LOCAL NEWS/Continued reporting

Beyond localizing national stories, there's an unmatched importance to keeping your readers informed on local happenings and plans for the future. Local reporting has allowed me to get to know the changemakers in my community — public officials, school workers, store managers, doctors, psychologists and plenty more.

I've made priceless connections with people in and out of the public eye that have established my credibility as a student journalist — and as a community member as well. My ongoing coverage of district and local politics stemmed from connections I made on previous stories, and the trust we instilled in each other. 

Click the side arrows to see the story behind each piece, and for a link to the original work.

Rolling coverage on SMSD teacher

contract negotiations

*3rd place KSPA Monthly Contest News Story (November 2019)

As district-teacher negotiations began in spring 2019, the timing of the process was unclear. But as weeks and months went by, teachers ramped up efforts to voice their disapproval of an increase of five to six hours of teaching a day and a lack of pay raise from 2018 to now. 

This board meeting was a crucial step in the process that I covered in eight separate articles — with hundreds in attendance and 20 speakers that used the public comment section of the meeting to voice support for teachers and contempt for the decision being made. 

The district's ongoing negotiation troubles are a beat I've followed closely and an end to the negotiations isn't yet conclusively in sight. 

Brookwood community comes together, outshines protests

After the Westboro Baptist Church announced they would be protesting a transgender elementary school student at Brookwood Elementary, the community didn't try to take on the church. Instead, they planned a get-together in the back lot and playground of the school — donuts, families, neighbors and more filled the lawn and Westboro was an afterthought.

I covered the event by talking to families in attendance and the SMSD superintendent for a story, as well as shooting the gathering for an attached photo gallery. 

Obituary: John Nickels

John Nickels was a teacher that never really left East. Teachers who knew him best also knew he was always a positive influence on students — whether it was the over 55 trips he took students on or the traditions he kept with them.

One beloved tradition involved assigning students to write letters to themselves in class. Three years after their graduation, he would send them the letter.

It's one thing to sit with subjects and discuss topics that bring both them and yourself to tears. But sitting with teachers — some of whom I'd had classes and close relationships with — to pay tribute to Nickels's life was a privilege that will stay with me forever as well.

The 7:20 Statement

Shortly after the widely attended board meeting (shown at the top of this page), teachers spoke up about their recurring meetings at the SME flag pole before school to show their disapproval of district action and the continued negotiations. Students, parents and community members then gathered together and stood outside the school for 20 minutes before classes began.

I covered the event and shot a gallery for it. It also established my beat of covering the district's teacher salary negotiation situation (and taught me to always be ready for new developments). 

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©2019 by Benjamin A. Henschel.