Wasuma Elementary School's first meeting of Watch Dogs (Dads of Great Students) is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20 at the school. All fathers, grandfathers and uncles are invited to attend.
Wasuma is one of 2,275 K-12 schools in 41 states that have the volunteer program that is endorsed by the National Parent Teacher Association that provides positive male role models for students.
The innovative program started in 1998 in Springdale, Ark. and has grown into a nationally recognized program that has brought thousands of fathers and father figures into school hallways and classrooms.
Each program is overseen by a "Top Dog" volunteer and at Wasuma that is Mike Shaffer. Shaffer, head electrician for the Yosemite Unified School District, has a son at Wasuma.
"I started in Watch Dogs last year and made a commitment to volunteer at least a half day a month," Shaffer said. "I instantly took a liking to being able to work in my son's classroom, but on a greater scale, I really came to enjoy working in other classrooms and helping out different children."
When talking with last year's leader Lisa Gray, Shaffer found out Gray would no longer be able to continue with the program.
"At first I was heart broken," Shaffer said. "But then I decided the program was too important for the children. I knew I had to keep the fathers involved so I stepped up to keep the Watch Dogs an important part of our school."
Watch Dog volunteers perform a variety of tasks during a morning and an afternoon shift including monitoring the school entrance, assisting with unloading and loading of buses and cars, monitoring the lunch room, supervise recess and helping in the classroom with a teacher's guidance by working with small groups of students on homework, flashcards or spelling.
"This is such a great opportunity to show the kids a positive role model and help kids grow in a way we wouldn't normally be able to do," Shaffer said. I'd like to encourage all the Wasuma fathers and grandfathers to get involved at least one day a school year. It is great for the kids, and can also be great for us fathers as well."
Watch Dog goals
The goals of the Watch Dog program are: 1) Provide positive male role models for the students, demonstrating by their presence that education is important and: 2) Provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.
Watch Dogs was started as an educational initiative of the National Center For Fathering. Watch Dogs has grown into a nationally recognized program that has brought hundreds of thousands of fathers, grandfathers and father figures into classrooms across the nation. The program, featured by Brian Williams on NBC News last week, has created millions of volunteer hours and continues to have a positive impact on the educational process.
During 2003, Watch Dogs conducted a survey of 50 participating schools nationwide and found the following:
89% agree that Watch Dogs is a valuable component of the school's efforts to promote a safe and positive learning environment for students.
79% agree that since implementing the Watch Dogs program, the school has experienced an increase in father involvement in areas other than Watch Dogs including parent-teacher conferences, after school activities and more PTA involvement.
The program was recognized on the floor of Congress as a program that "can be a great tool in our efforts to prevent school violence and to improve student performance because it can increase parental initiative and involvement in their children's education."