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Charlotte Schools Put The Press On Dads To Help

Schools often try to get parents more involved in their children’s education.  Mothers tend to be the ones who heed the call.  For whatever reason, you don’t see many fathers around school.  Across the country, there are efforts to change that. 

Advocates say a father’s presence helps convince kids school is important and makes sure they keep to the straight and narrow.  A few schools around Charlotte have begun recruiting dads to help out at school. 

If you want to feel like a superhero and you’re a dad, your kid’s school may be the place to be.  On a recent morning at Hawk Ridge Elementary in Ballantyne, several dads work the carpool lane. 

“Hi Batman,” says one boy cheerily.

Credit Lisa Miller
Hawk Dad Steve Bucey with his son

“Hey, how are you?  Good to see,” says father Steve Bucey.

Bucey does have a cape and a mask on.  But kids are really excited to see him and the other dads.  Every week the dads pick a different theme like superheroes and dress accordingly. 

“I beat the Joker…” begins another boy. 

“Come on to the sidewalk,” instructs Bucey.  Then, “You’ll have to show me how to do it.”  

Moms have long been a big presence at Hawk Ridge. Many of them don’t work, so it’s easier to help.  But they don’t get the same reaction from kids. 

The Hawk Dads as they call themselves have been on the scene for just a couple of years.  Bucey started the group after Principal Troy Moore told him he’d like to have more dads around school. 

“It’s very important for our students to see dads in the building, which then infers that males think education is important and we want to be involved,” says Moore.  “We have many female teachers, which are all fantastic, but as principals we’re always trying to find other males out there that we can bring into our building to bring a different dynamic and different role models.”  

The dads help in the carpool lane twice a week, they hold movie nights, and take on grounds projects like spreading mulch or building a wall.  It’s not your typical mom stuff and that may be part of the reason they’ve recruited more than 100 dads.  

“It shows that school is fun and it shows that dads are involved in their school and that it’s a good place to have fun and enjoy what you’re doing,” says Steve Nuckols, who just joined the group, after his kids cajoled him into it.   

Hawk Ridge is working with a handful of other schools in South Charlotte to start dads clubs. 

But the push to get fathers involved is taking off in other parts of the district too. Last month, students at nine Project LIFT schools got special escorts to class.  Fathers and male mentors brought kids to school as part of the national movement called the Million Father March.  About twenty fathers, uncles, and grandfathers did just that at Druid Hills Academy just north of uptown. 

“Anytime, you feel free to come in, eat lunch with your child, ask a teacher, call in….You can come in and visit the classroom.  We have an open door policy, so we would love for you to come back,” Amory Brown tells the group.

Credit Lisa Miller
Fourth and fifth grade teacher Amory Brown at Druid Hills Academy

Brown usually teaches middle school, but the principal moved him down to fourth and fifth grades this year so that those students could have a strong, male influence.  DontayKilgo listens up.  He brought his son to his first day of pre-k. 

“I heard that they were having a fathers’ drop off, so I said I got to be there.  It’s big and it’s very important,” says Kilgo.  “Maybe they look up to you and stuff.  I really don’t get to see them like I’m supposed to, so I thought maybe I can be late for work.  Go ahead and do it, step outside the box.”

CMS and a few private schools are moving in this direction.  This year the district plans to work with fathers in ten schools throughout the year to nudge them to be a part of their children’s education at school. 

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.