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Watch D.O.G.S. on guard for student success at Dresden Elementary
Watch D.O.G.S. on guard for student success at Dresden Elementary
Dad with kindergarten daughter

As a dad with a flexible schedule, Dresden Elementary parent Larry Gambotto knows he is lucky that he can spend time at his elementary school. 

“I've walked down the hallway of this school so many times and they go 'hey, Mr. Larry.' They know you and they light up when you walk in," he said.  

Gambotto also knows his presence – an adult male – is unique and sends an important message to the students.  

“I think it is massively important to have that father figure,” he said. 

Dresden Elementary staff members agree, and to encourage more dads, grandfathers and uncles to spend time at their local school, they have started a Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) chapter at their school. 

“Education, as a whole, is mostly female so it is very important to have a dad or a dad presence in there,” said sixth grade teacher Teresa Kavanaugh, who is working to introduce the program at Dresden with kindergarten teacher Kelley Frogge. 

Frogge said the program will have three winners at Dresden:

  • The school – which has support throughout the day for activities such as tutoring, mentoring, playground and lunch supervision and school security;
  • The students – who have a positive role model presence in their school;
  • The WatchDOG – who spends a full day with their child, his child’s friends, and the students from his neighborhood. 

Dresden kicked the program off on Thursday with an evening program that brought out nearly 180 volunteers – a number beyond the organizers’ expectations. 

Patrick Kosanke, an Erie Elementary father who spoke to the volunteers at the kick off meeting, said the program has had a positive impact on his school and the volunteers. 

“Your day goes by quick, you will be tired, but it will be the most rewarding days you will have,” he told Dresden volunteers. 

Watch D.O.G.S. will take place at Dresden from November through April, with volunteers working a full day greeting students off the bus, taking part in classroom activities, serving as recess and lunch monitors, walking the halls and helping students board the bus. 

“They are doing everything a volunteer would do,” Frogge said. 

Before the program begins, all volunteers will have a background check and will receive a Watch D.O.G.S. shirt that clearly identifies them when they are at school.  The school’s goal is to have a volunteer every day in the building. It seems likely the target will be met, given the level of enthusiasm for the program. 

“Some of the moms asked ‘can we do this?’, but we said no, this is just for dads. The dads were so proud it is just for them,” Frogge said. 

For Dresden dad Gambotto, volunteering is another way to say thank you. 

“We have a great staff at Dresden they do so much for our kids and it is an opportunity to just give back to them,” he said.