Mike Mayhew is mobbed. The D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) volunteer is standing with a crowd of students outside of Enterprise Elementary, waiting for the doors to open.
Hugs and high fives and offers of sticky candy are keeping him moving. He’s got two of his own in this herd of children, Quinton, 5, and Malia, 8, but today he’s everybody’s “dad.”
Mayhew has just the right personality to make a great D.O.G.S. volunteer. He’s laid back, approachable and willing to volunteer his time to do whatever is needed for the day.
The D.O.G.S. program came to Enterprise Schools by way of Enterprise Police Chief Joel Fish. Fish has a son in Enterprise schools as well, and was a D.O.G.S. volunteer years back when he was a school resource officer in North Carolina.
“I think there are close to 7,000 schools across the U.S. that have the program,” said Fish. “There was pretty much a watchdog there every day in the North Carolina school where I volunteered. They kind of become celebrities at the school with the kids. That’s what I told the dads in Enterprise, ‘you’re going to have fun.’”
The program was begun 1998 in the U.S. but “there’s maybe one other school in the State of Oregon that is doing this,” said Kayla Hull, Multi-tiered Systems of Support Coordinator for Wallowa County ESD. “It’s a really cool thing that we’re doing this.”
D.O.G.S. is part of Enterprise School District’s plan to build a positive school culture — in this case, provide kids with a dad influence, highlighting the importance that dads place on education and attendance.
“I was excited about the program when Chief Fish brought it to my attention,” said Elementary Principal and School Supt. Erika Pinkerton. “I see many smiles and high fives between dads and students.”
Since the program was introduced in September, 42 dads, granddads, uncles and other male adults have volunteered, pledging to contribute at least one full day over the course of the year for a total of 544 hours of positive adult mentoring.
Dads start their day greeting kids as they come to school and then spend their day reading with kids, assisting in the library, eating lunch together, helping with recess activities and keeping their eyes and ears open to do what dads do — keep kids safe.
“The more eyes the better,” said Mayhew.
Pinkerton has proof that the kids see Mayhew as a force for security.
“Mike came up to me and told me he had a very important assignment for the day,” she recalled. “He reached in his pocket and showed me a penny a kindergarten child gave him to keep for the day. They trust him.”
Mom’s have been carrying the water on classroom assistance for a decades, and having dads volunteer to become involved has been a powerful froce, said Hull.
Hull helps organize the programs schools adopt. Each school in the county was asked where they would like to focus grant money. Joseph and Enterprise chose to focus on absenteeism through developing a positive culture.
Joseph is working with the Be Kind Initiative in high school and hasn’t begun its elementary program yet. Enterprise chose the D.O.G.S. program in elementary and hasn’t started its high school program yet.
Wallowa Elementary chose to focus on Positive Behavior Systems in the elementary school, and Culture in the School in high school.
Schools in Oregon are being asked to make this commitment to preventing absenteeism because the state has a high rate of absenteeism –– in the bottom three nationwide for regular attendance.
Wallowa County Schools have always scored well in attendance, so they’ve chosen to set higher attendance goals. Current attendance at Enterprise is above its goal of 95 percent. That is an 82 percent improvement from 2016-17 to 2017-18, said Hull.
“That’s the equivalent of 39 students less that had chronic absenteeism,” said Hull.
Even a little absenteeism can have a big impact on a child’s life.
“If a child has three or more absences in a month, that accrues to putting that child two years behind in school,” she said.