A Piece of the Pie

Paramount High School is in dire need of resources, especially when it comes to their sports program. When a local business owner offers some support, though, it comes with a price. Health teacher Noelle Woods-Madson and Coach Moe Sloan can?t see eye-to-eye on the issue, so they put the ball in their principal?s court.

Teachers from Paramount High School attend the first home football game of the season.

With a few seconds left on the clock, health teacher Noelle Woods-Madson and French teacher Peggy Tabler picked up their portable yellow seat cushions.

“Why do we come to these things? These bleachers are so uncomfortable, and the food is terrible. Nothing but junk!” Noelle ranted, slipping her half-eaten honey bun into its package. “I can’t believe people can eat this frankenfood all the time and still sleep at night,” she scoffed.

“For the kids, remember? We come to these things for the kids.” They both laughed as Peggy responded to Noelle’s hypothetical question.

Ever since her first year at Paramount, Noelle had made efforts to attend student performances, games, and ceremonies, though lately the games left something to be desired. The Fighting Scorpions had made improvements as a team since last year, but rusty stands, old uniforms, and dusty turf left much to be desired at the high school football field.

Paramount High School demographics

Athletic budget

Peggy continued, “Anyway, if we don’t come to these games, who will?”

Peggy wasn’t the only teacher who’d noticed the lack of student representation at the football games. Earlier in the week, Moe Sloan, Paramount’s head football coach, had circulated an email asking for input on ways to encourage student attendance at games.

Moe’s email to the Paramount High School faculty

As she stepped off the bleachers and walked toward the gate, Noelle noticed Moe talking with a parent at the sideline. Though it didn’t look like a heated debate, she thought twice about interrupting them for the traditional “Good game, Coach!”

“Hey, Doc,” Moe called, motioning for Noelle to come closer. He had been calling her “Doc” ever since she took over the health and nutrition program at Paramount. “Noelle,” he corrected himself, “I’d like you to meet Pete Parish, Rodney’s father.”

Pete and his son Rodney both support the Scorpions.

Rodney was starting fullback on the team this year. She’d taught him when he was a freshman, and she remembered his brother A.J., but she didn’t know a lot of parents. Most never got around to visiting the exploratory teachers during parent-teacher conferences.

“Mr. Parish here wants to help us out with getting a new scoreboard!”

“That’s great. Mr. Parish… you look so familiar. Have we met?”

“You’ve probably seen my TV ads. I’m Pete. You know, of Pete’s Pizza?”

Noelle nodded and feigned a smile. She didn’t own a TV, but she’d seen the full-sized print ads in the Carradine Cardinal. The local paper was as close as she got to a commercial entertainment source, and that she only subscribed to because they ran her “Go Organic!” column every other month.

Moe interrupted her thought and looked at both of them. He knew this was his big chance to get some real encouragement from the community—something the Scorpions hadn’t had since they won states eight years ago. “I can’t wait to bring this up with Carla. Exciting, right Noelle?”

Noelle gritted her teeth. She knew that Carla, their principal, would jump at the chance to get a donation she could show off at the next school board meeting.

“Sure sounds interesting!” Noelle squeaked out as she walked backward, waving goodbye to the pair.

Just what we need, she thought, another commercial interest trying to win over our kids! Here I’ve been trying so hard to get our students educated about stuff like this, to think for themselvesIt’s bad enough we’ve got those awful soda machines in the cafeteria. That was one battle I couldn’t win.

“Reading, Writing, and Commercial Sponsorships”

I’ve got to get in touch with Carla before Moe does, Noelle thought as she hurried her pace to her car.

Principal Carla Cantrell hears both sides of the story.

As Carla jiggled her key in her office door, she heard footsteps behind her. Last night, she’d received a message from Noelle indicating her urgent need to meet. In Carla’s experience with her over the last year, Noelle wasn’t the type of person who let school issues slide. She was always vocal at school board and faculty meetings, and she made a point to keep students informed about school issues as well. Carla knew she was in for an earful this morning—she just didn’t know what about.

Communication can be a challenge for a young principal.

Carla was in her second year as an administrator and, while she tried to stay attuned to the needs of her teachers, she was still trying to set a professional administrative tone with the faculty. She thought her age sometimes was a turn-off for her veteran staff—she’d gone into administration after only two years as a classroom teacher. Nevertheless, she put a lot of effort into developing professionalism and listening skills.

“Hi Carla,” Noelle said, trying not to sound overly-eager. “Listen, I hope I didn’t freak you out with my message. It’s not really as urgent as I made it sound—it’s just…”

“Let’s have a seat so I can listen to your concerns,” Carla said, moving a stack of papers off of a spare chair.

Noelle explained what she’d heard from Moe and Pete. As she was talking, she noticed Carla’s expression change from active listening to actual surprise.

“I understand your concern,” Carla responded calmly when she was done, “and I’m glad you came to me. These decisions are never easy, and it’s important to hear all viewpoints on an issue.” Carla smiled, then shifted forward as if to stand.

That’s it? Noelle thought. She’d at least expected an opportunity to defend her position. Carla was quick to end the conversation, which didn’t seem like a good sign to Noelle.

“Well… I guess… I’ll get going. Um, thanks for listening,” Noelle mumbled.

When Carla closed the door, her composure faded. She was unsure what to do with this information—was it just gossip? Was it worth investigating at all? She went straight to her computer to google Pete’s Pizza. She noticed an email from Moe Sloan sitting in her inbox.

Pete Parish didn’t seem like such a bad guy. And his sons were good students and all-around nice kids. If the budget didn’t increase in the next year, the school would have to seek some other fundraising anyway. Plus, it was a local business. This wasn’t like the cola controversy that Noelle felt so passionately about. Why not partner up?

Carla decided to contact Moe before she got too ahead of herself.

Carla’s email exchange with Moe

Moe Sloan makes his case for using community support.

Wearing his coach hat (literally), Moe Sloan walked into Paramount High that afternoon ready to win over Carla with the news of the Pete’s Pizza school sponsorship. He had already mentally enumerated his points, which included partnering with the business in a raffle, giving discount coupons with football ticket purchases, and sponsoring after-school parties for students.

Moe rubbed his hands together as he approached the office. Carla was on the telephone, but waved him in regardless. He sat, nervously, in the chair across the desk from hers.

“Hi, Moe,” Carla said as she cradled the phone to her shoulder. “I’ll be with you in one sec.”

Moe knows he has to fight for his team.

As he waited, Moe removed a stack of papers from his clipboard. Moe placed the letters before him on Carla’s desk. Hanging up, she looked him directly in the eye. “So, Moe, what did you want to talk about today?”

“These letters speak for themselves, I believe.” He slid the stack toward Carla. “They’re from parents, business owners, and even some students!”

Carla kept a contented look on her face as she mentally reviewed what she would say next. She didn’t want to risk her job or respect over this. And she was the one responsible for the athletic budget allocations. It really mattered to this community. At the same time, after hearing Noelle’s points, Carla wasn’t completely sure this pizza business was best for Paramount’s students.

“Wow. It’s really great to know our football team is supported by our community. That speaks really highly to how well the school is regarded by others.” Carla leaned forward. “And yet…,” she continued, “I’m not sure Pete’s Pizza is the best choice for us at this time, Moe. I’ve decided to allocate new funding for instructional supplies this year. We will form a parent advisory committee to handle fundraising for sporting events. All of them—basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and the rest.”

“People are not going to be happy about this, Carla,” Moe said as he stood up. “Just so you know, Parish’s son Rodney is graduating this year. This might be the last chance we get!”

I hope not, Carla thought.