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Updated 09/05/11 – 5:13 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – As most Chicago Public School students were preparing for the first day of school on Tuesday, Community activists were urging fathers to get more involved in their kids’ education.
Meantime, the Chicago Teachers Union was taking its fight over a longer school day directly to parents.
Reighne Dyson, a student at South Loop Elementary School, was biking home with her dad on Monday after buying school supplies. She said she’s thrilled he’s taking her to school tomorrow for her first day in 3rd grade.
“It’s really important, because I want him to be there for the first day of school,” she said.
“It’s super fun,” her father, Mejai Kai Dyson said.
As CBS 2′s Susanna Song reports, Dyson was one of several thousand Chicago fathers who have pledged to be part of the “Million Father March,” to take their child to the first day of class.
“I think it just gives them confidence, and lets them know that they’re supported. And, for her, when she runs up against academic challenges, she knows I’m right there to help her solve it.”
Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, which organizes the annual “Million Father March,” said “the first day of school is not the end of the Million Father March, it’s the beginning. We have a 12-month calendar of father involvement in the lives of their children. It begins with fathers volunteering 10 hours of service time to schools.”
Jackson also led several prayers across the city over the weekend to remind parents to take their kids to school on Tuesday.
Meantime, the battle has been heating up between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city over the push for a longer school day.
The union has said it supports adding 90 minutes to the school day, but wants a detailed curriculum plan first and has said it’s unfair for teachers to be asked to work the extra time and still be denied negotiated 4 percent raises that were cancelled this summer.
“The city and the teachers union have both got it wrong. Unless they get parents involved, unless they get the fathers involved, unless they get the communities involved, neither one of their plans are gonna work,” Jackson said.
Jackson and members and volunteers with the Black Star Project planned to go door-to-door Monday afternoon in communities with traditionally low school attendance to urge parents to take their kids to school and get more involved in their children’s education.
They also visited the African Festival of the Arts as part of their final outreach effort.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports
“When fathers are involved their children have a better grade point average, higher test scores, better attendance, and increased graduation rates,” Jackson said.
As CBS 2′s Roseanne Tellez reports, in addition to passing out informational cards and putting signs everywhere at the African Festival, project members also went door to door to get the word out.
Jackson was one of the original founders of the “Million Father March” movement 10 years ago and he id mothers love it, too.
“This is a good idea. That may make them come on out and do what they should do and step up as a man and do what they supposed to do,” said Sharon Pommier, a mother of nine who opened her door for volunteers from the Black Star Project. “We have to do what we have to do as the women, but we didn’t make them (children) by ourselves.”
And a former school teacher said don’t underestimate the importance of the movement.
“To see your dad coming out to take you to school, it’s a big deal,” said Linda Cobbs Wilson.
Jackson said it’s really just a start to a yearlong pledge to volunteer, “to be mentors, to be tutors, to be sports coaches, join the PTA’s and the LSC’s and make a difference in their children’s lives.”
Jackson said when father’s are involved, kids are much less likely to get involved with drugs, gangs or violence.
Chicago is one of 767 cities taking part in the “Million Father March’ this year, Jackson said.