It was 1973 or '74. Al Greenberg, chairman of the Finance Committee, and I had just finished our monthly review of the school budget. We both had something in common. He attended a Boys Club in New York City. I attended the Babcock Boys Club of Buffalo. I told him we had a radio station that was piped into the three floors of the clubhouse. It was run completely by the boys. Al said he was an avid ham radio operator.
Within minutes we had formulated an idea: Station WAHS.
He could obtain the radio license and Mr. Wormwood, the principal of the high school, and I could construct a general plan. I called Mr. Wormwood and he said, sounds good to me!
Al and I estimated it would cost $5,000 for the license and equipment. We had the space and the labor. I always had a category in the budget, New Initiatives.
It was the early '70s and the economy was not doing well. The tone of the town was essential services, just balance the budget and nothing new. Al and I showed the trade-offs for the proposal. WAHS never made it to Town Meeting. In my judgment there were a few basic reasons for this. I did not sell the idea as well as I should have. There was not sufficient time to involve the community, faculty and students to gain their support. I should have waited until the next year's Town Meeting and followed the steps I knew should have been done. I should have followed through on the idea, but I did not.
Andover High School still could have its own radio station WAHS. We could broadcast throughout the town. It would not be a WBZ. But it would serve the youth and be quite an educational innovation.
It would be coordinated by a communications director. We could pay a faculty member to be an advisor. Maybe someone would volunteer. How about a community volunteer? Ninety-five percent of the ideas could come from the students. It would be student-run with necessary oversight. The English Department could help with necessary skills. We could have writers, announcers and critics. The Athletic Department could be a source of much information and activity. The Social Studies Department could be the base of the news programs. The Music Department would give us more material than we could handle. The Business Department would run it like a business. The talents of individual students would provide necessary topics of interest. We could offer teenage perspective on issues of the day. We could have talent shows and student debates. Other high schools could contribute, as well as the rest of the Andover schools. It would be self-supporting.
The radio station was intended to be a focal point for a cohesive school spirit. There is much activity in a high school, but you need a vehicle for togetherness. This remains a problem for every high school in the country.
I still think a radio station has a place in a high school. On the other hand, Andover High has a well equipped TV studio. We are fortunate to have Joe Spanos, whose vision of possibilities is very refreshing. We have some of the most gifted students in the country.
I would divide the programming into two segments. One is community TV and the other is to establish the finest student TV studio in this country with standards and programming that is better than what we get on commercial TV. No student-initiated program will be shown until it represents what the students believe to be in good taste and relevant to the world they live in. If the community does not like what is produced, residents should give the students feedback. That is the best way to learn.
Just a little food for thought.
Oh yes - for a few years after our idea faded, Al and I both agreed it was a good idea, with a bad plan and bad timing. Sorry Al, I know you could have obtained the license.
Ken Seifert is a 40-year resident of Andover and former superintendent of the Andover Public Schools.