hallway last year and asked if she wanted to be the copy editor. Hawkins had no experience on an editorial staff, but she embraced the role.

“I was a total, complete blank slate, and I was ready to jump into the opportunity to do anything I could to further our yearbook program,” Hawkins said. “I went to Elite Weekend – which really I think Elite Weekend is where it all fell into place for me because I had been unsure of my duties and unsure of my place in on staff before.”

Wood said working as a yearbook adviser at Chisholm Trail High School in Fort Worth, Texas, is a different experience.

“I thought I knew it all. You know, I understood how to design things. I knew how to take photos, I knew how to get a good story, but I did not know all of the back end stuff like having to sell the book, having to sell ads, having to coordinate everything,” Wood said. She said she’s grateful for her students and the community she can reach out to with yearbook questions.

The 20-day Yearbook Deadline System

In this podcast, Chisholm focuses on their yearbook deadline system.  It’s a four-week calendar that clearly specifies what yearbook staffers should be doing at that point in the process. Wood assigns points and staffer grades are based on the system. Every cycle, they recognize one staffer for conquering that deadline.

“For an outstanding staffer, somebody who’s really gone above and beyond, we try to highlight them. And it reflects in their points, but it reflects in their spirit and personality as well,” Wood said.

Week 1 – Laying the Groundwork

  • Day 1: The staffer works to find inspiration for the page they’re working on. They’ll use that inspiration to create a skeleton of the page.
  • Day 2: The staffer recreates their skeleton layout in Adobe® InDesign® (Note: this could be done in Yearbook 360 – Online Design for schools that do not use InDesign). They’ll also decide on what kind of photos they want and communicate that to the photographer.
  • Day 3: The staffer researches the subject. They draft a list of people they need to speak to for their spread. They’ll look up those peoples’ schedules and come up with ten questions to ask.
  • Day 4: The staffer sends emails to teachers, coaches, admins and interviewees to arrange interviews.
  • Day 5: The staffer follows up with people who haven’t responded. They schedule interviews.

Week 2 – Putting it in Place

  • Days 6-10: The staffer continues to plan. They take steps to get the photos they need. They plan what mods they want to use in their design. While the staff keeps bank of mod templates their staff can draw from, the designer also has room for creativity.

“We also allow room for innovation so they’re able to take something and change it a little bit to see if we like this better. So there’s always growth going on and we allow them that freedom and creativity so that we can get better with our design overall,” Wood said.

Week 3 – Bringing It All Together

  • Days 11-13: The staffer will be hard at work placing photos and interviews on the page. They’ll be busy writing stories.
  • Day 14: The staffer makes their final edits and checks details. “We’re formatting our stories correctly. We’re making sure all of our spelling is correct and like little things like that,” Wood said.
  • Day 15: Everyone turns in their layout at the beginning of class. Editors go around to check the spreads, provide help to those who need it and compliment strong layouts.

Week 4 – Making it Perfect

  • Days 16-19: Editors proof content while the staffer finishes any incomplete tasks and gathers content still needed. “We have a week of edits where everything’s done, but we just need those little things left over,” Wood explained.
  • Day 20: DAD DAY! The Day After Deadline is a time to celebrate their wins. It’s when they crown their Yerd of Deadline – the title for person they’ve chosen to recognize. The staff plays games and brings in snacks.

Listen In

Did you enjoy this yearbook deadline system podcast? You can listen to the Ask Mike podcast as Taylor interviews the Chisholm Trail High School yearbook members at or search for Ask Mike wherever you listen to podcasts, such as Apple Music or Spotify.

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Shiloh Scott

Shiloh Scott was the Digital Marketing Manager for Walsworth. They enjoy working in a variety of mediums, from print to broadcast to social media. Shiloh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.