Film teacher laid off

Future of film program up in air


By Meredith Chapple and Kira Auchenbach

Students and staff mainly know Room 125 Productions, the film program, for the Winter Court and Homecoming videos every year.

However, students involved in film also produce movies like the recently released “I’ve Never Kissed a Girl” and productions like those seen on the screens in the Social Studies hallway.

A few weeks ago, film teacher Tim Sostarich was laid off, placing the future of the well-developed film program up in air.

Sostarich was laid off and some of his classes were moved to the College and Career Center due to budget reductions, said Patrick Kelly, Director of Career and Technical Education. He said that they wanted to make sure students at both high schools, like the ones that visit the CCC, can take those film classes as well.

Sostarich will be the second film teacher leaving for many juniors and seniors in the film program. Students said that without Sostarich, the film program won’t be as connected to the school as it is now.

I think the film department will basically go back to how it used to be,” junior Jordyn Leon said. “It wasn’t involved with the school at all.”

Out of Sostarich’s 16 advanced film students, only three are graduating, he said. The remaining 13 students will have to decide how to keep their close-knit film group together and their productions running without him.

“We were starting to get it organized where we actually had an impact on the school and our videos —  they were showing them in TVs in the hallways — but now I feel like it’s just going to be completely disorganized,” junior Aaron Lewis said.

After having Sostarich as the film teacher for two years, the loss came as a shock to the students. He was notified that he would be leaving a few weeks ago, but little warning otherwise was given.

“None of us saw this as a possibility,” Sostarich said. “We all just thought things were going along fine and things would continue to go along fine.”

Business teacher Lisa Burns will take over the AV Fundamental and Film I classes after Sostarich leaves. Burns said she was surprised that she was chosen to take over the classes next year.

“I didn’t know it was even an option for me to teach,” Burns said. “My background is in corporate and small business management and my teaching license is in Business Education.”

Sostarich said he is confident in Burns’ teaching expertise, but he does not know whether Burns is confident in teaching a film class.

“As far as teaching is concerned, I think she’s a great teacher,” Sostarich said. “I just don’t know that she has any experience whatsoever in video production.”

Some of the more advanced film classes, like Film II and Film III, will be taken at the College and Career Center next year.

Film students and Sostarich are worried that since there is no experienced film teacher or an advanced program at Lawrence High, the enrollment of higher film classes will drop. Since the advanced classes are moving to the CCC, it would create more problems for students, including consumption of time in their schedules and distance to the career center.

“The people that are in Film I now — if they were interested in taking a film class — they would have to go to the College and Career Center,” junior Shadow Spooner said. “They probably wouldn’t want to do that… They can’t pursue the thing they want because they don’t have enough time.”

Some film students in more advanced classes, like Spooner, Leon and Lewis, plan to take an independent study class.

“Having an independent study is a way to work around the problem that we can’t actually go out there [to the CCC] everyday because we don’t have time in our schedules,” Lewis said. “It’s just sort of the way we’re going to keep doing things and just sort of carry on.”

While the students commuting to the CCC won’t be at school to film, Kelly said the longer classes there will actually give them more time to produce the Winter Court, Homecoming and school-related videos.

“It may be easier to do it [film] here, but because of being at the center and having a longer period of time, it actually may give us more flexibility on doing that,” Kelly said.

Next year, Sostarich will work at Bonner Springs High School in Bonner Springs, Kan. Until he is gone, Sostarich said he plans to continue along the same path with his students. He will continue turning one of the rooms in room 125 into a studio space for the students, he said.

“I’m just going to keep working on it until the end of the school year,” Sostarich said. “Until my time here is up and then hopefully either Ms. Burns or somebody else — whether it’s Ms. [Barbara] Tholen [who teaches journalism] or the students themselves — will be able to utilize the stuff that I’ve been able to create here.”