Men real cool D.O.G.S. at Ogden school

Mar 12 2012 - 9:39pm

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Mark Moulton helps student Hunter Simmons read at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program. School officials like the program because it gives children a positive male role model,  and it is improving students' behavior and grades. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Mark Moulton helps supervise students during a lunch break at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program.(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Mark Moulton peeks into a classroom while on hall patrol at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Mark Moulton helps student Hunter Simmons read at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program. School officials like the program because it gives children a positive male role model,  and it is improving students' behavior and grades. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Mark Moulton helps supervise students during a lunch break at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program.(MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)
Mark Moulton peeks into a classroom while on hall patrol at Horace Mann Elementary School in Ogden recently. Moulton, the father of a child at the school, is one of several fathers who volunteer at the school as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. program. (MATTHEW ARDEN HATFIELD/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- Walking the beat in the halls of Horace Mann Elementary School is a new breed of Watch D.O.G.S., keeping the peace.

That breed would be human. About 40 men have joined the school's new program as D.O.G.S., which stands for Dads of Great Students.

The volunteers, who can be dads, uncles or grandfathers of students, read with children, help them with math, assist in the gym and lunchroom, and sometimes just walk the halls of the 460-student school.

The men sign up for time slots on a multimonth calendar posted near the school office.

"It started in Arkansas, after a school shooting," said Lisa Stephens, the PTA representative who brought the Watch D.O.G.S. program to the school.

"A child was scared to go back to school, and he asked his father if he would be safe. That father called his boss and told him he had to take the day off, to be at his son's school."

A friend also volunteered, and the program was born. More than 1,150 schools in 36 states participate, and more than 70,000 dads volunteer.

In Utah, 14 elementary schools are involved with Watch D.O.G.S.

Locally, Horace Mann joins a list that includes North Ogden Elementary, Kaysville Elementary, and Bountiful's Tolman Elementary.

"I enjoy it," said D.O.G.S. dad Mark Moulton, whose son, Allen, 7, attends Horace Mann Elementary.

"I enjoy helping the kids, and it helps me remember the math and science I may have forgotten."

Stephens said the main benefit of the Watch D.O.G.S. program is that it provides children with a positive male role model who supports education.

"Nationwide, 35 percent of children don't have an active father figure," she said.

Female volunteers in the schools have long outnumbered male volunteers, and Stephens said she would never want to minimize their contribution.

"But children look at moms as always being there. Dads are not always there, so kids notice when they are here. It's more unusual," she said.

Shawn Hafey-Francke, a fifth-grade Horace Mann teacher, said dads in the classroom "make a huge difference."

"Students light up and glow when it is their dad coming in. They feel a lot of pride," he said.

"For all the students, it's just rare to see male role models volunteering, so it's a big deal. The students compete to see who can work with the father.

"The interactions are always positive, and the dads who volunteered have stayed with it. We've had a D.O.G. in the classroom about every other day."

First-grade teacher Christy Hansen said having dads around seems to help boys the most.

"They can see dads supporting education, and they see a role they can take," Hansen said of her male students.

Most of the volunteers purchase a Watch D.O.G.S. T-shirt, which serves as a uniform, Stephens said.

A few of the dads work in street clothes and a name tag because they can't afford the shirt, but they are still generous enough to volunteer their time, she said.

Moulton, 53 and an Ogden resident, works full time as a Utah Transit Authority mechanic. Long shifts four days a week leave him three days off, so he can spend every Thursday at the school.

He likes the human interaction.

"Engines don't talk to you. They stay pretty quiet."

The Watch D.O.G.S. program at Horace Mann is only two months old, but data from the program shows that many schools have seen significant improvements in student behavior, and better grades.

Stephens said men who volunteer in schools also tend to take a more active role in helping their own kids with homework.

Horace Mann Principal Ross Lunceford said the program so far seems to be having positive effects on the children.

"And every father I've talked to really enjoys it."

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