Calling all dads
Published 8:54 pm Friday, June 7, 2013
The Virginia PTA’s southeastern director, a Suffolk man with three children attending the city’s public schools, wants to see more dads involved in the volunteer child advocacy association.
When Lemuel Jones joined Oakland Elementary School’s PTA (parent-teacher association) seven years ago, the distinct lack of fathers struck him instantly.
“I didn’t see a lot of male participation in it,” he said.
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But the situation began to improve once he got involved, the 49-year-old said. Jones was president for five years, and “they started coming,” he said.
From that auspicious beginning, Jones, currently with two sons at King’s Fork Middle School and another at Oakland Elementary School, has gone on to hold several leadership positions in the association.
He served as Suffolk PTA Council president for three years and treasurer and vice president at King’s Fork Middle School PTA for one year, respectively.
He has also served as southeastern district treasurer for one year, assistant director for a further year, and was recently elected to his current position leading the district.
Meanwhile, Jones also serves on the Board of Managers for the Virginia PTA.
“When I was council president, we tried to get more male involvement in PTA by pushing other programs, like Watch DOGS,” Jones said.
The DOGS in Watch DOGS stands for Dads of Great Students, and Jones said the program has been instrumental in getting more dads involved in K-12 education.
“Not all schools did it, but a few did,” he said. “It gets dads more involved in the education of their kids.”
Jones said he has found that just one dad getting involved in a school’s PTA can have a domino effect.
“If one student’s father comes to school, another student might go home and say, ‘Dad, my friend’s father came to school. Dad, when are you going to come to school?’”
Last month, the Suffolk PTA Council honored Jones with its Volunteer of the Year Award.
“It meant a lot to me that they appreciate all the work I have done and continue to do for them,” he said.
The award, he said, means even more to him than an Achievement Medal he earned during an eight-year stint as a Navy reservist.
Jones works at Western Tidewater Regional Jail and also substitute teaches for Suffolk Public Schools. He understands, he said, how many parents these days are time-poor.
But he stresses that moms and dads can still find the time — as he does — to get more involved in their PTA.
“I hear, ‘I don’t have time to come to PTA meetings,’” Jones said. “But it’s only an hour a month. You don’t have to stay for the whole time — just show up and support your child.”
Jones said more men are involved in PTAs on the elementary-school level, “But once you get into middle and high schools, it’s very low.”
The overall level of membership in Suffolk PTAs has dropped “quite drastically” over the past few years, according to Jones.
By comparison, he said, involvement in Chesapeake PTAs, for instance, is “really high.”
“I’m hoping to get Suffolk’s numbers up high also,” he said.