Making waves: High school radio station is on the air

by Rachel H. Goldman

September 30, 2011

Kennebunk Post


Sue Cressey and Zach Pyle cleared their throats, leaned toward their microphones and spoke to the high school student body over the airwaves.  Cressey, Kennebunk High School principal, and Pyle, a junior, gave Kennebunk High School Radio Club’s first live radio show during Monday’s advisory period.

“It’s the first time I’ve been introduced by Lady Gaga,” Cressey joked as she waited for a Lady Gaga song to wrap up before she and Pyle went live.

High school teachers hooked up their laptops and SMART Boards to broadcast the show.  Shortly after 9 a.m., Pyles’s voice spilled into classrooms.  Pyle, of Arundel, and one of the 10 radio club members, shared the weather, weekend sports reports and lunch specials.

Kathyrn Lapierre, a fellow junior and club member, then quizzed listeners on a Maine state fact.

“It was very satisfying to be present this morning as the hard work of so many people came to fruition,” Cressey later said in an e-mail.

The radio station has been a dream of special education teacher Judith Pitchforth and education technician Michael Fagerson for several years.  Fagerson, whose 25 years of sports broadcasting experience includes announcing Portland Sea Dogs’ and Pirates’ games, said he knew the station would be a learning opportunity for students.  He said he could feel himself learning during his first on-air experience as a graduate student announcing football games at the University Of Massachusetts Amherst.

“I knew I was learning and developing whether it was developing a voice or working through the little things like not saying ‘umm’ or ‘uhh’ to fill space,” he said.

Fagerson said broadcasting encourages students to be comfortable “thinking and speaking on the fly.”  It also teaches them basic communication skills that will make them comfortable speaking to anyone.

Pitchforth said she wanted the station to be another outlet for students.

“I knew there were kids out there who weren’t interested in the other activities and this would be something new.  I also knew it would give them a voice.  It would be a way to help them feel part of the community through communications,” she said.

Pitchforth and Fagerson approached the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel last year and in November were awarded an $8,000 grant.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Pitchforth said.

The grant funded computer and studio equipment, including a  mixing board that will enable the station to broadcast on an FM station in the future.  The station currently is accessible through the high school website.

“The foundation looks for innovative and creative programming and this just fit right into that mission,” said Ann Stockbridge, the foundation’s president.  What we love about this project is that it reaches every student.  It’s also Internet-based so it opens up to the community.  It’s so far reaching and there are opportunities for kids to participate in so many dimensions.”

Pitchforth said Steve Vanni, a New Hampshire-based sales representative and service consultant with ties to the community, and IT staff member Becky Test were instrumental in getting the station on its feet.  Vanni provided broadcasting support and helped Pitchforth and Fagerson determine what equipment to buy. Test provided audio streaming technology support.  She also volunteered during summer and worked with students Emily Boyd, Bram Oosten and Will Towne to hook up equipment.

Stockbridge said the education foundation was also drawn to the station because it provides students with hands-on, real world experience.  Pitchforth and Fagerson agreed.

“This will be great for kids interested in communication.  It’s a career builder,” she said.  “It gives them an idea of the world later on.”

“It’s really important the kids learn how to speak to people and this does that,” Fagerson said.  “Kids come up to me and say I already know I want to be a plumber, I don’t  need to learn to do this or that.  But I tell them that no matter what they want to do, they have to be able to talk to people.  They have to be able to communicate.”

Pyle, a member of the school newspaper, said he joined the group to gain more pre-professional experience in communications.

“I wanted another opportunity to get my feet wet in that field,” he said.  “I’m enjoying trying the different media.  Even though writing and radio are under the same umbrella it’s pretty different sitting down with a microphone when I’m used to having a pen and paper.”

Lapierre agreed that her interst in radio communications drew her to the group.

“I can see myself doing this in my adult life,” she said.  “I figured I’d join and it would be a good introduction and a good way to test things out before college.”

Kennebunk High School Radio Station currently broadcasts live daily from 9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. during advisory period.  Music, chosen by club members, loops on the station throughout the day.

“What’s so powerful about it is that anyone can listen to it over the Internet like this,” Pitchforth said. “Grandparents, relatives even (former principal) Mr. (Peter) Dawson in Germany. If he wanted to listen to us then he could. He could tune in and listen on our website.”

Pitchforth said she sees the station growing in coming months.

“There are a number of students who have put forth ideas, like broadcasting poems, for example, or including more news and music shows,” she said.

Pitchforth said she envisions having a radio show schedule on the website where listeners can pick from a variety of shows. She said shows also will eventually be archived as podcasts so community members can listen to past installments.

Fagerson said he hopes to see more news and live reporting. He said an immediate goal is to be able to broadcast the football game live during homecoming weekend.

“We have everything in place to do this,” Pitchforth said. “Now we just need to make it happen.”

Pitchforth, Fagerson and Cressey said it has been exciting to watch students gravitate toward the new group.

“The best part is seeing the kids’ personalities come through, to see what they have inside,” Fagerson said. “They might be nervous at first but then they start opening up and I can see them having a blast.”

To tune in to Kennebunk High School Radio Station visit