Thomas McKean High School students and faculty were excited to see the newly revamped radio station construction completed as well as the addition of a TV station to the Highlanders' multimedia repertoire.

Thomas McKean High School's radio station has come a long way from the fall of 2008, when equipment had fallen into disrepair and hindered students' ability to realize the full potential of this resource.

A few months ago, construction was completed on a revamped radio station, not to mention the addition of a new television station to round out the career & technical education program focused on communications at McKean. In a word, the state-of-the-art technology has faculty and students excited about what lies ahead with their revamped and expanded multimedia facilities.

McKean Principal Lisa Ueltzhoffer credited Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Public Information Officer Pati Nash and career and technical education director Sharon Rookard for finding federal money that was made available for career & technical programs, thereby making construction of the revamped station possible.

Ueltzhoffer also said McKean hired the right people to lead the program: media and communications teacher Matt Ryan, who studied communications and education, respectively, at the University of Delaware and Wilmington University, and program manager Rob Markopoulos, an Emmy-Award winner and University of Southern California grad who came from NFL Films.

Ryan still marvels at how the old motherboard at WMHS, 88.1 FM, lasted for 10 years and kept McKean radio on the air.

"We still don't know how," he said. "It just kept going and going and going. It never died on us until we switched it, thankfully."

There is now a plethora of new P.C.s, new software called Simeon 2.1 and a new TriCaster (the main control board) that run the TV station, a new console in the radio station as well as new microphones and headphones, among other things, Ryan said. There is also a new iMac lab that students use to help edit their broadcast work. Nothing old was left.

Ryan said he has approached his job with the idea that students would be able to do homeroom shows the way he did when he was a student at Newark High School along with the broadcast and sports play-by-play work he did at UD.

He also wants to do some test runs this spring with students broadcasting a few baseball games in the spring, and then work the kinks out to ensure students are ready to broadcast football games live in autumn.

"We've come a long way in a couple of months," Ryan said. "We're already producing content with the kids. … We just released our 30-minute documentary, 'The Making of EDtv.'"

Students' reactions

Indeed, students have been feeling pretty good about the revamped radio station and the new TV station.

McKean seniors Brent Hall, of Hockessin; Luis Ruiz, of Marshallton; Alberto Vasquez, of Stanton, and Edwin Zavala, of Elsmere, remember what it was like to work in the old radio station.

"Before, it was a little confusing," Vasquez said. "Everything wasn't set up together. Now, everything is set up together so we don't have to do as much."

"Who doesn't like new things?" Zavala said. "I also liked the old station. But it's really improved now."

Hall and Ruiz recently won first place while representing McKean at the statewide DECA communications competition. Their essay discussed the vast, still untapped potential that McKean's revamped radio station had for its students, Hall said.

"Now, we've got this new professional studio; the technology is just ridiculous," he said. "Once you learn everything, there's not stopping you. I just aired my first debut radio show with my friend, [2012 McKean grad Jared Drass]. He loves the new studio; he can't wait to come.

"It's a stepping stone to something that most kids don't get," Hall said. "Mr. Ryan wants us to go to college but, once we graduate from graduate from McKean he wants us to have the know-how to hop right into a studio and know what we're doing. A commercial studio like this gives us that opportunity."