by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, December 2022) At the November 22, 2022 meeting of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Board of Education, Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon announced CMSD had received a $20 million dollar donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. Gordon said the funds from the donation are unrestricted, meaning that the school administration and the Board of Education can decide how to spend the gift.
Gordon says his administration worked with the Cleveland Foundation to set up a “Get More Opportunities Fund” in which to deposit the donation. He said the fund will disburse $4 million dollars a year to offer CMSD students some opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise along with other items on the CMSD wish list. Gordon mentioned some possible uses of the funds that included international travel opportunities for students, paying for drivers’ license lessons for students, providing funding for accelerator grants, making improvements to the break room for CMSD bus drivers, and placing a marque outside of East Tech to advertise school activities such as plant sales and school plays to the public.
Board Member Anne Bingham praised CEO Eric Gordon and his staff and the vision of former Mayor Frank Jackson for their efforts to improve the CMSD which she said contributed to being the recipient of the generous donation.
Board Member Robert Heard said the two most exciting events during his tenure on the Board of Education were being chosen as a Say Yes to Education school system and this donation from MacKenzie Scott.
Gordon says when he first received the call that CMSD would be awarded a $20 million dollar donation, he thought it was a prank call. He was even more suspicious when they called back to request the CMSD bank account number so they could deposit the funds. Gordon says he called the Cleveland Foundation, and the foundation gave MacKenzie Scott a bank account number in which to deposit the funds. Cleveland Foundation told Gordon the donation was legitimate and later called to confirm the funds had been deposited in the account set up for CMSD.
Gordon says he hopes to involve high school students from the CMSD Student Advisory Council on the committee that decides how the funds will be spent. He said students could be asked to answer the question “What would you do with a million dollars?”
Gordon says the $20 million dollar donation is the largest donation of unrestricted funds that CMSD has received in at least two decades, and maybe in the history of the Cleveland school district. The donor, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, is the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
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