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Seniors Aavo Reinvald and Albert Tanjaya are eager for the day when student-produced video will again be broadcast on hallway television monitors at Central.


By Yvonne Dennis (246)

When exceptionally severe state budget cuts hit Philadelphia public schools a few years ago, the Central High School Broadcast Network was one of the student activities that bit the dust.

Central’s aging equipment was incompatible with new wiring in the building and the school could hardly channel dollars toward upgrades when it was struggling often times just to buy basic supplies.

But this month two members of Central’s 275th class, who as freshman saw the enthralling effect the TV network had on participating students, are resurrecting CBN through teamwork and creativity.

“The end of freshmen year Mr. (Robert) Burns came in English classes and he asked students if they wanted to be part of CBN,” said Albert Tanjaya, now a Central senior. “So, the start of sophomore year (interested students) were all transferred into a special advisory, a CBN advisory. And then we didn’t really do anything because of the funding crisis. ”

Albert, who was making documentary videos long before he was bleeding crimson and gold, started talking to his friend Aavo Reinvald, also a member of 275, and others about restarting CBN.

The previous incarnation of CBN broadcast student-produced news over Central’s internal network onto monitors in Central’s hallways and in classrooms during the opening advisory period. But some teachers didn’t like having the monitors on in their classrooms and some students didn’t like the idea that their work was only seen internally, said Mr. Burns.

IMG_20160121_083256 (2)The demise of CBN didn’t sit well with Mr. Burns but he had his hands full teaching classes, including television media, and sponsoring other student activities.

Albert was also unsatisfied with the way things had ended and last year he began speaking to School District tech staff about reviving the network through a more modern means–YouTube.


Charles Watson (269) spoke to students in Robert Burns’s broadcast-media class on Jan. 21. Charles participated in CBN while at Central and went on to study multimedia journalism at Temple University. He is now a multimedia reporter for Fios1News in the New York City area.

Central President Tim McKenna was amenable to the idea. Albert and Aavo enlisted as sponsors Central’s film-class instructor and the teacher who oversees technical production of school shows.  The two students–who refer to themselves as co-presidents and co-executive producers–sent out applications in January for participants and believe they will have the YouTube channel operable this month. All of the equipment, they said, would be supplied by the sponsors and the students.

“The resurrection of CBN is very important because we know what the school is capable of,” said Aavo. ” So even through the financial hardships we have the capability to bring this back and become the Central that we were a few years ago.”

Aavo sees the channel as a way for students in a school known as much for its diversity as its academic excellence to widely share their passions.

Albert sees the channel as a live-action complement to the school’s other major medium, the Centralizer newspaper, broadcasting sports clips and perhaps interviews with people featured in news articles.

One thing not in the plan for the new CBN is opinion content, largely because of a recent controversy that erupted over an opinion piece that ran on the Centralizer’s website, which is viewable to the wide public.

“I believe that the CBN provides us with a platform to showcase excellence and to enhance our connection with the community,” said Central Vice President Theresa Harrington, who will be one of the three administrative officials scrutinizing content before its posting. “I feel that broadcasting school events is a unique way to increase school spirit throughout the community. By bringing the CBN back my hope is that it provides a platform for students to learn about production and broadcast journalism. ”

Aavo and Albert see the effort as a District-wide win as well. The Central YouTube project led the District to help other schools create their own YouTube channels, said Albert.

Resurrecting CBN, Aavo said, “would show people that we might not have the money but as long as you work with others and you have teamwork and you try your hardest you can bring back these things.”