Franklin dads in the halls — and classes
A Franklin High School program boosts parental involvement and provides role models for students.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jerry Johnsen stands out in a mass of class-bound teenagers. He strolls the halls of Seattle's Franklin High School in a bright yellow biking suit, waiting to meet with his son's teachers for next year.
Johnsen has come to the school to take part in Franklin's "Dads in the Halls," a program aimed at increasing fathers' involvement in their children's lives at school.
Every few months, the school invites fathers to observe their own children and serve as role models for other students.
"I enjoy being involved in my kids' school activities, and this is really another opportunity to come here in a more official way," said Johnsen, who next year will have two sons at Franklin.
Parental involvement is one of the biggest challenges at Franklin, said "Dads in the Halls" coordinator Lynda Spates.
At Franklin, 49 percent of students don't have both parents living at home, and working parents often lack the time to come to school events.
"We really need to change the perception that because your child is in high school, you don't need to be involved anymore," said career specialist Damaris Pearson. "We really need more of our young people going to college."
Franklin has an annual drop-out rate of 2.2 percent, and Pearson estimated that about 75 students will fail to graduate this year.
"Dads in the Halls" participants — fathers, uncles, male mentors — arrive at the beginning of the school day. After breakfast, they are given the option of meeting with teachers, watching their children in class or sitting in on other classes. The men meet up for lunch and leave in the early afternoon.
"It's so nice to see the guys in the hall and connecting with the kids," Pearson said. "The [Franklin] PTA has more women, so we have to encourage the men to be involved in things that are going on the building."
When "Dads in the Halls" started last October, 21 men took part.
The number of participants has since declined, though school officials are determined to continue the program.
"It's not so much that the dads who aren't here don't want to be here," said father Bob Leonard. "It's more of an issue of employment and not being able to take time off."
Leonard believes the most important part of the program is simply letting students know that parental guidance is available. "They need us, and they let you know that," he said. "In their own subtle ways."
Rachel Fields: 206-464-3305 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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