Fathers are Watch DOGS at Lockhart School

Derik Vanderford Staff Writer

September 12, 2013

LOCKHART — Dads and other male role models have been invited to become Watch DOGS at Lockhart School.

On Tuesday evening, Lockhart School hosted the kick-off of this year’s Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) program, which was launched at the school last year.

The program kick-off included a pizza party with parents and children in the school cafeteria. Then the adults went to the library for the program presentation while students stayed in the cafeteria for ice cream.

The Watch DOGS program involves dads and other male role models — including grandfathers, uncles, etc. — each spending a day volunteering at school. Each “Watch DOG” will greet children in the mornings, watching who is dropping off/picking up students; sit in on a class with his child; eat lunch with his child; eat lunch with another child; volunteer on the playground; and volunteer in other classes.

The program is nationwide, and Tuesday evening’s event included a video explaining what the program is. Dads on the video said they enjoy going in classes and working with students by reading to them or holding up flash cards, as well as throwing balls on the playground or helping the school resource officer patrol hallways.

Guidance counselor Jennifer Seeman helped explain the program during Tuesday’s event, and mentioned the positive effects it had last year.

“Last year, I heard students say things like, ‘Stop it! There’s the Watch DOG!’” Seeman said. “They care what you think, and they want to be good when you’re around.”

Principal Betsy Trakas said she believes it is important to have a male role model at school because most school staff and volunteers are predominantly female, and while schools are appreciative of female volunteers, there are some students who do not have a male role model at home.

“I think having these role models at school will change some students’ attitudes in a positive way, provide a sense of security that there are extra eyes watching students throughout the day, and give fathers a view of their children’s school life through a new perspective,” Trakas said.

Tracy Rash — Watch DOGS volunteer coordinator also known as “Top DOG” — said he enjoyed volunteering last year and he hopes the program will grow this year.

“With a daughter in third grade and a son in kindergarten next year, this gives me a chance to come to school and be involved in my children’s lives,” Rash said. “Most dads rely on the mother. I’ve noticed on field trips that most of the chaperones are women. I found that it helped when the kids got out of school, too. You see what they’re doing during the day, so you can help them a little more.”

Rash also mentioned that a Watch DOG who volunteered nearly every Thursday last year — Mr. Arthur Barrett — was great at interacting with the students. Rash encouraged those in attendance to volunteer and talk to the children about what they do. He said volunteers are welcome one day per week, one day per month, or just one time. Those who have trouble with scheduling are also welcome to volunteer for just a half day.

“If you can make it one time, you’ll come back,” Rash said.

More information about the nationwide program can be found at www.fathers.com/watchdogs.

Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at dvanderford@civitasmedia.com.