MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

September 18, 2013

Dads of Great Students help

Whittier Elementary dad Shawn Selby helped his son and some classmates with math, walking around desks offering tips on how to add dollars and cents.

“I thought me, being a presence here would help out,” Selby said before going to another Whittier classroom to help.

Selby and other Whittier dads help at the school through a national program called WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students). The volunteers are fathers, grandfathers or other male relatives of Whittier students who spend a day at the school, 1705 Cincinnati Ave. They help teachers in classrooms, patrol school halls and outside and watch kids during lunch and recess.

“There is a real need for a male presence in our elementary school,” Whittier Principal Ed Wallace said. “Sometimes the kids want to talk to a male person, or they feel more comfortable with a man.”

Whittier has been part of the national WATCH D.O.G.S. program for a year. Wallace said he has seen positive impact.

“I have had fewer discipline problems,” he said.

Whittier secretary Denise Dunn said “our staff and students feel safer with a dad out there.”

This year’s WATCH D.O.G.S. were recruited during a rally earlier this year, Dunn said.

“We had 30 to 40 commit to a day and so far, every day since then, we had a dad come in and pick a day,” Dunn said. She said a male volunteer is coming out each day through the middle of October, and more days after then are being filled up.

Selby spent his first day as a volunteer Monday.

When asked why he volunteered, he pointed to his son, third-grader Reyvaun Selby.

“This is my third class today,” he said Monday morning. Selby’s schedule had him spend 45 minutes in a classroom, then 15 minutes patrolling the halls, parking lot and perimeter. He also is to meet with students during lunch and recess and help when buses are unloaded and loaded.

“I’m getting a good feel for the layout of the school,” he said, adding that Whittier is bigger than he thought.

Selby, a factory and construction worker, said he set his schedule earlier this year.

“I let them know when I can come — at least once every other week,” he said.

Wallace said male relatives of Whittier students are encouraged to volunteer. All volunteers are subject to a background check.

“I’m keeping it as a male relative of a child we currently have in our building,” Wallace said, adding that the relative could be a father, legal guardian, grandfather or uncle.

He said the school had been looking for ways to involve fathers the same way it involves mothers.

“We see a lot of homeroom mothers,” he said. “But this program gives us the opportunity to bring the fathers in.”

The national WATCH D.O.G.S. program began in Springdale, Ark., in 1998. It has grown to include more than 2,811 schools in 46 states.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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