With nationwide discussions on school safety underway, one thing is certain — the elementary school parent presence, specifically the WATCH D.O.G.S. Program for fathers of students is gaining attention.
According to National Executive Director Eric Snow, on the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) website, “The WATCH D.O.G.S. program stands as a testimony to the millions of moms and dads and educators … to provide the very best educational environment possible for all of our nation’s children.”
The WATCH D.O.G.S. program is firmly in place at all elementary schools in Temecula, and most middle schools, according to Temecula Valley Unified School District’s (TVUSD) spokeswoman Melanie Norton.
“As kids get older, the direct parent involvement on campus changes,” Norton said, “But at the elementary and middle school level, there’s something about seeing a dad standing in front of the school, at pick up and drop off, having them around campus at lunch, and in the classrooms with the kids that is truly special.”
While TVUSD reviews new measures, procedures and policies with regard to school safety, the WATCH D.O.G.S. program is one where concerned dads can sign up to participate, as with at Abby Reinke Elementary School in Temecula.
“We started the year with an introduction to the program, and an ice cream social, for dads to bring their kids and learn about what’s involved,” said PTA WATCH D.O.G.S. coordinator Tanya Mesirow.
“Dads sign up for a specific day and receive a T-shirt with the WATCH D.O.G.S. logo. They come to school and greet the kids at pick up. Then they can spend the day going to designated classrooms to help with activities. They’re around through the entire lunch hour-and-a-half, playing with the kids on the playground. It’s a little like being a celebrity for a day,” Mesirow said.
According to Mesirow, at a school with few male teachers, the male presence on the playground can serve an invaluable deterrent against bullying, catalyst for conflict resolution and just all-around fun.
“We’ve had dads bring in special collections, show off animals or reptiles, even come and do science experiments for the children. It’s great when fathers go the extra mile in the classroom portion of Watchdog, and really shine,” Mesirow said.
Though each school and principal handles the WATCH D.O.G.S. scheduling and involvement individually, there is always room at the elementary school level, for parents to pitch in.
“TVUSD would like to make sure that the WATCH D.O.G.S. program is valued, particularly to get dads actively involved,” Norton said. “It’s a visible presence of dads being actively involved in their children’s lives. Good for the kids, good for the parents and reassurance for all.”
The TVUSD encourages fathers who have not yet considered the WATCH D.O.G.S. program to check it out.
For more information, visit www.fathers.com.