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Students have Date With Dad

February 14, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - An experiment designed to bring dads and their children a little closer recently, exceeded even the organizers wildest dreams at the Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education.

"The turnout was unbelievable," said Sharon Mattingly, president of the PTA at that school. "We sent out a form letter and it just grew and grew."

When the Date With Dad night arrived on Jan. 19, Mattingly said, 218 people turned out. The planned table space in the school cafeteria was soon exceeded and additional tables and chairs were set up in the hallways to accommodate the children and their parents.

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"In the letter, we said granddads, brothers or uncles could come if dads couldn't make it," Mattingly said. "We had a couple of moms come, too."

While more and more women have joined the work force in recent years, men have always been overwhelming unavailable during the weekdays hours because of employment, Mattingly said.

"We just wanted to do something for them," she said.

Plans were made to keep it simple and fun for everyone. The children were told they could bring a favorite board game to play with their dads or something else they could do together.

"Some of the dads we'd never seen before," Mattingly said. Many came directly from work, still dressed in their three-piece suits or other work clothes.

Mattingly said many dads got to meet not only their children's friends but those classmates' fathers. Sometimes it would turn out the dads knew each other as classmates from school.

The event was designed as a test balloon to see if it succeeded. And since it did, it likely will become a regular feature at the school.

Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education has 315 students from pre-kindergarten through second grade.

Involved in PTA for three years, Mattingly says the school - its staff, parents and students - are like a big family.

"I wanted to be involved in this school and to help out," Mattingly said, noting that her children are grown and now she has school-age grandchildren. She has been a substitute teacher and secretary, as well as a lunch time assistant, which is what she is doing now.

Mattingly and the PTA executive committee came up with the Date with Dad idea earlier this year. "We are not all about fundraising," she said, noting that the traditional PTA tries to raise money only one time a year and get it out of the way.

Previously, the PTA had sponsored a Grandparents Day in April and that will continue this spring for the third year because of its popularity.

"We're going to come up with something for Mom's Night Out, maybe in March," she said.

PTAs at Funkstown and its partner school, Emma K. Doub, work closely together because in many cases, families have children in both schools. A joint yearbook is published each year.

"We work very well together with the PTAs," said Funkstown Principal Susan Burger.

The goal of all the PTA activities is to involve parents in their children's schools. There was lots of hugging of dads, holding on to dads and that was great, Mattingly said.

All in all, the Date With Dad seemed to dispel some of the mystery about dads and more importantly, to get them through the front door.

"It was so nice to see the sparkle in the eyes of the children," Mattingly said.

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