Ultimately, a yearbook adviser does what works best for his or her staff. I made my organizational decisions based upon the staff in front of me; I might have switched back to sections another year based on the staff, who knows? (I left Ads/index as a section even in a department setup, because I feel it is a beast-of-its-own nature and it's best to only have a few quality kids working on that section, independent of the rest of the staff).
When choosing yearbook staff organization, consider the following:
- Staff Experience Levels. If you have a seasoned staff, let them choose their organizational preferences. or let some kids dabble in two areas instead of only one. If you have an entirely new staff, where no one knows anything, then you might literally proceed one skill at a time. ("Today we're going to learn how to write captions, and then everyone's going to write some captions for the yearbook.")
- Staff Size. If your staff is very large, departments might work well; on the other hand, it might be easier not to try to coordinate a single spread between three kids. If your staff is very small, it might be better to have them work together, one spread at a time.
- Other Options. You can also add a business staff, if you have enough students. This is a great group of kids to have, if you get the opportunity to work with them; they're in charge of helping to balance the budget, and to advertise, sell and distribute books. My second year, I also had a staff of 2 girls who were my "go-to girls" that year. I literally gave them that job because they weren't showing any proficiency in the yearbook skills, but they turned out to be very valuable to the project because they did whatever I needed every day (one day it was making copies, another day it was filing, and so on).
- Yearbook Design Plan. Make the organization of staff work with the book organization. The thing I like about departments is that if I had changed my yearbook ladder (the page number order), I would have still had the same staff setup. For example, if you go to a chronological yearbook one year, a section-based organization may not make as much sense any more since your yearbook will not be divided sectionally.
No matter the situation, flexibility is key. A writer may not be working out, so move her to the photography staff. If the photographers are all slackers, take away their hall passes and let other kids take photos instead. If no one is qualified to lead the staff, go a year without an editor-in-chief. You do what you have to do in order to produce a quality yearbook, and sometimes that means changing the plan mid-year.