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Schools find new path to parent engagement
FBI Dad Tom Gordy OTWELL web
Little Mill and Otwell middle schools have started a new group to get fathers involved. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Two local middle schools have their own FBI unit. Really. If you walk through the hallways throughout the day or observe the student pick up loop in the morning, you’ll see men in uniformed black T-shirts with big yellow or white “FBI” letters on the front.

They’ll be welcoming students to school, helping out with tutoring and high-fiving passers-by in the halls between classes.

The FBI group at Little Mill and Otwell middle schools is not a branch of the federal government. It’s Fathers Being Involved, a new group whose charge is to get dads more engaged in their kids’ schools.

“[School] volunteers are traditionally moms,” said Kimberly DeRose, Title I family engagement coordinator at Little Mill. “We want more dads. We feel like it’s very powerful. As [kids] get older, that male role model becomes more of a coach role, but we want to also bring in academic mentorship and give more role models for kids who may not have that in their lives.”

Little Mill and Otwell are the only two Title I schools in Forsyth County, which means that they receive federal funding because at least 35 percent of the students are on free and reduced lunch. DeRose said they see a lot of students with divorced parents, where the dad may not have as much access to their kids’ education.

So DeRose and her Otwell counterpart, parent involvement coordinator Ali Cregan, got together to create a group where dads can volunteer their time on their own schedule. They held a flag football kickoff event last Sunday.

They added an academic component to the event, too, called “Mathletics,” where a student and a parent would run on the track to pick up a word problem. After running the answer back, the teams would get points they could add to their football team’s score. About 50 players showed up, DeRose said.

“It’s totally on their schedule,” she said. “Some come in one day a month, and some come in one morning a week.”
Dads work with small groups at either school, read with them, help them with homework and monitor the hallways throughout the day.

“This is usually Mom’s territory, particularly in the South, but [dads] become empowered and can take it home to the dinner table and say, ‘Hey. How was your test? I heard about it at school,’” DeRose said.

They have monthly meetings to determine what the group wants and will have a math and muffins morning on Nov. 8.

“It seemed like they were kind of just waiting for an invite [to become involved],” said Otwell’s Cregan of the feedback they received. “We’re in the 21st century, and we actually have Mr. Moms who take care of their kids. This gives them something different to see.”

David Archer is an FBI dad whose youngest daughter attends Little Mill.

“It’s just a good way to be involved at the school as a dad and to help with the school and be seen,” Archer said. “To find out a little more about what’s going on and lend a hand with some volunteering.”

Archer played in the flag football tournament and the Mathletics.

He said the FBI group is an untapped resource.

“It conveys to kids that school is important to everyone in the community,” he said. “My kids love it because they see their dad at school.”