There are some new heroes roaming the hallways at Central Elementary School this quarter, and they go by the name of “Dad.”
Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads Of Great Students) came to fruition in 1998 after the Jonesboro, Ark., shooting where two former middle school students shot and killed five, injuring several others. A couple of fathers decided at that point they needed to be in the schools more often.
That small beginning has now turned into a nationally-recognized program that covered 2,380 schools in 40 states and D.C. in 2011-12. By July of 2012, 278 more schools had registered to start this school term.
“I have had the program on my mind for a couple of years,” said Central Elementary Principal Melanie Rucker. “In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I decided it was time to start having the conversations about what positive impacts Watch D.O.G.S. has on our school, students, and community.”
One community member Rucker called upon to initiate the program at Central was Matt Leamer, whose official title is Top D.O.G.
“They called on me because I’m going to have kids at Central School for some umpteen years,” said Leamer, who will literally have a child cycle through Central for the next six years at least.
Thus far, Central School is the only school in the district that is implementing the program, said Leamer.
“[Rucker] had gotten this program started at her previous school, so once she got her roots in at R-2, she dug in and initiated the program,” Leamer said.
Leamer anticipates other schools not only in the district, but area-wide to adopt the program once it gets fully started, which for Central will be next school year.
The Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers have a precise schedule once in the building. They stay from approximately 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Volunteers with the program spend time in their child’s classroom, patrol at lunch and recess, walk the perimeter of the school and make sure that everyone gets where they need to go.
“I thought if we got it going this year that we could get these dads that are really active to help promote it for next year,” said Leamer, who thus far has about 10 dads participating.
“We will end this year with a “team” of fathers/father figures, which will help guide our full school implementation next school year,” said Rucker. “We had our first Dad here on the 28th and it was an amazing day for our school and for Mr. Valbracht.”
Sgt. John Valbracht works with the Chillicothe Police Department and has a son at Central Elementary.