Pony Voices Podcast tells stories of the district


Photo submitted by Carissa Keister

Podcast producers are working on the first episode of Pony Voices. In this episode, the new superintendent will be interviewed to learn more about him.

Peter Banister, Broadcast Editor-in-Chief

The Pony Voices Podcast is a new initiative started by the school district to deliver informative news and local stories to members of the district and community.  Its goal is to deliver the answers to questions people have been asking about issues concerning the school district and community.  Along with district questions, the podcast is mainly produced here to tell the stories of the community and the behind-the-scenes workers at the district.  With this new initiative, the district hopes families and the community will have a better, more personal connection on what is happening around the community.  

The host of Pony Voices Podcast is communications director, Carissa Keiser.  She does everything from hosting the show to organizing guests.  However, there is an editing team in charge of clipping together the episodes, Keister also occasionally helps with editing small bits when needed.  Without Keister, the Pony Voices podcast would not be able to operate as is.  

Part of my job is to help get information out to the community and so we decided to do the podcast,” Keister said.

Carissa’s main job at the district is to manage all information that goes out to families and the community.  This can come in newsletters, official social media posts and the now the new Pony Voices Podcast. 

She works with the School Board to get the necessary information from meetings to the community and voters who will care about what is happening in the area.  

Per a recent survey sent out to the community, word of mouth is the most common way people hear information regarding district news and information.  These statistics were taken into consideration when organizing the podcast to better provide to the target demographics in the district.  This is a crucial piece of knowing what stories need to be covered and what people have not heard yet.  Another benefit of the podcast is to cut down on some confusion people may be having about school board and community issues.  With the podcast, clearer answers along with higher quality explanations of events can be provided, unlike a newspaper.  

“There’s always issues, one of our big challenges is that about 77% of our residents don’t have kids in school. So these are the people whose kids are older or maybe they don’t have kids yet, or they just have never had kids,” said Carissa Keister

More importantly among the community, it is important to get the news out on School Board-related issues so there will be more informed voters during election time.  By diving deeper into issues related to the School Board on the episodes, voters can be more educated and informed on who they want to vote for in the next election.  

In society, there is a massive shift in how people get their news and information.  With the day of online media, more consumers are switching to getting their news online and through social media than ever before.  While online news has some benefits, there are also many downfalls, such as the spread of false information online and through social media.  With the use of podcasts, the news comes from reputable sources who have the ability to explain in depth each story and piece of news, which is what the Pony Voices podcast aims to do.  This is an inspiration that started the podcast because the district wanted to go beyond just a typical newsletter and explain issues clearly. 

“I would like to hear more from our students and their ideas. What they like about our schools, what is working for them, maybe what’s not working for them,” said school board member Alison Sherman. 

More students and district staff on the podcast would provide a real example to the community of who is affected by the school district and what their opinion is on new issues in the community and district.  More voices give listeners more ways to look at issues from different angles which is another benefit of the Pony Voices Podcast.  

In today’s world, people get their information from a lot of different sources you know, print, video, audio.

— Michael Funk

Another feature of the Pony Voices Podcast is to showcase the people who work behind the scenes and the stories of everyday people in the district.  The Pony Voices Podcast has the desire to bring in staff and students to get their opinion on issues from their point of view as well as to tell their stories and where they come from.  This approach gives listeners a more personal connection with their School Board and fellow community members and gives the podcast an “at home” feeling.  

The board was highly supportive of it, I thought it was a great idea,” said Sherman. 

The podcast is an easy way to get the School Board’s thoughts and opinions out in a way people understand.  By cutting down confusion on issues within the community, the district will vastly improve election results because people know who they want to vote for on the school board.  

One of the main differences with the Pony Voices podcast compared to communications from other districts is that the podcast focuses on local stories as well as news.  The podcast goes in-depth into interesting happenings and history of the district.  For an episode in January, the Stillwater Ponies mascot was the focus and showcased why Stillwater became the Ponies and what it means for the community.  There is also a level of flexibility in the podcast schedule where a new episode can be filmed whenever the district sees fit and stories that are important to the community at the current moment can be covered.  

“In today’s world, people get their information from a lot of different sources you know, print, video, audio” said superintendent Dr. Micheal Funk.

Many districts have typical weekly newsletters, however they can be confusing to people and typically not go into as much depth as you can get with a podcast.  Many Americans already listen to podcasts, so adding a few minutes of in depth local news and events is just a click away from their playlist.

The original idea for a district podcast came from superintendent, Funk when he took his job last July.  He suggested the podcast due to the fact that many surrounding school districts also do similar programs and it would be a new creative way to push information out.  Many other school board members along with Keister thought the podcast was a great idea, so the Pony Voices podcast was born.  The podcast first aired last October with its first episode introducing the new superintendent.  

 “I talked about some some of the potential impacts that some of the legislation that’s coming out of the legislature or potential legislation, and so I was able to talk to the board, to some degree about that. But then, after the meeting, we said hey, let’s do a podcast on this and we can go in a little bit more detail in depth and kind of share some of the background with the wider community,” Funk said.

Allowing more explanation can better explain issues that would effect the entire community.  Podcasts can be beneficial in this way because explanation to this extent would not be capable in a newsletter.

The Pony Voices Podcast serves not only as a district news portal, but as a place where local stories can be told.  This podcast has been running for the past 6 months with no plans to stop or slow down.  Many district officials and school board members think the podcast is a great initiative because it not only informs but also explains details in depth.