Burgers and Scoreboards

Dr. Cooper, principal at Brandon High School, did not realize that the offer made by Sam Graham to pay for new scoreboards and provide free food would become a controversy. Many teachers and community members feel that placing the logo of Sam's restaurant on the football team's helmets is too high a price to pay.

Dr. Marcia Cooper, principal at Brandon High School meets during the summer with Sam Graham, owner of three restaurants named Bounteous Burgers.

Marcia Cooper, the daughter of a local cattle farmer, has been principal of Bronson High School for five years. She came to a school that was in disarray with an unhappy faculty, dissatisfied parents, and a contentious board. In her five years, school attendance has improved, the dropout rate has declined, college applications are up, and morale has risen. She is eager to do more but knows that finances are limited. She has been actively seeking community support for school causes. Sam, a school dropout, owns three Bounteous Burgers restaurants. He regrets not having completed high school and made certain that his two sons and one daughter graduated and went on to college. All three were good students and outstanding athletes. Sam knows that academics are important but lacks the knowledge and experience to know precisely why.

Marcia: It’s good to see you, Mr. Graham. What brings you to the high school in the middle of July? I was pretty surprised to see your name on my calendar.

Sam: I’m pleased to see you, Dr. Cooper. Why don’t you call me Sam? I’m pretty uncomfortable with the Mr. stuff. Yeah, I guess it would be a surprise to see my name on your calendar. I sure didn’t spend much time here before I dropped out.

Marcia: Well, your kids made up for it, Sam. Everyone tells me that they were wonderful students and great athletes. I also hear that your oldest son has graduated from college and is in law school. What can I do for you, Sam?

Sam: Maybe it’s what I can for you, Dr. Cooper. I’ve got some ideas that I think might help the students and the school.

Marcia: Fire away, Sam. I’m always ready to talk about ideas to help my school and my students. What do you have in mind?

Sam: I know that the football scoreboard needs to be replaced. It’s the same one that was there when Sam, Jr., my oldest kid, played.

Marcia: That’s very true, but we don’t have the money to replace it.

Sam: I can help with that. I’m willing to make a donation of half the cost; then the kids can raise the rest with bake sales, car washes, and stuff like that.

Marcia: That’s very generous of you. But I’m afraid the kids are kind of burnt out on bake sales and car washes; they did about 10 of them last year to help buy the new computer for the library. I would be reluctant to ask them to do more.

Sam: Well, I can probably get the rest from my friends at the Business Associates Club. We meet every third Friday for lunch. They all like the school.

Marcia: Well, if that could happen it would be wonderful. But I’m curious. What do you get out of this?

Sam: I was coming to that. Of course, I’d want my restaurant’s name on the scoreboard. That’s only fair. Maybe we could put our burger logo on the football helmets. And here’s my other idea. I realize that attendance at football games hasn’t been very good the last couple of years. I know the team was pretty lousy, but the kids should be going to the games. After all, those tickets mean more money for the school. I’m willing to give a free soda and a large fry to every kid who buys a hamburger no later than a week after every winning game. All they need to do is present the ticket stub. I think that might help attendance.

Marcia: Maybe it would. It would probably help the sale of burgers as well. But Brandon High School is not just about sports. We’re an academic institution. I can’t be in the position of going to my faculty and talking about scoreboards and hamburgers.

Sam: I’m glad you said “scoreboards.” I’m willing to do the same thing for the basketball scoreboard which is just as old as the football scoreboard. As for the academics, I don’t know much about them, but how about if I offered a free meal of a burger, fries, and soda to every kid who made the honor roll?

Marcia: This is getting pretty complicated. How would that help you?

Sam: How about if I put soda-dispensing machines outside the gym and the football field with the Bounteous Burgers logo on them? I’d give half the proceeds to the school to support your getting some new computers for that lab I read about in the paper last week.

Marcia: Let me see if I have everything straight. Two scoreboards, free sodas and fries after victories if the students buy a burger, free whole meal for students on the honor roll, and half the proceeds from the proposed soda dispensing machines. Hmm, I’d need to talk about this with my faculty, but it all sounds pretty good to me.

Marcia and Sam talk for a few more minutes before promising to meet again.

Marcia Cooper and Sylvia Bond, school nutritionist, have a conversation.

Later the same week Sylvia Bond, the school nutritionist, is beginning to work on the school menus for the upcoming year. Sylvia has advanced degrees in nutrition and health. Prior to coming to Brandon High School three years ago, she worked for the Safe Foods, Good Health state program. She is dedicated to helping students form healthy eating habits that she believes will lead to healthy, long lives. She stops by Marcia Cooper’s office to say hello and see how things are going this summer.

Marcia: Good morning, Sylvia. I certainly didn’t expect to see you here this morning. How are you?

Sylvia: Fine, Dr. Cooper. I just want to get a head start on the menu work for the fall. It’s such a job to find menus that will be both healthy and attractive to the kids. How’s your summer going?

Marcia: Pretty well, Sylvia. We’ve been able to get the painting done in the art room and I’m sure you noticed that the cafeteria had been refurbished. Those two things took just about any funds we had.

Sylvia: The cafeteria looks great. How’s the search for external funding going? Any leads there?

Marcia: Interesting that you should ask. I had a fascinating conversation with Sam Graham on Wednesday.

Sylvia: Sam Graham, the burger behemoth? What does he want, a burger in every lunchbox?

Marcia: Not exactly. He is eager to help us get the new scoreboards for the football field and the basketball court. You know that they are in terrible shape.

Sylvia: Well, actually, I hadn’t noticed that. I’m not much of a sports fan. What’s he want in return?

Marcia: Goodness, Sylvia, you are critical of the man! He wants to pay for a major portion of the costs and seek help from business colleagues to pay for the rest. He wants his company’s name on the scoreboards and a burger logo on the helmets. He’d also want to install for no cost soda machines on the field and outside the gym with his logo on them. He’d turn 50% of the profits over to the school to be used for a new computer for the library. I think it’s a generous offer and one we should probably accept.

Sylvia: Dr. Cooper, I’m stunned. I’ve been breaking my back trying to get kids to eat balanced meals and now this guy wants to put his logo all over the school advertising his burgers and fries. By the way, Sam Graham has been trying to get his advertising into this school for the last two years. The whole point is counter to good nutrition and to good school policies.

Marcia: Now, Sylvia, it’s not an accomplished fact. I’m having the annual summer meeting with the academic council next week and we’ll be discussing the idea. We’ll see how they react.

Sylvia: I don’t mean to be impertinent, but you know they’ll do whatever you want. I’ve got to finish my work; I’d really like to talk with you some more about this.

Marcia: Okay, Sylvia, any time.

Sylvia leaves. Marcia closes her office door, heaves a sigh, and sits back in her chair. She says to herself, “Thank goodness I didn’t mention the free fries and sodas for attending games and the free meal for honor students. Whew! This may be a bit more difficult than I thought. But I think she’s right. The Council will go along with me.”

Dr. Marcia Cooper meets with the Academic Council.

Dr. Cooper has called for the annual summer meeting of the Academic Council. Attending are Henry McQueen, English Department chair and chair of the Council; Moe Sloan, social studies teacher and head football coach; Annie Strong, chair of the science department; Glenn Parker, school counselor; Rowener Hutton, curriculum director and girls basketball coach; and Bob Brewster, Latin teacher.

After the customary greetings and exchanges of stories about summer activities, Henry McQueen calls the meeting to order. After dealing with a few items left over from the June meeting, Henry turns to Dr. Cooper and requests that she assume the chair and inform the group of her purpose for calling the meeting.

Dr. Cooper: After extending words of welcome, Dr. Cooper outlines the conversation she had with Sam Graham, this time including the ideas about free sodas, fries, and whole meals. At the conclusion, there is an audible intake of breath by several members of the Council.

Moe Sloan is the first to speak. The head football coach and social studies teacher, he has been at Brandon for 10 years. He has an excellent reputation as a teacher and is recognized as a stern taskmaster as a football coach. Grossly overweight, he sometimes takes much ribbing from his colleagues for his insistence that his players be in top physical condition. He generally laughs and says that he did his physical conditioning when he played football at Dartmouth. The team has steadily improved in the past three years and Moe is eager to see continued improvement. He has been critical of what he perceives as the low level of support from the student population.

Moe: I think it’s great. I was having a burger in Sam’s Edison Street place yesterday and he told me about this deal. Boy, is he excited. I’m excited, too. I’d love to see more kids at the games; it’s good for them and it’s good for team morale. But I’m predicting that some of you will be upset about the idea of logos on the helmets. But I don’t see the problem; the pro teams all do it. And I…

Glenn Parker interrupts him. Glenn, one of the several school counselors, has been at Brandon for 15 years, first as a math teacher and for the past 10 years as a counselor. Deeply committed to academic standards, Glenn views sees himself as the conscience of the school.

Glenn: Now, wait a minute, Moe. I know you have great ideas for your teams; I know you care about academic standards and all the rest. But we’re not a pro team and this school should be free of any commercial taint. We’re a school, not a company. We exist to educate young people for life. Sticking burger logos on their helmets has little to do with our overall purpose. The problem with athletics…

Before Glenn can finish, Rowener Hutton, curriculum director and girls’ basketball coach, interrupts him. Rowener has a master’s degree in curriculum studies from the state university. Prior to coming to Brandon six years ago as curriculum director and basketball coach, she had taught Advanced Placement French at a private academy and coached basketball.

Rowener: Whoa there, Glenn. I yield to no one in my respect for academic standards. And as you well know, I’m not some ivory towered academic. I believe strongly in the fusion of mind and body. That’s why I coach basketball. Maybe Sam didn’t say this, but I’d be happy to have his logos on my girls’ shirts if he comes through with a new scoreboard. What’s the big deal? The book covers we give the kids advertise everything from toothpaste to CDs. Come on, Glenn, lighten up. I notice that’s a Gap shirt you’re wearing.

Henry: Well, we’re getting pretty heated here. Annie, what do you think? Annie Strong, head of the science department, is finishing her doctorate in the teaching of science at Michigan State. In her seventh year at Brandon, she teaches Advanced Placement physics and manages a department of eight science teachers. A no-frills academic, she eschews anything she believes will lower the intensity of academics.

Annie: Do I need to say anything? My goodness, it’s bad enough that we waste these kids’ time on things like football. Do we have to make them wear funny burger logos as well? Why don’t we put on sandwich boards and walk through the stands at games? I’ll bet Sam Graham would like that. I have nothing more to say; the whole idea disgusts me. Imagine, getting a free lunch because you make the honor roll! I can’t wait to report that at the next regional meeting of the AP science teachers. Get an A in physics and get a burger with a large fry and a soda! At this point, Bob Brewster interrupts. He has a reputation for both high standards and personal characteristics bordering on being iconoclastic.

Bob: Okay, Annie, we get your point. Let me tell you what I think. I know I should be standing up for academic purity and all that. But even though I’m a classicist, I’m also a pragmatist. When I think of the trouble I had getting the kids to raise money to send three of our students to the regional Latin conference, I’d be tickled to death to place Sam’s logos on their foreheads if he’d pay their way! I know that’s a bit extreme, but I don’t see the problem. As Rowener says, everything comes with a message anyway. Besides, I like Sam Graham’s burgers. I go to one of his places a couple of times a month. I’d rather have his stuff around than some of the national companies plying their wares through our kids. Henry, where are you on all this? You haven’t said a word yet.

Henry: I haven’t had much of a chance; everybody’s been pretty busy scoring points. I don’t see the harm. It’s not like we’re telling kids to eat burgers and fries or to drink sodas. No kid has to go turn in a ticket stub; none of the honor students is honor-bound to pick up his or her whole meal. And we do need help. I don’t know what Dr. Cooper thinks, but new scoreboards in both places are inevitable in the next couple of years. The ones we have now will fall down! So we take Sam’s help and spend the school’s money on academics rather than scoreboards.

Annie: Henry, that doesn’t sound like you at all. I’m surprised and disappointed.

The discussion continues for several more minutes. Dr. Cooper watches quietly thinking to herself: It looks like Henry, Moe, Rowener, and Bob are for the idea and Annie and Glenn are against it.

Dr. Cooper: Let me intervene here. I think everyone has had a chance to speak. Personally, I’m for giving this a try even though I see some problems with it. Sam’s a good soul and has the best interests of the school at heart. After all, he had three kids go through this school with distinction. Henry, do you think we could have a vote?

Henry: Sure, Dr. Cooper, I agree that it’s time. Shall vote by secret ballot?

Nearly all in unison: No, no, we all know how everybody will vote.

Henry: All those in favor raise your hands. The vote turns out exactly as Dr. Cooper had predicted in her mind.

Dr. Cooper: I want to thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this idea. Our by-laws state that a majority vote by this group is binding on the faculty. I will meet with Sam again for some further discussion and then make my final decision. Of course, the Board of Education could over-rule us, but they are so desperate for money I think they’d take support from anywhere. Please don’t quote me on that.

Annie Strong and Glenn Parker have a cup of coffee.

Annie Strong and Glenn Parker go to a local coffee shop after the meeting.

Annie: Wow, what did you think about that session?

Glenn: Well, I’m pretty disappointed. I thought Marcia kind of waited and then called for a vote when she was sure that she had all the ducks lined up. She’s been doing that a lot lately. I remember when minority voices really meant something.

Annie: I hadn’t thought much about that. I’m just so upset attention seems to be focusing totally on money. We almost seem to be forgetting why we’re here. I know it’s important to have scoreboards and all that other stuff, but that’s not what school is for. But I do see your point. I remember when there was so much talk about participative decision making. Remember today how Marcia said something about making her “final decision.” I seem to remember that we used to all get together a couple of years ago and talk further when there was as strident a minority view as we had today. What do you think we can do?

Glenn: At this point, probably not much. She is, after all, within her legal rights to make the decision. But I know what I’ll do to try to get a little sand in the gears. I’ve got an appointment with Dr. Honig for my annual physical this afternoon. I’m going to tell him what happened. You know how hyper he is about commercialization in the school.

Annie: I guess that’s a good idea. But are you violating confidentiality?

Glenn: I didn’t hear anything about confidentiality this afternoon. Anyway, Sam Graham is probably talking up the idea with every adult who comes in for food.

Dr. Marcia Cooper and Andrea Sarton talk on the phone.

Marcia Cooper answers the phone and her secretary tells her that Andrea Sarton is on the line and wishes to speak to her. Andrea has lived in the city for 15 years. A biology major in college, she is a total vegetarian, an ardent supporter of animal rights, and a co-founder of the local Green Party. Dedicated to her beliefs, she is nonetheless tolerant of the beliefs of others and does not attempt to get everyone to think as she does. However, she takes considerable umbrage at excessive marketing of what she calls “junk food” to kids. Marcia and Andrea have gotten to know one another well through Andrea’s occasional presence at meetings to raise issues about school menus and related matters. She has a daughter who is a junior, honors student, and starting forward on the basketball team. Andrea has a deserved reputation for bluntness. Marcia tells her secretary to put the call through to her.

Marcia: Good morning, Andrea. How’s your summer going? Garden doing well?

Andrea: Good morning, Dr. Cooper. Let’s not talk about gardens right now. My summer was fine until Sylvia told me what you people decided yesterday at that meeting. Let me get right to the point. I’m appalled. I find it unacceptable that you’re willing to “sell” part of the school just to get those damned scoreboards and a computer. And what kind of message are we sending when you approve of giving kids a whole meal, as that man Sam calls it, to students who make the honor roll. “Whole meal indeed!” Whole meals have solid green vegetables and fresh fruit in them. I suppose he’d say that the ketchup on the fries is a vegetable. And another thing: I have virtually no interest in sports, but I find it appalling that you’re apparently willing to have Bounteous Burger logos on kids’ heads during football games…

Marcia: Well, not exactly on their heads, Andrea. They’d be on the helmets…

Andrea: Let’s not quibble over that point. After all the controversy we have had over too much meat in the cafeteria meals, I find it terrible that we will be encouraging kids to eat those fatty burgers and repulsive fries. If I were a sports fan, it would be enough for me to hope the team would lose. My question is: Are you really going to go through with this insane plan?

Marcia: As I told the Academic Council yesterday, I want to think this through, talk with Mr. Graham again, and then decide. You know, we are woefully short on funds for almost anything. Mr. Graham has made a generous offer that we must consider. I’m not happy with logos on helmets, but good scoreboards cost in the thousands; the kind of computer we need in the library is a couple thousand dollars. These are hard times, Andrea, and we all have to make compromises…

Andrea: There is a real difference between compromise and surrender, Dr. Cooper. I know that I’m just one individual and can’t stop things by myself, but I’m going to talk with some of my friends and see if we can put a stop to this. I’m going to hang up now, but I’ll be back in touch.

Marcia: Marcia hangs up and wonders: Who told Sylvia about the meeting and whatever made Sylvia run right to Andrea with her conerns. The group did not agree to keep things confidential until a final decision was made, Marcia was suprised that at least one Council memeber had been so vocal to a parent.

Dr. Cooper talks with Robert Honig.

Marcia is in the midst of her musings when the phone rings again. The secretary tells her that it is Dr. Robert Honig, local physician and father of two boys attending Bronson. A graduate of the leading medical school in the region, he chose to return to Bronson as a general practitioner. He was formerly a member of the school board and is ardently opposed to commercialization in the schools; he strongly opposed the introduction of Channel One when it was introduced to the schools nine years ago. He is also Dr. Cooper’s personal physician. Dr. Cooper tells the assistant to put the call through.

Marcia: Good morning, Dr. Honig. Good to hear from you.

Dr. Honig: Good morning, Marcia. I’m not so sure you will say it’s good to hear from me after I state my piece.

Marcia: Oh. And what would your piece be, although I have a pretty good idea. I think our Academic Council meeting yesterday had a few leaks.

Dr. Honig: That’s one way of putting it, Marcia. Glenn Parker was in for his annual physical late yesterday afternoon. He looked a little troubled and I asked him what was the matter. Then he told me about the meeting. I must take exception to this putting logos on helmets, placing the Bounteous Burger logo on the scoreboards, and sticking soda machines with logos on them all over the place. I…

Marcia: But, Dr. Honig..

Dr. Honig: Let me finish, Marcia. It’s bad enough that this plan would have the potential to put more junk foods in teenagers’ stomachs. But I’m realistic enough to know that if the kids are not eating free fries and drinking free sodas from Sam’s emporia, they’ll be eating this stuff anyway. The whole nation is having a nutritional nightmare, and I can’t stop that. But we don’t have to encourage such eating habits. We must not turn our schools and our children into standing billboards and little walking ads.

Marcia: Well, Dr. Honig, there are many sides to all these issues. We know each other pretty well, so I guess I can be a little impertinent and say that I have noticed all pharmaceutical company handouts in your office. I think it’s pretty clear that advertising rules the world.

Dr. Honig: You’ve got me there, Marcia. But I still don’t think we should push this stuff on the kids. I know you well enough to know that you’ll consider the options well.

Marcia: Thanks for calling, Dr. Honig. Among other things, your call is a good reminder that I need to make an appointment for my annual physical.

Dr. Honig: Right, Marcia. I didn’t realize I was doing some advertising of my own! Talk with you later.

Marcia: Goodbye.

Dr. Marcia Cooper meets with Mr. & Mrs. Roger and Mary Applegate, co-presidents of the Brandon High School PTA.

The Applegates, 25-year residents of Bronson and owners a small software company stop by Marcia’s office. Two of their children have graduated from Bronson High School; their remaining two children are currently students at the high school. They have been long active in supporting the city schools; have served as co-presidents of the Brandon PTA for two years; and have assisted in numerous fund raisers for the school drama club, the band, and various athletic endeavors.

Marcia: Welcome, my friends. It’s good to see you.

Roger: Good to see you, Dr. Cooper. From the sound of things, you’ve had a busy summer.

Mary: We wanted to talk with you about a conversation we had last night at the band concert with Henry McQueen. He told us that the Council had voted favorably to support a proposal by Sam Graham to pay for new scoreboards.

Marcia: Goodness, has the whole town heard about our meeting? Yes, the Council took a favorable vote. Now I’ve got to decide what to do. The proposal does have some controversial aspects to it.

Roger: Well, controversial aspects or not, we’re here to offer our total support for the program. Henry was quite specific about the free food awards, the scoreboards, the logos, the soda machines, and so forth. I think it’s wonderful that someone has stepped up to the plate and offered some corporate help for the school. So what if there are a few logos around! I wish I’d thought of that when we gave the school those software packages a couple of years ago. I think a few of our COMPOZ logos wouldn’t have hurt anybody.

Mary: Well, regardless of that, Roger, I want Dr. Cooper to know that she has our total support, just like you said.

Marcia: That’s very gracious. I’ll probably need it if I decide to go ahead with the plan.

Roger: Oh, Dr. Cooper, it’s too good an opportunity to pass up. And this could set a pattern. Other local businesses might decide to support the school. We need all the help we can get to keep Bronson High School one of the top high schools in the state.

Mary: That’s right. Now, Dr. Cooper, we know that there will probably be a few who will think this is the end of the world. But they will definitely be in the minority. And this country is still a democracy: majority rules! I want to congratulate you on this plan. It shows real leadership.

Marcia: Thanks again. I may know I’ll be calling on you. I’ll keep you informed. Now how are the kids doing this summer?

Several minutes of casual conversation ensue after which the Applegates say goodbye and leave.

Dr. Marcia Cooper and Sam Graham talk on the phone.

It is the next morning. Marcia answers the phone and her assistant tells her that Sam Graham is on the line and wishes to speak to her.

Marcia: Good morning, Sam. How are you doing?

Sam: I’m doing great, Dr. Cooper. Moe Sloan came in for a burger late yesterday afternoon and told me about the vote. I’m ready to go. After you and I talked the other day, I talked with three other business owners at lunch at my place and they all want in. They wanted to know if they could contribute to something else besides the scoreboards because they’d like their logos on some separate things…

Marcia: Please slow down, Sam. The Council did vote favorably but I still have to make the final decision. And there are a few difficult issues I must think through before I decide what to do. Everybody doesn’t see things exactly the way you do, Sam.

Sam: I’m not sure I know what you mean. But I hope that you can come to a decision pretty soon because I’d want the scoreboard up before the first game. I already talked with a company that makes scoreboards and they said it would take six weeks to do a new one.

Marcia: Sam, I guess I should be thankful that you made some inquiries, but I hope you didn’t make any commitments…

Sam: No, no, Dr. Cooper, I would never do that. I was just getting some information.

Marcia: Okay, Sam, I’ve got to go. The superintendent is on the other line. I’ll talk with you soon.

They both hang up. Marcia leans back in her chair and says to herself, Whew! This is getting very complicated. I guess the little white lie about the superintendent isn’t too big a deal, but I need some time to think.