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CMSD announces $20M from Mackenzie Scott to fund students and teachers

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Ideastream Public Media
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Conor Morris
CEO Eric Gordon announces the CMSD Get More Opportunities Fund at East Tech High School in Cleveland.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced Tuesday a $20 million donation from billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, likely the largest donation to the district ever.

CEO Eric Gordon announced the gift, which will create the CMSD Get More Opportunities Fund, during a presentation at East Tech High School in Cleveland. The gift will be split into $4 million per-year increments and will go toward three main categories: funding opportunities for students like summer camps and travel, one-time improvements like athletic equipment and musical instruments, and educator opportunities, like tuition for teachers to get additional credentials.

Gordon said it's important the funding is unrestricted, which means it doesn't need to be limited to any single purpose.

“For many years, we have wanted to make the significant investments we are announcing today and many more,” Gordon said. “But we never had the unrestricted resources to scale the impact district wide.”

Gordon said the funds will be used for a whole gamut of purposes throughout the next five years, and he announced some early investments, including:

  • The district is purchasing two shot clocks and a shooting and rebound machine for its basketball teams as well as new technology for football teams to have instant replay broadcast at games.
  • The John Hay School of Science and Medicine will receive virtual reality devices to implement a new anatomy curriculum for students in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic.
  • CMSD’s All City Arts Program will receive a portable wireless microphone system to enhance performances throughout the year.
  • A variety of teachers’ projects to develop new curriculum and support students in the classroom were also funded. These include efforts to expand trauma-informed practices in the classroom and an educational trip for students in Costa Rica.
  • Bus drivers will get renovated break rooms with new seating and computer work stations.

Outside of the early investments, Gordon mentioned plenty of other opportunities that could be funded for students, including students' participation in foreign exchange programs, scholarships to help them get their driver's license and eighth grade trips to Washington D.C.
Other opportunities mentioned for educators include training, the creation of employee resource groups and supporting "many innovation grants" for teachers.

Gordon said ways for students and teachers to access scholarships and other opportunities through the fund will be announced in the near future.

Philanthropist Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, announced about $2 billion in giving earlier this month, which included the $20 million to CMSD.

Conor Morris covers education in Northeast Ohio.