Durham Public Schools received an $18 million unsolicited grant from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
After her divorce with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, Scott pledged to steadily give away her fortune. DPS announced in a release this week that the donation was administered by the National Philanthropic Trust.
“Ms. Scott’s recent gifts to public and charitable organizations have been focused on fostering equity, opportunity, and achievement for American communities,” said Pascal Mubenga, superintendent of Durham Public Schools, in the release. “We are pleased and humbled that Ms. Scott has taken note of DPS’s commitment to embrace, educate, and empower each student.”
DPS administration will work with the DPS Board of Education to prioritize the use of the grant funds, according to the release.
Bettina Umstead, chair of the DPS Board of Education, told ABC 11 that the $18 million donation is unrestricted, which is not common.
“Oftentimes our funds are earmarked for certain responsibilities whether that's for staff, operations, for COVID response recently. So this really gives us an opportunity to think creatively," she said.
The grant donation comes just a week after Durham residents voted in favor of a $423.5 million bond referendum for the school system. The district plans to use the bond referendum money to fund repairs to existing schools, as well as to support the construction of a new elementary school and a new Durham School of the Arts campus.
Scott has donated more than $14 billion since 2019. Over the last seven months, Scott has donated nearly $2 billion to 343 organizations “supporting the voices and opportunities of people from underserved communities,” she wrote in a blog post.
In 2020, Scott donated $90 million to three historically black colleges and universities in North Carolina. At the end of 2020, she also donated $750,000 to Meals on Wheels in Durham.
“I want to thank Ms. Scott for witnessing and supporting the great work of DPS educators and staff to support students and families,” Umstead said in the DPS release. “We will focus on using this to enhance our work with schools that will ignite the limitless potential of our students.”
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.