The Escondido Union School District announced October 27 a $16 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
“We are humbled by this recognition and the trust placed in us with this extraordinary gift, which was very much unexpected,” said Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra, superintendent of EUSD. “We are committed to a very measured, strategic approach for these funds so that we have a long-lasting impact on students.”
Dr. Rankins-Ibarra said the donation was a complete surprise, explaining that he received an initial call from an individual representing a philanthropist and was interviewed about the district’s work. “The interviewer let us know that a potential supporter had been very impressed with the work we’re doing, and they want us to keep moving forward.”
With this gift, Scott is now the single largest donor in EUSD history. “The donation, which was unsolicited, was awarded directly to the district, with the only expectation that we continue to support the students of Escondido,” Dr. Rankins-Ibarra said.
“The sky’s the limit here, but strategic planning is essential,” he added. “All options are on the table.”
Fortunately, district strategic planning was well underway when the superintendent was notified of the high-profile donation. He explained that the district this fall began intensive work with the Learner-Centered Collaborative focused on creating the ideal learning environment, experiences, and outcomes for EUSD students.
“Determining learner experiences and outcomes will benefit greatly from this gift,” he said. “We see the unlimited potential of every child, at every grade level. To achieve this, we strive to ensure that students are empowered, encouraged, and engaged, with the resources and support they need to be successful. In EUSD, every student is encouraged to be an artist, an engineer, a writer, a reader, a scholar, a leader, an athlete, a mathematician, a scientist, and more. The possibilities for our students are endless.”
He explained, “One of our guiding questions is, ‘What do we want our children to learn?’ Our students have to – and want to – learn to be collaborative and to solve problems.” He added, “We’ve already conducted focus groups with students at every grade level, and consistently they are telling us that they want real relevancy, connected to work and community. They’ve told us they want to know how to balance a checkbook, how to obtain a mortgage, how to cook a meal, how to be a good member of their community, how to appreciate art and music. It’s about connecting the learning to the real world.”
Besides neighborhood schools, EUSD has a strong cluster of specialty schools, such as Del Dios Academy of Arts and Sciences, Quantum Academy, and Conway Elementary. The MacKenzie Scott Foundation donation could fund the infrastructure for and sustainability of expanded programs across the district.
Dr. Rankins-Ibarra is firm in his commitment to having a vetted strategic plan before any of the donation is spent, with a plan in place for implementation ideally next year.
He concluded, “We are incredibly grateful for Ms. Scott’s investment in our Escondido community, and in the 21st-century education of the children of EUSD,” the superintendent said. “We are listening to our students. They are the future.”