Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooker Elementary draws fathers into the loop


The ball sailed over the schoolyard as several runs were scored, prompting smiles and cheers from the winning team. "Come on, Dad!" one of Brian DeAndrea's sons yelled as the father of three crossed the plate to seal a double-digit victory. "That was a tough one," a dad on the losing team said. "We had all the parents, too."

About 30 adults, mostly dads, and 60 kids showed up Saturday morning at Brooker Elementary School to participate in the Kickin' With Kids kickball tournament. It's one of several activities put on by the Brandon school's PTA Fathers Committee, which advocates fathers' involvement in children's school lives.

"Kids learn from so many different sources," said Darren Denington, who runs the committee. "And when there's a father taking an active role in their school life, they learn things from a different perspective."

Every month, the nine-person committee invites dads to eat breakfast or lunch with their kids at school. About 100 fathers showed up for the event last Friday, and even more have participated in past months.

"It's just really neat to see how many dads are at the school," principal Julie Lacy said. "We don't usually see that many dads, so it's just great to have them here."

The dads help set up for school functions. They tackle maintenance projects, from tightening loose screws on playground benches to planting shrubs for a new teacher parking lot.

And they work to increase student interest in reading. Last year, the group made a video of several men who hold recognizable jobs — a postal worker, a pilot, a member of the military — collectively reading a book to the kids.

After the video played, dads filled the classrooms and read to students. The school has more group-reading days scheduled. They seem to be effective, said Denington, whose 9-year-old daughter attends Brooker.

"One of the teachers approached me afterward and said, 'I can't believe how well this worked,' " he said.

The man who read to this particular class told the students he used to read books about humanitarian and baseball great Roberto Clemente when he was a kid. The teacher happened to have a book about Clemente on the classroom shelf.

"She told me about two weeks later that every single day, one of the boys in the class had taken that book home," Denington said. "Every boy wanted to read about Roberto Clemente."

Dozens of Hillsborough schools have similar initiatives, and others plan to start them. While most dads clubs are at elementary schools, they are beginning to appear at high schools and middle schools as educators emphasize the importance of male role models.

"The expectations are so high for kids … that it really has to be two parents supporting that child at home and making sure the kid is staying involved in school," said Heidi Koplin, a third grade teacher at Brooker. She played kickball Saturday with her 10-year-old daughter and husband, who is on the fathers committee.

Koplin said students who have both parents helping out with homework and other school activities are more eager to learn.

"We better take advantage of the time that our kids want us around because there's going to be the day where they're going to say, 'Drop me off at the corner' because you're going to be embarrassing to them," she said. "We all know that comes at some point."

That day seemed far off on Saturday as Madison Koplin, a fifth-grader at Brooker, played kickball with her parents.

She found it harder than recess. "When there are grownups, they can really punt it in the air, which is hard for us little children to catch," she said.

Madison enjoys eating lunch with her dad at school. When her mother asked her at what age would she be too old to eat lunch with him, she answered, "Until I die."

Kevin Smetana can be reached at or (813) 661-2439.

Brooker Elementary draws fathers into the loop 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says election is about moving forward


    Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office  Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward..

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally