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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

PTA dads 2009

Chicago Tribune (Illinois)

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service

March 4, 2009 Wednesday

Dads raise their profiles in PTA groups

BYLINE: By Tara Malone and Carolyn Starks, Chicago Tribune

SECTION: DOMESTIC NEWS

LENGTH: 975 words

DATELINE: CHICAGO

CHICAGO _ Mike Campbell

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Mike Campbell -Search using:
has two teenage daughters _ daughters who dance.

Volunteering with the local booster group or sports club wouldn't help his girls, so the 46-year-old Libertyville, Ill., man ventured where few fathers go: He joined the school's equivalent of the PTA.

"It's mostly, as you would expect, a bunch of moms who are tireless workers in there, volunteering. Just amazing," said Campbell, who was elected president of the parent organization for the coming year.

Although the vast majority of PTA members are women, fathers like Campbell are increasingly stepping in, shaking up an entrenched division of labor that created generations of "classroom moms" and "sports dads."

The country's Parent Teacher Association, which was conceived as the National Congress of Mothers more than a century ago, will be led by a dad for the first time starting this summer, when Charles Saylors steps in as president.

Ten percent of the group's 5.5 million members are fathers, up from 3 percent five years ago. A father of four from South Carolina, Saylors has made recruiting dads one of his primary goals.

"Half the parents in the world are men. Let's talk about this, guys," Saylors said. "The PTA shouldn't be left to just one parent. It should be a family activity."

His appointment will come a year after Byron Garrett was named the first male chief executive of the Chicago-based organization.

The group launched an initiative called Men Organized to Raise Engagement in June 2008. Meanwhile, many Chicago-area schools have been working to enlist more male volunteers.

Ashburn Elementary School in Chicago campaigned to bring fathers into school three years ago. Today, 5 of the 11 local school council members are men. And although just one dad joined the PTA, men are a common sight in the school's classrooms and hallways, said Principal Jewel Diaz.

"It's just become like a snowball effect. We have, on a regular basis, lots of fathers just coming up and making sure they have a presence. That's all we need," Diaz said.

Clifford Fields was recognized for his school involvement by the Illinois State Board of Education in January. The Chicago man heads the PTA at his daughters' Goodlow Elementary Magnet School and the local school councils at Goodlow and Harper High School, which his older children attend. Fields got involved through The Black Star Project, which recruits African-American men to mentor black boys.

"Why just drop your kids off? Spend an hour in the school," Fields said.

The National Center for Fathering found more fathers attend classroom events, take their kids to school and volunteer than did a decade ago, according to a recent study by the organization, based in Kansas City, Mo. President Barack Obama took his daughters, Malia and Sasha, to school and attended a parent-teacher conference just days after his November election.

Changing the vocabulary is key to boosting male involvement, said Peter Spokes, the center's president.

"Historically if we talked about parents, it meant moms. ... What we found is in the last decade we're starting to change the vocabulary from 'parents' to 'moms and dads' and talk to dads as dads," Spokes said.

The Illinois PTA does not track how many members are men. Two of the state association's 33 board members, or about 6 percent, are men, said President Jean Razunas of Joliet, Ill.

"I think it has a lot to do with the fact that both parents may be working, so fathers are taking a more active role in their child's activities," Razunas said.

Alex Robinson figured it was just his turn.

His wife joined the local parent associations as their son and daughter advanced through elementary and middle school in Libertyville. When the couple's son hit high school two years ago, Robinson thought it was time to get involved and ultimately became president of the Parent CATS.

"When I go into the high school, the principals know me by sight and name. Not all the parents can say that, and I think my kids appreciate that," Robinson said.

Working the third shift isn't a dream schedule. But the late-night hours allowed Don Ridall to join the PTO in his school district.

When the district merged schools, the PTOs combined as well, and Ridall was tapped as president in 2006. He was the first man to lead a parent organization in the district, a distinction he laughed off, saying, "They were just looking for someone crazy enough to do it."

Ridall retired as PTO president this year because his shift changed again _ this time, to afternoons. A mom now leads the group.

Bruce Bohren of Gurnee, Ill., read the best-selling book "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus" to help better manage his role as one of the few fathers in the local parent organization. More than a decade later, he is school board president and treasurer of the Illinois Parent Teacher Association.

Rick Orze, a Carol Stream, Ill., real estate broker, said his flexible work schedule and proximity to school made volunteering an option in a way it wasn't for fathers tied to offices in Chicago.

Orze was vice president, then president of the PTO at his local elementary school during the 2004-05 school year. More dads showed up for PTO meetings during his tenure, he said.

He said many fathers assume they're not needed or think they might be uncomfortable.

"I know people had laughed about it _ 'Oh, we have a male in charge' _ but it was never something I focused on," Orze said. "We just hoped the people who showed up were as diverse as the school."

___

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.

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SUBJECT: APPOINTMENTS (90%); AFRICAN AMERICANS (79%); MEN (78%); SCHOOL PRINCIPALS (77%); TEACHING & TEACHERS (77%); CHILDREN (77%); PRIMARY SCHOOLS (77%); MAGNET SCHOOLS (72%); EDUCATION DEPARTMENTS (72%)

ORGANIZATION: NATIONAL PTA - NATIONAL CONGRESS OF PARENTS & TEACHERS (56%)

PERSON: MICHAEL L CAMPBELL (85%); BARACK OBAMA (50%)

GEOGRAPHIC: CHICAGO, IL, USA (93%); KANSAS CITY, MO, USA (79%) ILLINOIS, USA (94%); MISSOURI, USA (79%) UNITED STATES (94%)

LOAD-DATE: March 4, 2009

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH

ACC-NO: 20090304-BC-PTA-DADS

PUBLICATION-TYPE: Newspaper

JOURNAL-CODE: TB


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Date/Time April 8 2009 10:44:58

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