Podcasts Schools

Now Hear This: E.C. Schools Launch Podcast

Eau Claire Area School District’s Families First Podcast aims to inform parents, community

Tom Giffey |

Parents, students, and community members now have a new way to hear about what’s going on in the Eau Claire Area School District.

The district launched its Families First Podcast this summer. The podcast was created to provide useful information in a new and easily accessible format, said Dani Claesges, who among other things serves as the district’s homeless program coordinator.

In addition to emails, letters, and online notifications, “We always need to communicate in others ways to our families,” Claesges said. The first episode of the podcast, which came out in June, discussed summer activities offered by the school district. Episode two, planned for mid-August, will cover back-to-school related topics. Future episodes, which are slated to be posted monthly, may cover topics such as services for students with special needs, academic resources in the district, mental health, parent-teacher conferences, and more.

Claesges said the idea for the podcast grew out of a conversation she had with coworker Blia Schwan, the school district’s liaison with the Hmong community. As Schwan noted, Hmong culture places an emphasis on oral communication, which means written materials (whether they are emails to parents or fliers that come home in students’ backpacks) don’t always meet Hmong families’ needs.

A podcast, however, can reach these and many other kinds of families – not to mention community members – who are interested in what’s happening in Eau Claire’s schools.

“We know this is not going to be the be-all and end-all, but it shows the district is trying to diversity how we get information out to our families.” –Dani Claesges, creator, Families First Podcast

Claesges assembled a multilingual group of colleagues, brainstormed relevant podcast topics, and prepared a script. Why a script and not an off-the-cuff conversation? While the Families First Podcast is conversational, it’s also recorded in three languages, which means a script was needed to ensure the different editions of the podcast covered the same topics.

“We felt like that was the right way to go to make sure that nothing was lost,” Claesges said.

The English-language version of the podcast was recorded by Claesges herself alongside Erin Anderson, partnership coordinator at Putnam Heights Elementary and  American Indian education coordinator. Meanwhile, Schwan and Khoua Vang, principal of Locust Lane Elementary, host the Hmong language version of the podcast, while Kresly Rodriguez Martinez and Lizzie Castro, both bilingual education assistants, provided their talents to the podcast’s Spanish edition.

Claesges said the team is aiming for programs that are relatively short (20 minutes at a maximum) and down-to-earth.

“We know this is not going to be the be-all and end-all, but it shows the district is trying to diversity how we get information out to our families,” she said.

The Families First Podcast can be found in English, Hmong, and Spanish at www.ecasd.us/District/About/Family-Community-Podcast. In the future, it will be available through a variety of podcasting platforms for download to your digital device.