Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is an initiative of the National Center for Fathering, founded by Jim Moore. After a 1998 shooting incident at his own children’s middle school, Moore decided to take action to help prevent violence in schools. The first program was launched in Springdale, Arkansas. More than 2,000 programs currently exist in 41 states and counting.
According to Keith Schumacher, local spokesperson and National Coordinator for Watch D.O.G.S., Palmer is the fifth middle school in Cobb County to launch a Watch D.O.G.S. program. There are 16 schools currently participating county-wide. Other middle schools in Cobb include Barber, Durham, Awtrey and Garrett. Four schools in Cobb are in pre-launch status: Austell Primary, Mableton Elementary, South Cobb High and the International Academy of Smyrna.
Schumacher became involved with Watch D.O.G.S. after seeing an ABC news broadcast in 2008. Schumacher’s children attended Picketts Mill, where his wife was a teacher. “We know the willingness of the guys [to get involved] is out there, we just need to ask for help in the right way" said Schumacher. "The program is designed to give the guys something specific to contribute.”
“The program goal is to help every school in America be positively influenced by the committed involvement of the fathers and father figures in the lives of their children and students,” said program founder Jim Moore. When asked why the program has been so successful, Moore added, “It’s the right thing to do.”
“The benefits of the Watch D.O.G.S. program is three-fold," said Cathy Wentworth, Palmer Middle School principal. "It makes our school a more winning school, our parents more winning parents, and most importantly, our children more winning students through the positive influence of the participants and the lives they touch.”
The school’s kick-off, sponsored by the Palmer P.T.S.A., was hosted in the school cafeteria. The students were invited to eat pizza and then were treated to lively games of B.I.N.G.O. in the media center during the presentation.
The program was largely spearheaded by Karenca Williamson, a seventh-grade Palmer teacher and school culture key team committee member. “We have many mentoring efforts for our teachers who are very involved at Palmer and we have a strong female presence," said Williamson. "This program provides an opportunity to foster more male role models in our school. The Watch D.O.G.S. program also provides the framework to help meet the needs of changing demographics and struggling families within our school community."
Williamson added, “We would like to extend an invitation to all of our dads, granddads, uncles and other father figures to become a part of our program here.”
“Karenca has been very involved in putting forth a dedicated effort to help initiate the program here at Palmer,” said Corryn Chamberlain, head of Palmer’s school culture key team. “Our principal, Mrs. Wentworth, has been instrumental in researching, supporting and helping us present the merits of the program to our P.T.S.A., who will oversee the program here at Palmer.”
“Our goal is to have as many men as possible involved in our school as role models," said P.T.S.A. president Michelle Newman. "This will also take some of the pressure off our male teachers.”
Kevin Jabbari, current P.T.S.A. vice-president and past P.T.S.A. president, said he is a longtime supporter of WATCH D.O.G.S. and is excited the program has come to Palmer. “Palmer is a unique school in many areas," said Jabbari. “Now, we are also a leader in our community by joining this program. When there is a male presence interacting with the kids, they provide another set of eyes in the school for the staff. Sometimes a kid’s behavior changes when they just see you in the hall.”
The program will be overseen by a “Top Dog” who will volunteer at Palmer to partner with the school administrator to coordinate scheduling and identify opportunities to provide assistance. Jabbari called for someone to volunteer to lead the program and Palmer parent Robert Durbrow stepped up to the plate. “I think this is a great way to get dads involved their kid’s upbringing and education," said Durbrow.
The Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of one entire school day. They will be asked to perform a variety of tasks during their volunteer day at Palmer, including monitoring the school entrance, assisting with unloading and loading of buses and cars, monitoring the lunch room, or helping out in the classroom under a teacher’s guidance.
“We will never ask our volunteers to do something outside of their comfort level," said principal Wentworth. "Everyone has their own strengths they can contribute. Part of the benefit of this program is we can match our volunteers to the tasks they feel well-suited for.” Wentworth assured the parents that Watch D.O.G.S. is a safe and well-planned program with a proven track record of success.
The presentation wrapped up with eager attendees signing up for their day(s) to volunteer. Watch D.O.G.S. t-shirts were made available for purchase after the meeting and volunteers were encouraged to wear them for recognition during their volunteer commitment. The program was met with enthusiasm and well-received by those in attendance.
For more information on starting a Watch D.O.G.S. program in your school, call the National Center for Fathering at 888-540-DOGS (3647).