Dads in the Schools
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
FEBRUARY 9, 2016 – When Douglas Krieger and his family lived in Texas, his oldest daughter went to an elementary school where fathers regularly came and volunteered for a day.
“We thought it was a great activity,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for dads to connect with each other and with the school.”
So when Krieger’s work brought the family to Winston-Salem and to Jefferson Elementary School, Krieger asked Principal Debbie McIntyre whether she would be interested in him helping to organize such a program here.
They spread the word about establishing a Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program and, on Thursday night, about 70 fathers came to Jefferson for an organizational meeting. Including children and wives, the group came to about 200.
“I’m very excited about the involvement with our dads,” McIntyre said.
With the Watch D.O.G.S. program, fathers sign up to spend a full day in school. During that day, they will help students get out of cars in the morning and be picked up in the afternoon. They may read in classes and help out with such specials classes as physical education and art. They will go to recess and spend time in the halls.
“Their day will be filled,” McIntyre said.
Along with the support for the school they will provide as volunteers, she said, it will help them connect with other fathers and with their children’s fellow students.
“I think that is very important,” she said.
Jeremy Demmitt learned about the program from his wife, Alexis, who is a member of the PTA. Their daughter, Amanda, is in first grade. Demmitt said he thinks that volunteering with the program will be a great way to become more fully engaged in the life of the school.
Steve Li, whose daughter Emma is a second-grader, said that they just moved here. Volunteering will be a good way to become more familiar with the school and more involved in its life, he said.
Vernen Wadelington was there with his wife, Chiquita, who is the volunteer coordinator at Jefferson. They have three children – third-grader Naveyah, kindergartener Caleb and Khloe, who is 3. He already has been volunteering at such special events as the fall festival and is looking forward to doing even more.
Alex C. Sin was there with his sons Cutler, who is in second grade and Kai, who is in first grade. Sin already makes a point to take time off work some days to come to school to have lunch with his boys.
“I try to stay as active in my kids’ lives as I can,” he said. “It’s tough but we make it work.”
“He does everything for us,” said Cutler. “He’s the greatest and he’s amazing.”
“He loves us,” said Kai.
He tickles them sometimes, too.
Juan Flowers was there with his son Nicholas, who is in the first grade. His wife, Nicole, and their fourth-grade daughter, Jailynn, were at Jailynn’s dance class.
“I want to be actively involved with the kids,” he said. “I definitely want to be involved with their education.”
Roy Sellers’ wife, DeAnna, is president of the Jefferson PTA. He was there with her and their son, Leo, who is in second grade.
“We’re showing support – trying to get it off to a good start,” he said.
Krieger’s wife is Kelly. Their daughters – Katelyn, who is in second grade, and Olivia, who has started kindergarten – arrived early to help their dad set up. The family also includes their sister Chelsea, who is in pre-school, and two fish and one puppy.
He’s a great dad, said Olivia. He cooks delicious food on his smoker and, before bed, he reads books that she picks out. She especially likes ones with fairies.
Katelyn likes helping him prepare food and being read to. She also likes that they share the same birthday – Dec. 27 – and his sense of humor.
“He does funny things,” she said.
Once everything was set up and all the families had arrived, everyone headed down a buffet line that included chicken strips, pizza and cookies. Once everyone had eaten, Krieger showed a video about the program that aired on the Today show and talked about the particulars of the program. When dads sign up to volunteer, organizers work to book volunteers so that as many school days as possible have a Watch D.O.G.S. dad.
As important as it is to help at the school, what matters even more is that dads show they care by being there, Krieger said.
“It’s not about ‘doing,’” he said. “It’s about being there…The whole idea is to show the kids we’re committed.”
That commitment comes with fringe benefits. At Watch D.O.G.S. schools, Krieger said, dads often report that they’re treated like celebrities.
Brunson is one of a number of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County elementary schools that have Watch D.O.G.S. or similar programs. Others include Rural Hall, Lewisville, Vienna and Kimberley Park.
Counting dads and other family members, Lewisville’s organizational meeting in January brought out more than 200 people. Dads have since started volunteering.
"Being a Watch D.O.G. was a rewarding experience,” said Matt Goldwater. “I enjoyed helping out in both my kids' classes, and in other classes helping students learn. Spending the day at school was an experience I will not forget."
"Seeing Dad around all day was fun!" said second-grader Daphne Goldwater.
Andy Lester-Niles, who is now the principal at Vienna, organized the program at Brunson when he was the assistant principal there. Assistant principal Sarah Huddleston now oversees the program.
“Brunson is extremely blessed by this program!” Huddleston said.
In any given month, she said, a dad comes in to volunteer up to 75 percent of the school days. One dad commented "I think it is more rewarding for the D.O.G.S. than the students."
At the October kick-off pizza party, 275 students and fathers came, and, at the end of January, the school held a Donuts for D.O.G.S. (and their students) thank-you event.
At Vienna, said Lester-Niles, the program is growing.
“It started last year with 20 or so dads,” he said. “This year we have increased to over 80. Including repeaters, we have over 60 percent of our days filled with a D.O.G.
At Kimberley Park, the program is called Men of Honor.
“It is coordinated by the male staff members,” said Principal Amber Baker. “They meet monthly to discuss various topics and to devise solutions to the problems. As a result of these meetings, we have been able to guide our single fathers raising daughters to resources to assist them with parenting their ‘baby girls.’
This spring, Men of Honor is starting an all-male GED class. The group is also exploring such topics as home ownership and scholarship opportunities to complete college degrees.
“These dads also serve as cafeteria monitors in the morning, coordinators of logistics for evening programs and field trip assistants,” Baker said.
For more pictures, go to Your Permanent Record.
If your school has a Watch D.O.G.S. or similar program, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Watch D.O.G.S., go to National Center for Fathering