Charles Maupin didn’t need the school to tell him to be involved in his children’s education — but he’s glad a program is encouraging other fathers to join him.
Warner Elementary School is part of a national program called WatchDOGS (Dads Of Great Students) that seeks to get fathers and other male role models in the classroom with the children who look up to them. This is the second year the school has participated; about 75 adults turned out for an information session and pizza dinner Thursday.
Maupin has joint custody of his 9-year-old who attends Warner and a younger son in kindergarten at Jessamine Early Learning Village. He works three days a week, freeing him up to be around his boys when he has them every other week. He spent about eight to 10 days at Warner last year through the WatchDOGS program, though he said he had always volunteered and gone on school outings with his children before the program began.
“My motivation is to be in tune with what’s going on in school,” Maupin said. “The report card doesn’t really give you the full picture of what your kid’s going through.”
The fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles and other men were encouraged Thursday night to sign up on a calendar for a day to spend at the school with their student. The school had hoped for 20 or 30 fathers to participate in the first year; they ended up with 63.
“Last year was a sell; we never had done it before and it was the first year, so it was a whole lot more of my conversation just selling the program,” principal Val Gallutia said. “This year was about getting new fathers. I have a feeling we’ll have some more first-grade parents that haven’t been here; that was a big deal to us to get the new families. Next year with the changes of redistricting, it will be a big deal again and get a whole new set of fathers in.”
Gallutia, the only male elementary-school principal in the county, recounted the importance of his father’s presence during school and said he and his wife have been fortunate to work in education and be around their two children throughout their school. He told the crowd Thursday that they needed to be present and involved and fill the role at school that mothers often have.
“It’s all about us guys saying what we say we’re going to do to back up our kids,” Gallutia said. “When you show up, they know it means something; they know you care, and honestly, that’s all they want.”
The dads who visited the school last year had a big impact not just on their own children but on other students who saw the adult men involved in their children’s school life.
“The biggest place it hits is when we’re in the cafeteria, when they’re all in here and they’re eating, because it’s a much more relaxed setting than a classroom setting, so (the fathers) get to communicate with (the students), go around, hand them napkins, cut open containers,” Gallutia said. “It’s just a big deal for them, and they get to know some of them who have been here over and over again.”
The program started after Diane Hall, the school’s family-resource-center director, saw a presentation on WatchDOGS at a conference and brought the idea back to the school. Hall handles the details of coordinating the communication and the visits.
For Maupin, coming to school to be with his kids whenever he can is a no-brainer:
“If you’re not here for your kids, then what are you going to be here for?”