by KIM HILSENBECK
At Carpenter Hill Elementary, there is a “Top Dog.” He’s not a student or a teacher, though. He is Cosme Martinez, Watch D.O.G.S. coordinator.
Martinez, a retired Marine, oversees the Watch D.O.G.S. program, which stands for Dads of Great Students. He currently has 94 volunteers, up from 57 last school year.
Martinez got involved last year when his children, Lorenzo and Isabella, started school at Carpenter Hill. They are now in second and first grades, respectively.
“Our kids cannot learn if they are not in a safe environment,” Martinez said. “I wanted to make sure we were doing everything possible to make the school safe and also be a role model for the students.”
The goal of Watch D.O.G.S. is to provide role models for students and to be an extra set of eyes and ears at a school, to enhance security and reduce bullying.
Martinez cited a recent incident at an elementary school in Edinburg where a husband shot his wife, a teacher at the school, in the parking lot before classes.
“Someone might think twice about bringing a gun to campus if they know there are Watch D.O.G.S. around,” Martinez said.
Fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles and other father figures volunteer to serve at least one day a year in a variety of school activities, including morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up, lunch and recess.
“We want to inspire not just our kids but all the students at the school,” Martinez said. “We’re not employees, we’re just dads.”
Martinez said the Watch D.O.G.S. go through training and a security background check in order to volunteer. Once they are on board, they walk the halls, visit in the lunchroom and referee games on the playground.
“We are visible and proactive,” he said.
New volunteer Ed Beltran arrived at Carpenter Hill one recent Friday morning, ready for his first shift. With twin girls in kindergarten, Beltran said he wanted to be a role model and set a good example.
“I think Watch D.O.G.S. is a really cool program,” Beltran said. “It brings peace of mind – and I wanted to get involved in the school.”
Students “caught” behaving well and doing what they’re supposed to may earn a small reward, such as a pencil or sticker, from the Watch D.O.G.S. And everyone gets high-fives and positive feedback.
Sadie Robins, mom to second-grader Maxim and a PTA volunteer, thinks it’s a good addition to her son’s school.
“They create a presence,” she said. “Max likes it.”
She added that she would like to see the D.O.G.S. do their own fundraising. The PTA helped the group initially with seed money, according to Robins.
Carpenter Hill Principal Jason Certain said he really enjoys having the Watch D.O.G.S. on campus.
“It’s a very positive thing,” he said. “And the dads help teachers, sometimes by mentoring or reading to a student. They also help with concessions at events and during the annual Field Day.”
Started in Arkansas in 1998, Watch D.O.G.S. is an innovative initiative of the National Center For Fathering. It has grown to a nationally recognized program with more than 2,200 schools in 41 states.
The next Watch D.O.G.S. meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12.
“It will be a pizza-for-dads night,” said Martinez. “We hope to get even more Carpenter Hill dads involved.”
According to Martinez, Carpenter Hill is the only Hays CISD campus with Watch D.O.G.S. He encouraged dads from other campuses to contact him if they want to start a program at their child’s school.
To learn more about starting a Watch D.O.G.S. program at a Hays CISD school, contact Cosme Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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