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Berkeley County Schools' WATCH D.O.G.S. featured on NBC's 'Today'

February 11, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students).
Submitted photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Schools’ WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program was featured Monday morning on the NBC News "Today" show.

Click here to watch the segment that aired Monday morning.

First launched at Berkeley Heights Elementary School, the WATCH D.O.G.S. program now provides an opportunity for fathers or father figures at eight schools in the county to take an active part in their child’s life within the school environment.

Today show host Matt Lauer interviewed fathers in the program along with their children on Jan. 8, according to the school district.

The news show interviewed and filmed at Orchard View Intermediate, Hedgesville Middle, and Berkeley Heights Elementary Schools. WATCH D.O.G.S. programs also are in place at Eagle School Intermediate, Mill Creek Intermediate, Valley View Elementary, Martinsburg South Middle, and Martinsburg North Middle, according to school officials.

The nearly 4 1/2-minute segment focused on the positive reaction children had to having their fathers as active participants in their school days and the long-term value of such interaction. During the segment, Lauer said he was using the experience in West Virginia to help craft a public service announcement on the benefits of fatherhood.

“I was so very proud and so very impressed,” Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said when asked for his reaction to the segment.

Arvon said Eric Snow, WATCH D.O.G.S.’ national director, told him that the county’s program was “exemplary” and the reason why it was chosen to be showcased.

During the interviews with the children for the “Today” show, Arvon noted that every one of them said the time their father was spending them is what they loved, Arvon said.

And every child was proud of their father who was in school with them, he added.

“It was obvious that these fathers love their children,” Arvon said.

Arvon lauded Jodi Westrope, who launched the program in Berkeley County Schools with another parent several years ago, for her ongoing effort “behind the scenes” to make the program a continued success.

“I felt so proud of the dads and the students,” Westrope said when asked for her reaction to the “Today” show segment. “They are the true inspiration behind the program.”

There are more than 400 “dads” participating in WATCH D.O.G.S in Berkeley County Schools, Westrope said.

The program’s goals include using dads as volunteers in schools as positive male role models for students and providing extra sets of eyes and ears while they are assisting to enhance safety measures.

“This program has become invaluable for the schools the dads work with,” Westrope said in the news release.

In a recent interview, Westrope said she hopes to expand the program to the high school level and eventually to all of Berkeley County’s public schools.

Bill Fultineer said he signed up to be part of the program when his oldest daughter was in elementary school.

Fultineer, who is an assistant principal at Hedgesville High School, said his school visits made him realize just how many children are in need of an adult role model.

“You can always tell what kids are starving for attention,” Fultineer said.

His child and the children of other fathers who have taken part in the program become “the star of the show” when their dad is there, Fultineer said.

“And all the kids want to talk to them and their dad,” Fultineer said.

Inspired by a school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998, WATCH D.O.G.S. is in 44 states with more than 2,600 active programs, according to the National Center for Fathering, which launched the initiative.

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