Dads Keep Public School Safe
Chrysler's Dad's Club
Urban Sentinels Guard Chrysler Elementary School
Detroit’s Public Chrysler Elementary School is fortunate enough to have an assembly of urban sentinels. These men are volunteers and have children attending or have staff working at Chrysler. They provide a line of protection around Chrysler Elementary while leaving no room for doubt as to where they stand. These dedicated men come from all walks of life, but when it comes to Chrysler Elementary students, these volunteers walk in one accord: William Pugh (President) Kenneth Young (Vice President), Nathan Koorhan (Treasury), John Thomas, Demiris Brown, Romaro Watson, Tod Williams, James Gray, Ken Coleman, and Traves Turner. The group is affectionately known as Chrysler’s Dad’s Club.
The Day Begins
It is 8:00 am on any given school day, rain, shine, sleet or snow, and the Dads are on task. They are directing traffic, providing curb side service for students, adding orange cones where children are walking and removing the cones for incoming staff. They monitor a group of 4th and 5th grade safety patrols who look up to them as defenders. Keeping a keen eye out for interlopers, and discouraging any type of negative behaviors is just par for the course.
The Dads greet all students with a salutation of encouragement that makes each student feel special and secure as they begin a new school day. As the Dads meticulously watch passer-byers, the parents and guardians of Chrysler’s students are at peace when dropping off their children. Each day during dismissal the identical routine is repeated.
The true meaning of the club’s resolve can only be conveyed by the personal accounts of the Dads themselves. As this writer meandered around, talked to, and watched intently as the Dads carried out their operation, varying points-of-view were revealed which translated into one unified itinerary.
One on One with the Dads
The notion of serving kids was an all-encompassing theme among the Dads. Serving as role models the Dads ensure that the students are wearing proper attire. Opening a car door might be followed with, “Tuck that shirt in”. Still, making sure that no kid gets hurt becomes a precursor for a safe learning environment; and Thomas feels that safety comes as soon as the kid gets out of the car.
Pugh has been dutifully watching over the students for 7 years. He keeps things organized and moving. Pugh is keeping up a tradition of volunteerism that started at Chrysler in 2010 and he is very proud to continue to direct this alliance. Watson was drawn to the club by watching the Dads everyday as he dropped off his own child at Chrysler. He wanted to do the same thing and was thoroughly uplifted by the presence of so many men visibly working towards one goal. Williams was also drawn to the group by watching them. His first impression was, “Wow”.
"I feel good at the end of the day", said Brown, “It is like self-therapy”. Brown is no new comer to the club. He has served as a club member for approximately 4 years. Brown feels a sense of pride by what the club represents. Koorhan adds to the discussion by indicating that he feels his efforts are fulfilling a responsibility to the community. “Lafayette is a busy street and it is up to everyone to see that our kids make it to and from school”, continued Koorhan.
Many reasons prompted Turner to join the club. He laments that too many public schools lack male involvement, so he feels that the club’s existence is crucial; especially for black boys. Turner feels that their presence deters outside elements and provides a defensive line of protection around the school, too. He is also a very big advocate for smiling and saying “Good morning”. “It starts the day off right”.
Gray and Coleman love how the majority of dads are African American and working together towards the same positive goal. The news depicts so much division among black people; thereby, giving black men a negative image, “… but this club is a positive service by black men working to influence black minds”. Young is a constant guard in this alliance. He can be seen in front of the school during morning arrival and at afternoon dismissal. He, along with a group of safety patrols close out the day at curb-side and retire the orange cones until the next morning. Young is the perfect quintessential dad for multi-tasking.
The Principal at Chrysler Elementary is Wendy Shirley. She might not fit the category for a membership in the Dad’s Club, but she is a guardian to all of the students at Chrysler. She maintains an excellent learning environment and visibly supports the Dad’s Club and wholeheartedly welcomes their unending support.
Public education in Michigan and other parts of the country are under heavy scrutiny and bitter attacks. Most of the critics attempting to discredit public education are not urban dwellers, and the lawmakers in Lansing, Michigan who are trying to legislate laws for the schools, or close them, have never set foot in a Detroit Public School. They stand a far off and have their aides collect and interpret standardized tests scores after the tests are administered by the state. Be that as it may, Chrysler Dads are on the frontline of defense for our kids creating and maintaining a true standard that cannot be measured nor translated into nothing but success. The Dads open the day and they close the day, and what happens in between at Chrysler is learning: A goal of public education.