Clayton Schools seminar focusing on importance of fathers in education

Clayton Schools Deputy Superintendent Ralph Simpson said fathers and father figure play an important role in the education of children.

Clayton Schools Deputy Superintendent Ralph Simpson said fathers and father figure play an important role in the education of children.

Clayton County Schools wants to change the paradigm that moms are the automatic go-to contact when it comes to addressing student needs.

The south metro Atlanta district is hosting a seminar Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon at Jonesboro High School designed to help fathers and father figures play a more active role in the educational lives of their children — and be equally visible when educators need to talk to a parent.

“I’m a firm believer that teachers and administrators, they’ll ask for the person they know has either had a presence in the school or the one that they know will respond and react,” Ralph Simpson, the district’s deputy superintendent of administrative services and strategic involvement, said of why mother’s are top of mind when it comes to students.

“We want to do the same thing with fathers and father figures,” Simpson said, adding that the seminar is also for uncles, cousins, grandfathers or others who play the father role in a student’s life.

“We want educators and teachers to know and believe that the father or father figure is going to be just as responsive, just as active and just as present,” he said.

080322 Conley, Ga.: Father Gregory Samuel II holds the hand of his son Gregory Samuel III on the first day of school at Anderson Elementary School in August 2022. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /

There are benefits to helping fathers step up, according to Furthering Fathering, a national organization focused on improving father-child relationships that is helping with Saturday’s activities.

Fathers and father figures who participate in children’s education contribute to improved student achievement, school readiness, emotional security, self-esteem and social competence, behavioral development and boosted confidence, the group said.

“These are six ways that fathers and father figures contribute to their children’s success,” said Lamont Jones, secretary for the board of directors of Furthering Fathering. “Every dad wants his child to be successful.”

Clayton County Schools is not the first district to tackle this issue. Similar efforts to boost the involvement of dads or father figures in the education of children have been held by other metro Atlanta school systems, including DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools.

The effort in Clayton itself is an outgrowth of years of programs at individual schools in the district that have encouraged fathers and father figures to play an active role in education. Some ask dads to simply bring their children to school while others encourage them to be hall monitors or help out in the cafeteria.

Robert Smith Elementary School, for instance, has held a “father figures” event annually in December over the past several years, Simpson said. In its first year, only about 25 fathers showed up, he said. But as many as 225 fathers turned out this past December.

Lamont Jones (center), co-founder of the Furthering Fathering Corporation, gives M. Agnes Jones Elementary School students high-fives as they prepare to enter the school during the national Million Fathers March Day in Atlanta. ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

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Saturday’s seminar is the first time Clayton has taken the initiative countywide.

“A lot of schools have events,” he said. “You probably heard of the ‘Donuts to Dads’ or ‘Muffins for Moms.’ Those are events. We want to turn this into a movement because we don’t want father figures or fathers to look for one event throughout the school year and think that’s the only time they have to come to the school.

“We are giving them the charge that on the first day of school they escort their child,” Simpson said. “We want them to have an active role in the bus lane or parent pick up lane. We want them to show their presence in our schools.”