It’s not uncommon for Camillo DaSilva to spend several hours a week volunteering at either of his two children’s school.
It is, however, generally uncommon to see this level of school involvement from a male parent. But, DaSilva hopes to change this.
The long-time real estate broker spent part of the recent summer preparing to launch a Dad’s Club at Honey Creek Elementary, where his daughter attends. The organization, which formed at the suggestion of Honey Creek principal Dr. Carolyn Ormsby, aims to get fathers more involved in the educational lives of their children.
"The moms are always there," DaSilva said. "You can’t just have a village with the moms; you have to have a village that includes dads, too."
DaSilva expected approximately 15 dads to show up for the club’s second meeting in late October, with discussions centered on sponsorship of a Reading Day, where dads, male guardians and teachers read to students, a Say No to Drugs program and a Mother’s Day reception to honor moms.
"We need to have the male presence in the schools, because boys need someone who has gone through the experiences they have and to serve as role models," Dr. Ormsby said.
Fellow principal Blake Craft is considering formation of a dad’s club at Shoal Creek Elementary, where there has been a steady rise in the number of men prioritizing school involvement in the six years he has been at the school. Special campus programs, such as Donuts with Dad, are designed to raise the comfort level of fathers spending time on campus.
"The most important work dads can do is to get involved with their kids at school," Craft said. "The work at the office will always be there, but their kids won’t always be in elementary school."
Brian Dick has two boys in Rockdale schools — one at Davis Middle and the other at the Magnet School for Science and Technology, where DaSilva’s son also attends. Dick, a busy executive making frequent out of state trips, is committed to staying connected to his children’s school life.
"Although it is not without its challenges, it is as rewarding for the dads as it is beneficial for their children," he said.
Both Dick and DaSilva are members of the Rockdale Schools’ Parent Advisory Council, which receives direct oversight from the district’s Director of Community Support April Fallon. She points to several benefits of involvement, from both moms and dads and even extended family.
"The long-term result for students whose parents are involved (regardless of the parents’ education, income, and background) is that children are more likely to earn higher grades, adapt well to school, attend regularly, have better behavior and graduate and go on to higher education," Fallon said.
Aside from PAC, she points to other components of the district’s family engagement initiative. They include the Parents as Teachers program, which underscores the importance of parent involvement in the early years as a foundation for lifelong learning and the Be There campaign, a coordinated public awareness project that encourages parents to "connect" with their children daily.
In addition, schools throughout the system present year-round workshops on topics such as budgeting, how to prevent bullying and ways to help your child with homework — topics that appeal to both dads and moms.
Meantime, Camillo DaSilva shows no sign of curbing his involvement. He proudly rattles off his other school affiliations including membership on the Honey Creek School Council and Rockdale High Strategic Planning Committee. He’s also a Memorial Middle School mentor, former room dad and current PTO vice-president. Yet, it’s clear his strongest passion right now is for the Dad’s Club.
"I would love to see it replicated," he said. "Why just in my school? There are dads everywhere."