The Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) has grown to 30 schools in Georgia, said Brian K. Clark, who started a Watch DOGS program this year at Baker Elementary School in Acworth, which his two children attend. Pickett’s Mill Elementary, also in Acworth, was the first school in Cobb to introduce the program in 2009.
Keith Schumacher, the man who was Watch DOGS first coordinator at Pickett’s Mill, is now a national coordinator for the program, an initiative of the Kansas City, Mo., based National Center for Fathering.
Clark said he introduced Watch DOGS at Baker with a “pizza night” in September, and signed up 45 fathers. The fathers are required to spend at least a day volunteering at the school during the school year.
“They’re in the cafeteria, they’re in the classroom, doing the math problems and the flash cards,” he said. “It’s really a great program.”
The program started in 1998 in Springdale, Ark., shortly after a school shooting across the state in Jonesboro. Since then, Clark said it has grown to 2,400 schools in 42 states.
“A couple of fathers stepped up and said, ‘We need to do something about this,’ ” Clark said. “It really started as an extra set of eyes and ears for security, and boy has it grown.”
Clark, a salesman who lives in Smyrna, said the program has been able to improve discipline, while decreasing bullying.
“The kids straighten up when there’s a father in the classroom,” he said.
Among those to help out at Baker was Kennesaw State University basketball coach Lewis Preston, who has two kids at Baker. Clark said Preston brought his players to the school to help out with the Watch DOGS program.
Clark said that Danny Dorsey and Paul Tarver of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in Kennesaw donated $500 in educational books to the school in honor of the Watch DOGS program.
Patrick Fox, whose stepdaughter attends Baker, said his volunteering allowed him to motivate the kids.
“I gave a lot of high fives, trying to pump the kids up,” said Baker, who teaches physical education to special needs students at 14 Cobb School District campuses and is also the girls soccer coach at Kennesaw Mountain High School.
Fox said the program gives him a chance to meet children other than his own.
“I thought it was nice to be the dad, instead of having to teach the children,” he said. “I was impressed by how organized it was and how receptive the kids were.”