By Rebecca Piro – Sun Staff
TEWKSBURY— High school wasn’t so long ago that Lowell alum James Kennedy can’t remember the importance of the student yearbook.
“No one likes to get a yearbook where you have the wrong name under someone else’s picture,” he said. “When things like that happen, feelings get hurt.”
But Kennedy, a 1987 Lowell High School graduate and 1992-1994 member of the Lowell School Committee, thinks he has the face-saving solution.
EZ Yearbooks, based in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is an Internet company that allows students and faculty advisers to create a yearbook online, managing student submissions, photos and surveys on the Internet. The information is accessible, ready to edit and viewable to anyone, at any time, with Internet access.
It’s a system that Kennedy, company partner, says will save high schools time, money and sanity.
“Editors can log in and edit right online,” he said. “They can send it to the adviser for final approval or send it back to the student for further clarification or editing. It’s all well organized and students may have a chance to have a second look before it goes to print.”
Between typing student submissions, translating students’ handwriting and managing massive amounts of paper, assembling a yearbook- which is typically done in the first half of the senior class’ year- can get messy, Kennedy said.
Last-minute problems can lead to missed deadlines with the publisher, which can result in crippling fees to the school.
“(The fee for a missed publishing date) could be a couple of grand,” Kennedy said. “If they had already designed the book, and there and changes all throughout at the last minute, it could get pretty hefty.”
Kennedy, who holds an MBA from Bentley College and started his own Web design and marketing company, MBA Team, Inc., got the idea while designing a Web page for the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District two years ago.
Yearbook adviser and English teacher Greg Goetz was frustrated with trying to meet deadlines with only four computer stations, 20 students and reams of hand-written submissions.
“It was really unproductive,” Goetz said. “I brainstormed with (Kennedy) about what I wanted to be able to do.”
Kennedy took the adviser’s words seriously, and got to work on EZ yearbooks. Whitman-Hanson was the first customer.
“The fact that we could create 36 pages and have everything aligned with a click of a button in the end was phenomenal,” Goetz said.
EZ Yearbooks charges a school $1,000 to use the program. For that price, the school automatically reserves the right to use and store information on 50 megabytes of space. Every additional megabyte used costs $1 each. Kennedy estimates that a large school could cost from $1,000 to $3,000—what he calls a “very affordable” price.
Whitman-Hanson will use the program again this year, and Kennedy’s own alma mater, Lowell High, will log on to the program as EZ Yearbooks’ second customer. Besides assembling the yearbook, these schools will be able to sell advertising online to support the yearbook, as well as the yearbooks themselves.