Bishop Elementary School is calling out the big dogs – fathers, grandfathers and uncles, the men of families – to bring an extra set of eyes for security and to bring more positive male influences to the classroom and playground.
In an environment dominated by females, school officials are hoping that an increased male presence at the school this year will be to the benefit of all.
The program, called WATCH D.O.G.S., or dads of great students, kicks off from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday at the Bishop Activity Center with a registration and presentation. Every elementary school father is invited to participate.
“We have 78 men signed up already,” Monica Pederson, program coordinator and teacher at Pine/Elm Street School, said Saturday. She said when the men are asked to participate, they are told it’s to help out and be closer to their kids, “What father wouldn’t want to join?”
WATCH D.O.G.S. at Bishop will be modeled after the National Center for Fathering program. The program will get fathers, specifically, more involved in their child’s academic life.
“We want fathers and men to be more visible,” Pederson said.
Superintendent Barry Simpson said that it has been proven that parent involvement is the number one way to improve academic scores and for students to have a positive school experience.
More adults on campus also increase safety, said Bishop Elementary School Principal Betsy McDonald. McDonald added that WATCH D.O.G.S. will create an opportunity for men to participate. She said that traditionally, it is difficult for men to get the time off or there may be a negative stigma associated with men playing with little kids.
Pederson said that she has read anecdotal accounts of men re-working their entire work schedule, from day to night shifts, for example, just to have the opportunity to share school time with their kids.
D.O.G.S. will be on campus for encouragement, help with hallway traffic control, assist on the playground and in the classroom. The men will also have the opportunity to eat lunch with the kids, act as chaperone on field trips, lend their own experience to projects or be a mentor.
At the registration Thursday, men will choose specific dates and times they will be participate during the school year. The program asks volunteers for just one day a year, or even a few hours, but the more the better, Pederson said.
McDonald said it will also be a boost for students to see that school is important to the community.
The program is hoped be a benefit to children who have no father-figure at home, as well as give fathers a chance to sneak a peek into their child’s school life.
McDonald said D.O.G.S. will be given T-shirts signifying their affiliation and serve as a beacon for students looking for help. She said she’s heard of D.O.G.S. in other schools gaining “rock star” status.
Simpson and McDonald agreed that elementary school is a female field, and that WATCH D.O.G.S. will be a way to add more diverse positive role models to the grounds.
The registration will happen from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday at the Bishop Activity Center located between Pine and Home Street schools. The free pizza and registration was originally planned to be at the Pizza Factory, but the crowd has grown too big for that restaurant. The registration is for men only; organizers are asking that no children attend.
For more information, call Pine Street School and ask for an application, or talk to Pederson at (760) 872-1658.