What began in a single school in Arkansas in 1998 and grew to nearly 3,000 schools nationwide has found its way to Ballard West Elementary in Slater. WATCH D.O.G.S. is an innovative program designed to get fathers and father figures into schools to provide positive male role models for children. It also provides an extra set of eyes at the school, resulting in increased security and reduced bullying.

Josh Stagg and his wife, Megan, are responsible for bringing the program to Ballard. After watching a news clip about the effectiveness of the program at Norwalk Schools, the Staggs knew this would be a great opportunity for Ballard.

"My goal with this WATCH D.O.G.S. program in the Ballard schools is that we can get one person every day to volunteer," Josh said. "I also have a goal that this will get the fathers, grandparents and aunts/uncles more involved in the community. That we can create a stronger relationship with our children and the people that teach our children."

Work on implementing this program at Ballard has been in progress since December of last year, when it was introduced. After much research and help from other WATCH D.O.G.S. schools, the program was endorsed by staff, Ballard Superintendent Ottie Maxey and the school board. Josh and Megan then formed a committee to get everything ready for the school year.

The Staggs, along with school principal Marty Jimmerman, hosted the first annual WATCH D.O.G.S. Pizza Night Monday, Sept. 9, at Ballard West to begin recruiting volunteers. Typically the program is limited to male volunteers, but at Ballard, the invitation was extended to any family member who wants to be involved in their child’s life.

"I believe everyone has the capability of bringing something to impact our children’s lives and the community around us," Josh said.

The cafeteria was full of parents who watched and listened as the program was explained to them. Volunteers will monitor hallways, assist at lunch, help with recess and traffic at arrival and dismissal. They also will read with students and help teachers in the classrooms. Possibly one of the most beneficial tasks asked of these volunteers will be to encourage the students with smiles and high fives.

Oct. 1 is the first day students will see WATCH D.O.G.S. volunteers in their school. Students will be able to identify these volunteers by the T-shirts they wear.

For anyone interested in volunteering for the WATCH D.O.G.S. program at Ballard West, information and forms are available in the school office. Josh and Megan can also be emailed with questions at josh.stagg@detailsmfg.com and meganjstagg@gmaill.com. A calendar is posted in the commons area for those already signed up with the program, and an online calendar will soon be available through the Ballard West website.

"I know that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for the countless hours put in by Josh and Megan (and their committee) and the wonderful community support that we have at Ballard. We look forward to implementing this program here at West, and we can’t wait to see how it will grow in the years to come," Jimmerman said.

(To report Slater news, please email Ann Krause at annkrause@ymail.com or call her at 515-229-6091.)