- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 28, 2002

Fairfax County schools are calling on fathers to spend more time with their children to help them succeed in the classroom.
When the school year begins in September, some of the county's public schools will introduce a fatherhood initiative that will encourage daddies to double up as their children's homework buddies and spend more quality time with them.
"We are suggesting to dad that if you want to see an improvement in your child's school work, then turn off the TV and become a homework buddy," said school board member at-large Rita Thompson, who introduced the initiative.
The Fairfax plan is inspired by a federal Department of Health and Human Services initiative to support and strengthen the roles of fathers in families, in step with President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.
According to the federal department, research indicates that the presence of committed, involved parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and other behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of teen-age suicide.
Three schools in Fairfax one elementary, one middle school and one high school will participate in the program this fall, said Elsie Kirton, director of guidance and student registration in the county's school system. "It will eventually be implemented systemwide," she said.
Mrs. Thompson said the school system will apply for federal grants that support parental participation programs to pay for the initiative. She also will meet next week with some county fathers who, she said, are actively involved in their children's school lives, to gather ideas for the program.
Schools that will implement the initiative this fall are Groveton Elementary and Holmes Middle School and West Springfield High School. Holmes Middle School already has a parental involvement program where staff from the schools visit children's homes every week to discuss their progress with parents.
Schools in the county also organize such programs as "Muffins for Mom" or "Donuts for Dad," which encourage parental participation, Ms. Kirton said.
Mrs. Thompson said that parents usually leave it up to schools to educate their children and feel powerless when they fail to do so. "Ideally, then, parents should be involved in their own children's lives," she said.
But it is not all about work: even playing sports with your children can help, she said, adding that studies showed that children whose fathers played an active role in their lives got mostly A's at school. Administrators welcome the program because, they say, there is evidence that parental participation usually helps children do better at school.
"I think anything we can do to get parents involved is good," said David Smith, principal of West Springfield High. He added that the school had good parental involvement but "more is better."
The school system plans a workshop in August to discuss the best ways to fulfill the initiative.
"There is a need that both parents serve as role models," Ms. Kirton said, "and being involved makes them more aware of what is happening at school."

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