NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The North Little Rock School District is issuing a call to fathers, to stop thinking about spring break and to come back to class with their children.
Some of the best young fathers in the district were invited to a meeting Tuesday night at Amboy Elementary School for the launch of a Fathers Initiative.
“You’re there, you’re supportive of your children, you support what they do,” Solomon Phifer told them. "And that’s the reason why you all are here.”
Phifer, a family management specialist at Amboy, led the meeting, along with Principal Allen Pennington, though the initiative is a district-wide project. They chatted with the fathers, surrounded by children’s books in the school’s library, looking for ways to write a better future for their young kids.
“If you have time in the mornings, just to usher them in, tell them good morning,” one father suggested, “just so they can see a male role model.”
The dads talked about holding fishing outings, movie nights, and getting supplies so dads could build birdhouses with their kids.
“Something small, kind of, just entice the fathers to get involved, I think,” Pennington mentioned. “It’ll blossom and flourish from there.”
The fathers mentioned those ideas as ways to get dads thinking about school, and to help them know their children’s teachers and classmates.
“A lot of fathers are incarcerated, a lot of the fathers are just not in their lives,” Phifer explained. “And so I want us, as men, to be a strong presence in the lives of these children.”
Teachers and family management specialists at each of the elementary schools in the NLRSD picked one father to represent the school as initial members of the group. As they decide what they want the program to do and how to do it, they will have to convince other dads to join them.
“I applaud the single mothers out there. But there’s something impactful when you have a father or father-like figure in their lives,” Phifer said. “So my goal is to have a father-like figure in each and every person’s life.”
Phifer said that while it is helpful for fathers to coach their children’s sports teams or cheer them on from the bleachers, getting involved in the classroom affects a child in a different way. “You gotta have a high school diploma,” he said. “You know, if you’re going to make it far in life, it’s not going to be sports, it’s going to be what’s in your head.”
Having the group be for men only also allows them to interact with each other in a way they might not outside of a school setting. For instance, the men spent a few minutes laughing among themselves about carrying their infants in bjorns, and how much their backs hurt afterward.
The dads seemed to all understand the value that a father could have, even on children who come from unstable homes.
“I think the benefit to the kid is, when they have fathers and father-like figures in their lives, they could be like, ‘well, my dad wasn’t this, but I have somebody in my life who’s teaching me the right way,’” Phifer claimed.
The fathers all agreed to meet once a month, to help plan events and share ideas. The goal for the 2017-18 school year is to get dads involved in daily activities such as recess and reading time, and to host special events for their schools once a month.