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Dads: Come Work for the F.B.I.

Ganda At

How do you get fathers to become more engaged with their children's education?  All you have to do is ask.

That's what convention attendees and speakers hammered home at today's Male Engagement Summit.  Men now make up 12% of the PTA.  That number could (and should) grow.  And an invitation may be all the incentive they need.

Michael Robbins, guest speaker and Special Assistant to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, advocated for key strategies like early engagement before conception and making dads feel more welcome in the education discussion.  "We should talk about what dads do right," said Robbins. 

The meeting's other guest speakers, leaders of the Fort Wayne Area Council (FWAC) PTA, galvanized their local units into recruiting dads to join.  Julie Klingenberger, President of the FWAC PTA, detailed how constructing and marketing a program called F.B.I. (Fathers Being Involved) helped them to add close to 1,200 dads to their member list -- an impressive 30% increase. 

A little bit of smart outreach was all it took. "We're one of only seven states to see an increase in membership this year," said Theresa Distelrath, President-Elect of the FWAC PTA.  By inviting more men to participate (including Distelrath's own husband), encouraging guys to recruit each other, and rebranding their efforts to appeal to dads, they managed to make a big difference in the lives of their community's children.  And, Klingenberger reminded the room, "It costs no money."

During a forum following Robbins' talk, the audience, comprised of a 50/50 mix of men and women, were invited to offer ideas on how to get fathers more involved in schools.  J. Michael Hall, Executive Director of Strong Fathers, Strong Families, reiterated, "You don't have to pay dads to come -- when you've invited them, they'll come. Kids don't do better because [dads] volunteer; they do better because [dads] are involved with their children."

Another audience member mentioned the need to get more men involved in elementary school education.  Robbins couldn't have agreed more.  "We're going to need 1.5 million more teachers over the next five years," he said.

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