Kip Bollinger said he had an idea of what to expect when he arrived at Pittsburg Community Middle School at 7:15 Thursday morning.

Kip Bollinger said he had an idea of what to expect when he arrived at Pittsburg Community Middle School at 7:15 Thursday morning.

The 46-year-old sat in on his daughter Samantha’s first class, and everything went smoothly. The next couple of classes with other teachers also went well, he thought.

In the lunchroom things got a little hairy, he said, but he knows how to calm things down.

“It’s basically just a look,” Bollinger said, ever so slightly squinting his eyes in demonstration. “You shake your head a bit. They know they’re doing something ornery.”

Bollinger didn’t just show up to the school randomly to walk the halls and pop in on classes in session. He’s a member of WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a national initiative aimed at increasing the level of adult male involvement in schools. 2010 is the first year of the program in Pittsburg USD 250, and started last week.

“The WATCH D.O.G.S. program allows us to utilize our ‘community dads’ as a resource to help us in promoting the individual success of each and every middle school student,” said assistant principal Chris King, who helped kick start the program. King, who doubles as activities director for PCMS, said he likely wouldn’t be where he is today without the support of his father.

“I owe much of what I’ve accomplished to the guidance and compassion that I received from my parents, especially my dad,” King said. “I was fortunate to have a role model growing up ... the Watch D.O.G.S program will allow many other students to have this same opportunity.”

According to King, the fathers and father-figures who participate in the program are asked to spend at least one day per semester in the school. So far there are 30 recruits, and several more awaiting the results of their background checks. Responsibilities will include everything from helping with traffic flow and assisting at lunch to reading to students and speaking about the importance of education and career choices.

Perhaps most importantly, the WATCH D.O.G.S. provide a second set of eyes and ears. Which is what physical education teacher Glenn Bliss said likes most, especially with antsy and rowdy kids at the end of the day.

“They’re good to have if I miss something, especially with this many kids,” Bliss said in-between commands to a group of boys doing push-ups in the gymnasium. “They do us a really great service.”

Later, out on the football field watching the boys play soccer while Bollinger helped with the girls’ game, Bliss said the WATCH D.O.G.S. also have a calming effect on the students, who know there is someone keeping a protective eye open.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Bliss said. “And I think this is a great idea.”

So far, Bollinger, whose job allows him to be flexible, said he hasn’t regretted his decision to participate, and that he plans to help out in the future.

“It’s definitely been a really positive experience for me,” he said. “I’m sure the kids have changed and I’m sure they’ve stayed the same. I think any time you get a chance to get in a school and see what’s going on and interact with the students and faculty, it’s a good thing.”

The D.O.G.S. aren’t without their own set of rules, either. To help maintain a safe and secure environment they wear a designated WATCH D.O.G.S. T-shirt, as well as a list of things they are not allowed to do while in the school building. Those include:

• Going into the students’ (boys and girls) restrooms.

• Being alone or unsupervised with students.

• Espousing political or religious beliefs to students.

• Selling or giving the official WATCH D.O.G.S. T-shirt to someone who isn’t an approved volunteer.

• Engaging in conduct that would bring disrespect to himself or the students, school and program.

Only in its second week, King said the program is running as smoothly as he could have hoped.

“The teachers have all been positive, and the dads have all come out very upbeat,” King said. “They’ve thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

King said word-of-mouth advertising for the program has helped, and that he has high hopes for it’s future.

“I hope by next semester we’ll have a majority of the days filled,” he said.

The WATCH D.O.G.S. program started in a single school in 1998, and has grown to reach nearly 1,700 schools in nearly 40 states. Approximately 150 Kansas schools have a WATCH D.O.G.S. program, with PCMS being the first in the southeast Kansas area to implement the program.