When stepping through the front door of Houston Middle School, it’s hard not to notice the flat screen television in the display case to the right.
Stopping for a moment and tuning in on what’s being shown reveals that the school sort of has its own information channel.
Known as Tiger Tracker, the program provides a continuous flow of information, event announcements, photos and other content pertaining to life at HMS. By checking out the Tracker, students can do everything from view the week’s cafeteria menu to make game night plans by looking at sports schedules.
But how does the program exist?
Introducing senior Kody Cross and eighth-grader Dale Martin, Tiger Tracker executive producers. Cross and Martin share the duty of keeping the program updated and running by doing the necessary up and downloading in the program’s laptop computer. Martin does his part early each morning while Cross does his in the afternoon.
Rarely — if ever — are the two young men together.
“It’s kind of amazing,” HMS counselor and Tiger Tracker supervisor Brenda McGowen said. “They more or less work independently on a joint project.”
Cross works afternoons with McGowen as an office cadet and student tutor. He tutors younger students in more than one subject category as part of his A+ program requirement.
“I’ll pretty much help them with anything they need help with,” Cross said.
Now in his second year as a Tracker producer, Martin was recommended for the program by HMS Principal Scott Dill. He said his involvement happened in part by necessity.
“I know how to turn on computers and things like that,” he said.
In addition to the simple satisfaction of seeing the program he worked on running, Martin likes one other thing about being a Tiger Tracker producer.
“I can get inside the school first thing in the morning without getting in trouble,” he said.
Cross said he sometimes gets so engrossed in doing Tiger Tracker work that he loses track of time.
“I get kind of obsessed with it sometimes and end up missing a bell or not realizing it’s going to ring,” he said.
The duo have gained the trust needed to be given a key to McGowen’s office, which is where the bulk of the Tiger Tracker work is done.
“To Dale’s credit, he could be spending time with his friends instead of doing this, but he gives up that time to do this for the school,” McGowen said. “And even if I’m not here in the afternoon, I don’t have to worry about Cody. He just comes in and does what he needs to do.”
The TV and laptop used for Tiger Tracker were donated two years ago by 147th District Representative Don Wells.
McGowen hopes that in the near future the program can be taken to another level, involving more equipment and reaching more viewers. She and Dill are considering the possibility of making Tiger Tracker available to classroom TV screens and a deal may soon be worked out have it run on the Houston Herald’s Channel 7, a local Cable America offering.
“That would help parents,” McGowen said. “They need that kind of information; they have busy lives and they forget things.”
In an ideal world, McGowen envisions a Tiger Tracker big screen set up in the cafeteria.
“Kids would see it and read it more since they would be already sitting there,” she said.
With Cross’ graduation nearing, McGowen will soon be grooming a replacement. She is also considering adding a third student who would focus on proofreading.
“If it’s going to be seen by more people, we need to be as sure as we can that it’s ready,” she said.