Las Vegas Sun

March 22, 2018

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Dads, doughnuts and duty

My 7-year-old daughter hardly slept the night before "Take Dad to School Day," an annual event sponsored by the Nevada Parent Teachers Association.

When she eagerly leapt out of bed the morning of the Big Day -- Nov. 18 -- I didn't know if Lee, actually Jerri Lee Marie Fink, was more excited that I was going to school with her or that I, as a reporter, was going to write a story about the event.

In either case, I won out over "Pokemon" -- the cartoon series that rules in the world of today's elementary school students. She said she would prefer that I accompany her to her second grade class that morning rather than one of the "Pokemon" characters -- but she had to think about it before answering.

The evening before the Big Day, Lee learned for certain her school, Marc Kahre Elementary, 7887 W. Gowan Road, was going to be part of a news story.

"I have to watch what I say. You're a reporter and you're going to put it in the paper," she giggled right before calling someone a poopie-head.

"You aren't going to print that, are you?" she said, testing me.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Just before going to bed, she crawled onto my lap with a note pad and pencil, insisting we needed to write down the questions I would pose to her classmates.

After much discussion we reached a consensus on some questions that were important: What's your name? Is your dad here today? Do you have a swimming pool?

Hand-in-hand at 8:25 a.m. on the Big Day, Lee and I walked the block to Kahre, which is next door to Dorothy Eisenberg Elementary School, 7770 W. Delhi Ave. -- the main offices of the schools are facing different directions.

Combined, the two schools have about 1,400 students.

Lee and I arrived at the multipurpose center, already crowded with students and dads or grandads or moms.

After a few awkward minutes of looking around, watching children and parents interact as they sat at the long tables that filled the large room and ate Krispy Kreme doughnuts and drank juice or coffee, Lee rushed off to point me out to her friends.

Suddenly, I was a show-and-tell object.

The doughnut line stretched out the room and down a long hall.

Trust a good doughnut to bring out the dads.

Tara Bananto, Kahre-Eisenberg Parent-Teacher Association vice president, said 1,000 doughnuts were ordered -- 500 for each school. She expressed surprise at the large turnout. She apparently wasn't aware of the allure of doughnuts.

"We were only going to order 250 for each school, but changed it," she said.

It was impossible to tell how many dads attended the event, but by the time the bell signaling the start of class rang, there were only about 150 doughnuts left.

Showing off

Bananto, who has three children, said it was the children who were responsible for their dads coming to school, not the doughnuts.

"Children want to show off their dads," she said.

This year's Dad's Day was the second sponsored by the Nevada PTA in conjunction with the national organization, which encourages schools nationwide to sponsor a day for fathers during American Education Week and on National Parent Involvement Day.

Kahre and Eisenberg were participating for the first time, but Bananto said she hopes it will become an annual event.

"We want to make dads aware of their children, to make them part of their lives," she said. "Dads are their hero.

"If you start out early, it leaves an impression. They always respect their father."

Moises Denis, public relations chairman for the Nevada PTA, said, "We invite all of the schools to participate, but it is mostly elementary schools and a few middle schools."

Many of the more than 100 elementary schools in the valley take part, and Denis said the number is growing.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to highlight fathers and the role they can play in the lives of their children," he said. "We do it to bring out the fact that when fathers are involved in the lives of their children (the kids) get better grades, they repeat grades less and they have a better attitude about school.

"Kids are proud to have their dads there. They always hear about great things mom is doing, but they don't always see what dads do.

"We would like to see more dads involved. It's just a good thing for the kids to see the dads. They are proud to introduce dad to their teachers.

"You see them from all different walks of life -- some are in Air Force uniforms, some in mechanics' uniforms. Just to see them there, taking time out from their busy schedules, is wonderful," Denis said.

Different schools did different things, according to Denis.

"Some did the dads and doughnuts thing. Some (dads) went to class with their children and stayed for lunch. Every school was different," he said.

Denis expects more schools will become involved next year.

"We're looking for corporate sponsorship for statewide and regional events," he said.

Deloris Givens, assistant principal at Kahre, also was pleased at the large turnout.

"It is extremely important for parents to be involved," she said. "It assists us in what we do here. When school and home work together, the student knows the expectations are the same.

"Students are really excited to see their dads here," she added. "We don't get dads that often. They have very busy schedules."

Ray Delgado, father of 6-year-old Briana, a Kahre first grader, is one of those with a busy schedule, but he said it's important to him to show interest in his daughter's education.

Last year he was a volunteer, helping teachers with cutouts and post art on walls and lead students in exercises.

Briana was excited about her father coming to school for Dad's Day.

"She kept reminding me about it every day," Delgado, a bartender at the Bellagio, said.

Delgado says he does as much as he can for his daughter because he remembers both of his parents worked when he was a child and they were too busy to attend most school functions.

He was envious of students whose parents came to school.

"I always noticed the other parents and how excited the kids were," he said. "I decided I would get involved. Knowing we are interested has a positive influence on her."

He will have an opportunity to become even more involved: His wife, Patsy, is expecting their second child in about four months.

Staying involved

I asked my daughter why it was important for me to attend Dad's Day.

"Because dads don't usually come to school with their kids," Lee said with what I thought was remarkable insight for a 7-year-old until she explained, "I heard the PTA talking to you."

She said the event was fun.

"I don't get to spend much time with you," she said.

I was jarred by that statement. It wasn't one she overheard someone from PTA say.

It was the simple truth, and perhaps the essence of what is wrong with today's frenzied work-oriented society in which both parents must work to make ends meet -- some even holding down two or three jobs.

Dad's Day is one effort to get fathers to step into their child's world for a few minutes to see and experience what their children's lives are like for the six hours they are in school each day.

As Lee led me to her classroom I knew she was proud that I was there, not as a reporter but as her dad. As we walked to teacher Lisa Miles' classroom, I made a mental list of things Lee and I could do in the future to spend more time together.

Just for the record, approximately half of the 17 children in Miles' second grade class have swimming pools.