Elementary school adopts national program to get dads involved
Moms are generally known for being active volunteers in their children’s schools. They help make costumes for plays, assist in the classroom and even chaperon field trips.
But Windsor Hill Arts Infused Elementary School is tapping into another resource: dads.
Windsor Hill launched a program called Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) this school year that allows dads to spend the entire day volunteering at the school.
Watch DOGS is a national program started in 1998 by the National Center for Fathering. Over 2,276 schools in 41 states have adopted the program, and Windsor Hill is the first school in the Dorchester School District 2 to do so.
According to the national website, the goals of the program are to “provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important” and to “provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.”
Windsor Hill kicked off the program with a pizza night where over 250 dads and their children participated. Thirty dads signed up to volunteer that night, and the school anticipates more to sign up throughout the year. About 12 dads have volunteered so far.
“We use the term dad loosely. It can be any male role model. You don’t have to be a dad,” said Carolyn Thomas, the school’s curriculum and Title 1 facilitator.
School counselor Cara Jones said that when dads arrive, they follow a schedule that includes directing bus and car riders, monitoring classes during lunch, assisting teachers in the classroom and just being there to interact with students.
“Many of them forgot how exhausting school can be,” Tori Alford, another school counselor, said.
Cortez House volunteered for the first time on his birthday last Thursday. He has two sons at Windsor Hill: Kylen in first grade and Kahlil in third grade.
“It’s a great birthday gift to share my day with my boys,” he said.
House said he spent most of the day observing and helping the students stay on task.
“The main reason for getting involved is to show the children you care and to stress the importance of education,” he said.
Cariene Keadle, Kahlil’s teacher, said the students have responded very well to the volunteers.
“It’s exciting,” she said.
The dads are not only there for their own children, but also to be a role model for others.
Thomas said it is especially beneficial when volunteers engage in conversation with students because not all have a father figure to look up to.
House said having a positive male role model in the school “gives kids a sense of security. It’s an encourager to see we care as parents.”
Taylor Payne, father of fifth-grader Bailey, also volunteered for the first time last Thursday.
Payne said it is important for parents to get involved in their child’s school because “it’s not all on the teacher” to be involved in the child’s education.
“You don’t just want to leave it up to teachers,” he added.
He said he had fun seeing what his daughter does at school and what it’s like to be in fifth grade again.
“You may not want to get up at 6 a.m., but it’s important to know as much as you can about your kid’s life. It shows teachers you’re there if they ever need you,” Payne said.
Payne said he will be volunteering again next month and wants to volunteer again if he can get the time off work.
“I hope that she (Bailey) can see through my example how important it is to be involved in your kid’s education, especially if she ever has kids,” Payne said.
Jones and Alford heard about the program from a speaker at a regional meeting. They brought the idea back to the school, where the faculty and staff embraced it.
“Dads are an untapped resource. They just need the opportunity to get involved,” said school psychologist Ashley Ward.
Thomas said the program benefits the school because it “engages parents, provides role models and allows schools to have parent involvement.”
The faculty and staff at Windsor Hill hope that other schools in the area will see the benefits of the program and implement it at their schools. They also plan on continuing the program beyond this year.
“The national group makes it really easy to organize. ... It really runs itself. It’s self-sufficient,” Ward said.
“It’s an invaluable experience to show you care. It’s a priceless experience because of the memories you’re making,” House said.
“We’re just asking for one day,” Ward said.
“The more positive male influences the better,” Payne added.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or email@example.com.