Horizon Heights starts Watch DOG program with impressive turnout

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Horizon Heights Elementary school kicked off its new Watch DOGs (Dads of Great Students) program with an impressive start drawing 600 people to the initial meeting. Dads, grandfathers, uncles, other father figures and their children attended to learn about the implementation of the nationally recognized program. Horizon Heights is the second school in the district to implement the program.

Principal Jim Vasquez said the school was inspired to launch Watch DOGS as a way to engage more father figures in school and create a safer school environment.

“We think it is going to help not only to keep the school just a little bit safer, but also to give the dads a chance to be part of their kids’ lives,” Vasquez said.

Chris Mears, whose son is a first grader at Horizon Heights, said the program will ease concerns about school safety and give fathers a chance to be there for their children.

“A lot of parents are concerned, myself included, with the security of their child’s school. Being in law enforcement, I’m probably even more conscious about that than the average parent. So, I’m here for that,” Mears said. “But I’m also here because I think it is important for parents to be involved in their children’s education and this gives me an opportunity to spend time at (my son’s) school.”

The exceptional turnout at the kick-off event was encouraging for Vasquez and the school’s Watch DOG coordinators. He said it shows that parents do want to be involved and the program gives dads an avenue to do just that.

“The Watch DOG program is a great thing for the school district and Horizon Heights because study after study shows that parental involvement improves the education and the performance of our students in our schools,” said SISD Board President Michael Najera. “It ensures better study habits; it inspires them to be dedicated to school. It also reduces discipline problems. So, it is exciting that this program is coming to Horizon Heights.”

The Watch DOGS are asked to volunteer at least one day at the school. They will be given a variety of tasks to assist with, such as helping their child’s classroom teacher, directing traffic flow in the morning, conducting a sweep of the campus to make sure doors are locked and the parking lot is safe.

John Drugan School implemented the Watch DOG program in 2007 and currently has 102 dads enrolled. Each school year, the school hosts a pizza party in August and in January to invite dads to sign up.  The Watch DOGs at John Drugan monitor the hallways, check for unlocked doors, tutor students, have lunch with their children and walk the perimeter of the school looking for situations which need to be fixed, said Principal Susan Cook.

“They are a true benefit to have on campus,” she said.