Owl 360 podcast keeps schools, community informed


When the purple and white Walnut Street Studios sign is turned around and "On Air" can be read across the door, members of the school community are hard at work recording a show.

Administrators, teachers and students are discussing trending topics, going over new protocols and talking about common and detailed issues, but most importantly, keeping the members of the schools and community informed.

In an ever-changing technological society, Seymour Community School Corp. aims to communicate with the public in the most effective, accessible, up-to-date ways.

Last year, a team came up with the idea to create an audio podcast called Owl 360.

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This year, the group plans on the project really taking off.

While traditional newsletters continued to flood email boxes of parents and teachers alike, the group felt like a new opportunity might better inform the public.

"What started us on this process, with a school system as large as we are, we want to communicate with everyone," Assistant Superintendent Lisa Ferguson said.

"We had a newsletter that we put out, but so many times, we wait for people to come to us. We need to branch out to things that maybe we’re not comfortable with or sure of how it works," she said. "Just like the students, we want to try and lead by example. We need to know what’s relevant and what people want."

Troy Hubbard, who is a developmental counselor and administrator with the schools, hosts the podcasts. He has an extensive radio background, which includes a broadcasting degree, and he still hosts various shows, including Beatles Power Hour on Radio 96.3 WJAA.

Ferguson said Shawn Mahoney, a technology integration specialist with the schools, edits and posts the podcasts to various platforms for consumption.

Other members of the team who helped start the podcast included technology director Brian Rodman, director of special education Mika Ahlbrand and director of federal programs Diane Altemeyer.

"When the idea of this first came up and we sat down and started talking about it, we asked why we would even do this, what are we trying to do?" Ferguson said. "We are trying to enlighten. One of the things that I think is a draw for people is that you can bring it into their world."

Hubbard said he commutes to Seymour from Salem every day, and many other teachers also have long drives to work. He said he often listens to podcasts on his way and believes other educators will, too.

Ferguson said she knows of teachers who will listen to the podcasts during prep periods, keeping them up to date while keeping their attention in the classroom.

While Hubbard has a microphone at the administration building at 1638 S. Walnut St., he also has the ability to record on location.

Last week, Hubbard stopped by Seymour Middle School to meet with Principal Daniel Mendez and Sixth Grade Center Principal Linda Luedeman to talk about the new year.

"There are a lot of different ways that people are getting their information, and podcasts are becoming a more popular method of getting information," Mendez said. "Parents and the community want to know what’s happening. You can’t get all of that from a website. They want to know people who are leading in the building and working with their kids every day. They want to know the strengths and weaknesses and where we’re going."

So far, the main guests on the shows have been teachers and administrators. 

In the future, Hubbard said they want to find a way to get parents and students more involved.

"We are looking for anyone that would benefit the community and our kids," Hubbard said. "Mrs. Ferguson took the time to create a very nice schedule to determine what we’re going to do each month. There are different facets to each one. The nice thing is there could be one topic we were going to touch on and it could turn into a whole show. We find a topic that’s really important and takes off."

Hubbard said the podcast can address issues as they arise.

"For an example, the Department of Education may come down and say there is going to be a change in the next 10 days," he said. "We can get the podcast out with emails and documents explaining what’s going on."

Ferguson said Hubbard has expertise that lends itself to the podcast.

"Troy is a counselor, and one of the segments is going to be on social and emotional health and what supports we have in place," she said. "We want that to be a regular part of what we’re sharing. A lot of people are dealing with a lot of things and don’t know what connections they can make in our community."

One of the planned topics will tackle the growth at the schools and what changes are being made to accommodate the students and teachers.

"We want to talk about the growth and things they might see cropping up," Ferguson said. "People might wonder what we’re doing, and we will be able to get folks in and talk about options."

A video piece was added to the podcast at the end of last school year, and the group plans on incorporating more visuals in the future.

Emerson Elementary School second grade teachers Jennie Chase and Jami Kiel and their students were on the podcast last year. The students and teachers were interviewed and filmed while walking to the Seymour High School baseball diamond to make a connection to a reading story. They met the coaches and players, experienced hitting in the batting cage and played baseball on the field.

"The podcast allowed our community to see this valuable, educational experience," Chase said. "We thought it was awesome."

Mendez said he thinks the school is moving in the right direction by branching into something new.

"We’re supposed to reflect society," Mendez said. "If society is moving that way, we have to be trending with it. These days, kids are so technologically advanced, and it pushes us. It’s a good thing. It pushes us to stay current with the medium that is most connecting with our community."

The podcast can be found on various platforms that distribute podcasts, including Ask.fm, Apple Podcast, iTunes and Spotify. 

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