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School invites students male role models to walk the halls, get involved
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Wallace Thompson listens to his son, Warrick, on Tuesday evening during a dad-student dinner at Centennial Arts Academy. - photo by Tom Reed
Centennial Arts Academy is opening its doors to dads and providing them with an opportunity to become a hallway hero.

More than 100 Centennial fathers had a pizza dinner with their kids at school Tuesday evening while learning about WATCH D.O.G.S. or “Dads of Good Students,” a national program that aims to get more men involved in their child’s education. The K-12 program invites fathers, stepfathers, uncles and grandfathers to take at least one day off from work each year to help out at school, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and serve as positive male role models.

Leslie Frierson, assistant principal of Centennial Arts Academy, said the volunteer WATCH D.O.G.S. will be kept busy monitoring hallways, helping car and bus riders get in and out of school, monitoring the lunchroom and tutoring students.

“We just want to keep them busy, keep them hopping, to see all that’s going on here at the school,” she said.

“Then they can say, ‘Here’s what’s happening at my child’s school and I was a part of it.’”

Gainesville school board member Sammy Smith suggested the program and said he hopes to see it in all Gainesville schools.

“There are some pretty significant national studies confirming the benefits of dads, granddads and uncles being involved in schools,” he said.

“It is, I suppose, a nontraditional role, but in many cases, I see the benefits. All school systems across the country are attempting to recruit male teachers in elementary grades for a male role model. Too many students have none.”

Smith commended Frierson and Centennial Principal Charlene Williams for jumpstarting the program in Gainesville schools.

Frierson said there are many active moms at the school, but it may be a little more intimidating for dads to jump into the school day fray. She said Centennial administrators aim to have at least one WATCH D.O.G. at school each day. One dad already has participated, and another is coming Monday, she said.

The Rev. Adrian Niles has a granddaughter in fifth grade at Centennial, and he said he’s grateful the school is creating an opportunity for men to jump in and take an active role in the education of their young loved ones. He said some men don’t know how to access the school system to become involved, but their presence is needed.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of kids who don’t have that male presence in their lives, and if they can get it here while getting their education, I just think it will leave them more well-rounded,” he said. “... You’ll be surprised to see the difference your presence makes.”

Frierson told dads Tuesday they need not worry about what they’ll do during the day. Just report to the front office and administrators will put you to work, she said. Dads can contact the school to sign up.

“You’ll leave feeling like a rock star,” she said.
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