Jack Maher can often be seen around Jefferson County schools, always with his black cap, a Sony Alpha 77 II camera, a mini-tripod and an extra lens.
Sometimes, he brings along his larger Sony 4K video camera, the much-smaller GoPro cameras, a drone, a glider or lighting kits.
Whatever it takes to tell the story.
“We have some real heroes and they are mostly unsung,” Maher said of teachers and students in Jeffco public schools. “If I can put a spotlight on one, then I feel good.”
Maher is the sole videographer and editor behind the school district’s video team, and producer of its YouTube channel, JPS-TV.
“Jeffco Public Schools is very lucky to have Jack — he is a great storyteller,” said Diana Wilson, the district’s chief communications officer. “With such a large school district, it’s challenging to share great stories and information with families, the community and, sometimes, even our own employees.”
Before joining the school district in 2014, Maher worked for 34 years at 9News in Denver. He started one of Denver’s first morning shows in the 1980s, worked as a producer, news executive and reporter. He had retired and was all set to write a book about Denver’s morning TV news wars when he saw Jeffco was looking for a videographer.
Retirement didn’t last long.
“My take on Jeffco from the news side was all about controversy, and not all the little stories were getting out,” Maher said. “I wanted to find a place for those voices that don’t always get heard.”
Maher likes to tell what he calls experiential stories.
“I want to put the viewer there like I was,” he said recently, as he took a break from editing a new video.
Recently, Maher produced a two-part series about a senior rafting trip to Dinosaur National Monument near the Colorado-Utah border. He hiked in to meet the students, carring all his camera gear in a backpack. His goal: To show viewers what it was like to be with students on the trip.
“They were so thankful to be in nature and learn not only rafting but also life,” Maher said, noting that the biggest difference for him from working in news is the ability to take his time on a project like the rafting trip.
“At 9, it’s all about pushing content quickly,efficiently and on multiple platforms with quality,” Maher said. “Here, I can take three days to shoot something and a week to edit the two-parter.”
He posts two stories a week to the YouTube channel, JPS-TV, which has more than 275,000 views. When the school year gets busy, he does four to five video shoots a week.
“There are tons of requests for Jack to do videos because he is so good at it,” Wilson said, “new programs, school happenings, student work, curriculum guides — the list goes on.”
Maher, who has four Emmy awards from his work at 9 News, was nominated in 2016 for theBest Teen or Youth Program for a complilation of stories from Jeffco Schools.
With a district the size of Jeffco — the state’s second largest with 156 schools and 86,000 students — stories are more than abundant. Maher said he has to be selective and gravitates toward those that inspire or “light a fire” with other schools.
Like A Day Without Hate — a student-led, grassroots organization that promotes nonviolence, unity and respect in schools — which shows the true heart of Jeffco students.
“If I can show people outside of the district the love from that day and the energy these teens are showing,” Maher said, “what a wonderful thing to do.”