This school means business

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

A corporation is like an individual: It marries (merges), has subsidiaries (children), and is a legal entity, observed Frank Anthony, corporate secretary of Bird Inc., at its recent annual meeting here.

It's not that Mr. Anthony thought Bird's shareholders needed a refresher course on corporations. But this annual meeting was different: It was held in a high school auditorium, and high school students were invited to observe and ask questions. One hundred Norwood and Walpole high school students attended the meeting and a premeeting session at which Bird officials explained corporations.

''We feel it is incumbent upon us, as a corporate citizen, to assist schools in their role of providing economic education,'' says Bird's chairman, George J. Haufler. As a practical example of this, he announced the company's award of scholarships and scholarship endowment funds for students of the two schools.

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The East Walpole-based firm, one of America's oldest corporations and a maker of roofing and siding products, will also provide several student summer jobs and help set up an 18-week applied-economics program at Norwood, including a guest speaker one day a week from the business community. Besides enhancing community relations, the Bird annual meeting gave the corporation a larger facility - the high school auditorium - to accommodate its growing number of shareholders.

On the same day as the Bird annual meeting, the American Can Company, of Greenwich, Conn., held its annual meeting at a New York City public school auditorium and outlined similar plans for helping its target school.

Robert Martin, associate manager of community resources at the US Chamber of Commerce, notes that these are ''just a small example of the increasing interest of the American business community in the public school system.'' He cites adopt-a-school programs in Maryland and Texas and examples of business people working on financing packages for schools.

In the Norwood auditorium, decorated with displays of Bird's product lines, Diane Brusco, a Norwood junior, said that she considered Bird's presentation ''professional'' and that ''the slide show (of Bird history and products) was good.'' Concerning Mr. Haufler's reaction to a student question about Bird's comeback after several years without profits, she wryly noted, ''They had to say something about it, but they didn't dwell on it.''

Although another student in permed hair and corduroy slacks admitted that she ''didn't understand all those (business) terms,'' she was willing to try another annual meeting to ''see if they are all the same.''

Barry Greener, a history and economics teacher at Walpole High, said the first part of the meeting showed practical application of the ''concepts and vocabulary terms'' of corporations. Before the annual meeting, his students had studied corporations and the Bird information kit to gain a basis of comparison between Bird and other corporations.

Norwood principal Patrick J. Cammarata says the school officials are open to more corporate educational partnerships and annual meetings at the school.

''These students are future employees of Bird and other corporations,'' says Bird spokesman Peter Bradley. He says the experience will better prepare them for a role in business.

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