Anonymous Dream Donor Gives Schools $5M for What They Want

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October 29, 2014; Chattanooga Times Free Press

The children in the public schools in Whitfield County, Georgia, have had their days brightened and educations enhanced through an anonymous donor’s thoughtful and respectful donations, now totaling $4.5 million.

The Dug Gap elementary school has been able to make $1.1 million in improvements, including a new sports field, a new decorative fence around its four-acre lot, a state-of-the-art greenhouse, a stand-alone science lab and a technologically up-to-date media center

The donor has also funded iPads for third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders.

Principal Mandy Locke remembers when the donor asked, “What is your dream fence?” She responded, “I don’t know. I dream in elementary school budgets. I don’t dream that big.”

Southeast Whitfield High School received sports facility improvements of $970,000. Other elementary schools have also gotten what they needed and wanted, including, as Antioch Elementary Principal Tracie Dempsey reports, a $68,540 Starlab—a new science lab, which Dempsey likens to a portable planetarium, that “inflates like a kids’ bouncy house and seats about 35 people, as part of science department improvements paid for by the donor. Students this week expect to start using the new science lab, which was installed over the summer.”

“Elementary schools don’t have science labs, typically,” said science teacher Ken Richmond. “Our benefactor pretty much said, ‘Go for it.’ They asked us to dream, and dream big.”

Instructors at Dalton State College helped the schools decide what equipment was needed for the science departments.

NPQ is struck by this story, which strikes such a different collaborative tone than much of the charitable funding for public schools.—Ruth McCambridge


  • BeFrank

    Ok, so they are giving physical things, which is nice, and they could be needed. The children won’t feel they are missing out.

    “I don’t know. I dream in elementary school budgets. I don’t dream that big.”

    It’s hard to criticize a donor or a principal in this situation. It’s like, “what would you do if you won the lottery?” Would you take the gifts?

    We’ve seen all the stories of people who end up losing all their money and the mess it makes on their lives and their family’s lives. What will happen to the school years after receiving these gifts?

    How does a principal pick the right things to invest in when someone is giving away gifts? Is there a plan for future expenses required to maintain the infrastructure or classroom gifts? A plan to train the teachers to use the gifts well? A plan to change the student lives for the long term? I don’t know. Just asking.

    Has money also been given related to the state-of-the-art greenhouse, stand-alone science lab and technologically up-to-date media center to help maintain and staff them for the next 10 or 20 years? To integrate them into the curriculum? What is the goal of the gifts and will the gifts help the donor and teachers meet their goals?