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Orange County

Would You Like Some Fries With That Homework?

Administrators and teachers go behind McDonald's counters to raise funds for schools.

October 14, 2002|Claire Luna | Times Staff Writer

As an elementary school principal, Rena Thompson is used to fielding complaints about test scores or inadequate supplies. Once a year, though, she hears protests of a different sort: oversalted fries, undercooked potatoes, sluggish service.

Her school, Evans Elementary in Garden Grove, is one of about 30 in Orange County where the teachers and administrators this week will double as McDonald's employees to raise money for their schools.

Evans is participating for the third consecutive year in McTeacher's Night--on Tuesday for two schools and on Thursday for most others. The outlets turn over 20% of the night's take to the schools.

Last year, participating campuses each netted about $600, with the money going toward supplies in most cases.

Although her school's proceeds have bought some much-needed books, Thompson said that is less important than the chance to strengthen the school's presence.

"I don't think it's about the money," said Thompson, who has worn her husband's old uniform shirt and nametag from when he worked at the restaurant chain as a teen. "It's a community-building thing. Kids and parents have the chance to see us in a different light."

Thompson said she doesn't see the program as a McDonald's publicity gimmick or a marketing tool. This and other corporate-sponsored fund-raisers, such as those offered by pizza parlors or skating rinks are "just some other different avenue for us to have fun outside school," she said.

Individual McDonald's operators work with schools to pick who participates in the event, which is expected this year to include more than 1,000 campuses in 16 states. An administrator and 10 to 15 teachers are each assigned to an employee as they flip burgers, work the drive-through window or avoid burns from French fry grease vats.

For Debbie Crussell, assistant principal at Sycamore Elementary in Orange, the event is an opportunity for team-building among the teachers. But they also leave each year with a greater appreciation for fast-food workers, she said.

"Assembling the burgers and the sandwiches -- I had no idea it was so hard," said Crussell, whose school is participating for the third year. "The Quarter Pounder is easy, but those other sandwiches.... Those different-sized patties are very complicated and frustrating."

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