PUNTA GORDA — These watchdogs are not really dogs at all ... but male volunteers committed to spending time at their child’s school helping in classrooms and with safety of the campus.

The word DOGS in the WATCH D.O.G.S. program stands for Dads Of Great Students. All male role models—including grandparents, uncles and other male figures—are encouraged to come out and give a day of their time at the school as WatchDOGS. Their presence is reassuring and drives home the importance of education and campus security all in one visit.

Volunteering isn’t just for PTO moms any more.

The WATCH D.O.G.S. program was started in 1998 by Jim Moore in response to an Arkansas middle school shooting tragedy. Immediately he saw a need for male role models in the schools. The program started when men were asked to volunteer one day of their time to patrol hallways, assist students in small groups, or work with a student one-on-one. As the program grew, these male volunteers were able to assist in schools all across the entire nation.

At Sallie Jones Elementary, our WatchDOGS have been asked to greet students at morning drop-off. In addition, they check perimeter doors as well as security gates in the parking lot. Although these WatchDOGS spend precious time in their child’s classroom and with them during lunch, they also work with other students over the whole school. The WatchDOG (pictured) shows Mr. Ryan helping in a fifth-grade science group. I am certain that he learned as much as the students did that day. He knows that getting to volunteer each year in his son’s school allows him to know what is happening in the world of education, along with the daily routines of the campus. The other photo is of Mr. Kuykendal helping his daughter in Green Club pick up the school’s recycling.

As the school’s assistant principal, I was blessed that this program was already up and running for a few years before I began at Sallie Jones Elementary School in 2017. It has been eye-opening to see how many dads, grandparents and uncles come to the initial school-year launch, year after year, even though they have seen my presentation before. They tell me how proud they are to volunteer and the happiness that it brings to them and their children. Teachers express how helpful these volunteers are in the school and ask to have their classroom put on the rotation schedule. The knowledge these men bring reminds everyone that dads have something to contribute to education. The positive relationships that develop inspire students to ask their dads and grandparents to volunteer, too.

When the volunteers come in, they get an orientation and school campus map. They don their WatchDOGS T-shirt and lanyard with their schedule. A picture is taken of the child with their role model so it can be hung in the lobby on the bulletin board. It is exciting to then see all of the students looking at the board each day to see the newest photos.

Sallie Jones loves the WatchDOGS and will unleash them every year to be extra eyes and ears of the campus. They add to the culture and positive atmosphere of the school. The importance of a good education and a secure campus is passed on through these great gentlemen.

They will forever leave their knowledge, assistance and enthusiasm to walk our halls for future generations. https://dadsofgreatstudents.com

Rhonda Gosser is the assistant principal at Sallie Jones Elementary in Punta Gorda


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