Introducing 100 Dads
Meet Rich Thompson, an Atlanta dad who dotes on his daughters and is active in their charter schools. Rich is working with G-PAN to launch 100 Dads — an initiative to engage more fathers in supporting and steering charter schools. Rich’s vision is powerful. He wants 10 men in 10 Georgia charter schools to each form an ad-hoc task force that will address concerns in their particular school. Here’s his plan:
When Dads Show Up
by Rich Thompson
Growing up in rural Georgia, I loved sports. Whether it was basketball or football, I had lofty dreams of one day slam dunking the winning shot or throwing the winning touchdown pass. In reality, I was far more the “student-athlete” type than the super talented team captain. Nevertheless, after two unsuccessful years of trying out, I finally made our junior varsity basketball team.
The next big challenge was to work hard, improve my playing skills and get in the game — perhaps even become a starter. About halfway through the season, I was beginning to polish up my hoop skills, but my team mates were really good and I never earned a spot on the starting lineup. But then one day in a game against one of my high school’s oldest rivals, something truly amazing happened.
We were on the road playing the Calhoun County Cougars. And on this game day, unlike any others, a very special person was sitting in the stand — my dad. Daddy worked the second shift at a beverage manufacturer forty miles away from where we lived. Almost all of our games were played either on a Tuesday or Friday afternoon, right before the varsity game. But today was different. This was a Saturday afternoon and Daddy didn’t have to work. There they were, he and my mom, sitting no more than three rows behind the team bench.
We had almost finished our pregame warm-up drills when the buzzer sounded. As always, the team huddled up to hear the coach’s final instruction and announce the starting five. Coach called out the first four names one after the other. And then something magical happened. He took a deep pause, glanced up to the stand, looked my dad eye-to-eye, and then slowly lowered his head toward me and said: “Thompson, you got jump ball!” And just like that, I was starting my first game!
It’s been more than twenty years since that game yet I still remember it like yesterday. Not because I led the team in scoring, rebounding, block shots or assist on that afternoon. In fact, after I floundered around the basketball court for about five minutes, the coach put me on the bench. But what I most remember about that experience is: when Dads show up, the unexpected happens!
Now that I’m the father of two beautiful daughters I know that same joy my Dad felt seeing his offspring striving to excel and make his parents proud. And for that reason, I have committed to showing up and supporting my daughters in all their many activities. But unfortunately, I have discovered there’s one place where one Dad showing up regularly is simply not enough. That place is school.
The public education crisis in America is a battle that no one Dad can fight alone. Policymakers and educators agree that parent involvement in children’s education is closely linked to children’s school success. But more critically, Dads have a unique, independent and even greater influence on children’s successful academic, social and economic outcomes.
That is why I am joining forces with the G-PAN, the Georgia Charter Schools Association and Dads around the state to launch a new kind of parent advocacy initiative. 100Dads is a new parental choice policy effort. We’re an army of civic-minded Dads dedicated to transforming public education through expanding public charter school opportunities for all children. 100Dads is built on a 10×10 organizational matrix. Each 100Dads chapter is established by 10 dads who establish the top 10 transformational changes needed to improve the performance of their child’s school. These Dads will establish their own agenda, and then each of those ten dads recruits 10 more dads to form 10 issue-oriented task force groups that work with policymakers, educators and community leaders to implement the needed reforms.
100Dads invites fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other significant father-figures to join our servant leadership revolution of improving our sons and daughters future through expanding educational opportunity for all.