BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — As the popularity of podcasts continues to surge, staff members of Maumee City Schools are trying to use the medium as a way to reach even more residents.
The Panther Podcast, which launched on January 3, features Maumee High School principal Scott Perrotte and Maumee Intermediate School principal Dr. Nick Neiderhouse as the hosts.
Director of technology Jason Dugan is also lending his expertise to the podcast as a producer and engineer.
“We thought this was just another medium to share and promote initiatives and other important things going on in the district,” Perrotte said.
Perrotte had previously hosted a few podcast episodes during the COVID-19 shutdown, spotlighting seniors and keeping connected with them while not in school.
After returning to in-person schooling, he looked for a chance to start up a podcast on a more regular schedule.
Neiderhouse, too, was interested in starting a podcast. With his participation in the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators, he has seen how effective podcasts can be.
“I wanted to use that medium to see how it could benefit our district,” Neiderhouse said.
Neiderhouse sought out advice from multiple podcast hosts and other districts with podcasts. He then contacted Dugan for his help.
While Dugan gathered the few necessary supplies, Neiderhouse and Perrotte connected to discuss the potential podcast.
After working over the winter break, the trio then launched the podcast at the beginning of January and have plans to continue with a steady supply of episodes for as long as they can.
“There are so many things going on, it’s actually harder to weed things out,” Perrotte said.
They plan to use the podcast as a method to promote events that impact the schools and the community and spotlight influential people throughout the district.
Over time, the group hopes to feature teachers, graduating seniors, the casts and crews from musicals, various student organizations and staff members from across the district.
“This is a more authentic way to engage people,” Neiderhouse said. “This isn’t scripted. There’s a lot of back and forth.”
As time goes on, they’re learning how to have meaningful dialogue that holds the attention of their audience and shares the stories from the community.
“We have a lot of experience with listening to podcasts and we feel like 30 minutes is a good length. It keeps their attention and doesn’t feel like a chore to listen to,” Dugan said.
Using Audacity software, Dugan can help edit the recording to eliminate portions where the school bells or sound of students moving through the halls might interrupt the audio and help keep it around the 30-minute timeframe.
“We’re not in a studio, so it’s nice that I can clean it up a little if needed. We just navigate that as we go along,” Dugan said.
As they film in a conference room, not a specific studio space, the three staff members can also make their “studio,” which consists of their laptops and three mics, more mobile.
They plan to use that flexibility to go to different locations, like the middle school or intermediate school, when necessary for their guests.
Podcast guests, however, do not have to be in the same room as Perrotte, Neiderhouse and Dugan. They’ve already had a former alum call in from across the country, allowing them to expand on who they feature.
They hope the large variety of guests will keep the audience interested.
“We published our first episode January 3 and as of January 28, we’ve had 258 listens,” Dugan said.
The number of listeners they expect will continue to grow.
“One statistic that was shared with me is that 28 percent of the U.S. population listens to podcasts. We thought, if a quarter of our population is listening to this, it’s worth it,” Neiderhouse said.
As time moves on and the number of listeners grows, they’re hoping more people will bring forward ideas, too.
“I don’t know if I’ve really thought about all of the possibilities with this. It’s really endless,” Perrotte said.
“There is no shortage of topics,” Neiderhouse added. “We have a long list of things we would like to do as the channel moves forward. We just have to find the right things to do at the right time.”
In the meantime, they hope their current listeners will help provide feedback and ideas by contacting the group at email@example.com.
Even without the feedback, the trio is learning what works and what doesn’t on the podcast.
“As we do more episodes, we will get better,” Dugan predicted. “We want to make it very natural and conversational.”
It’s important to not worry as much about the outlined questions and instead ask what naturally comes up, Perrotte added.
What interests the hosts will probably interest the listeners, too.
“At the end of the day, when people get a chance to learn about the people who are working at the district, I think that’s really important,” Perrotte said. “They become more than just a name.”
The group is excited to put out more podcasts and continue to connect with the community, Neiderhouse said.
Panther Podcast is currently available on Libsyn and Spotify for free and is awaiting approval from Apple Podcasts. The podcast is also linked through the Maumee City Schools Facebook page.