Big Community Announcement: Decatur Education Foundation Receives Record-Setting $500,000 Gift

Wondering what was announced to the community at 6pm tonight on Decatur Square?  Here it is…

A Decatur family has bestowed the Decatur Education Foundation with its single largest gift to date, a $500,000 donation that will provide a wide range of educational support to the city’s students.
The gift was announced this evening on the city square at the kick-off of the “Terrific Thursday” holiday shopping season.
“This gift will allow us to continue to build on the work accomplished over the past 10 years to ensure that every child in Decatur has opportunities to thrive,” says Paula Collins, chair of DEF’s board. “Coupled with the continued support from our community, it will allow us to impact exponentially more children. For that, we are most grateful.”
The Decatur family, who chose to remain anonymous, said they made the gift to express their gratitude “to Decatur teachers and staff who do such wonderful work educating the children in our community, and who play such an important role in making Decatur a great place to live.” They also expressed appreciation to those who made a difference in their child’s education and said they viewed the Decatur Education Foundation as “the best vehicle for making an impact on students throughout the community.”
“This gift will impact youth across our community, at every grade level, and build on our successful partnership with City Schools of Decatur,” says Gail Rothman, DEF executive director. “But it’s more than a major act of generosity — it is also a catalyst for us to take the Foundation to the next level.  There is so much more to be done to ensure that all children have what they need to be successful in school and in life, and we hope that it will inspire others in our community to join in our work.”
A portion of the gift has been set up to inspire additional donations to build broader, deeper support for the Foundation. Every dollar given to the Decatur Education Foundation’s annual campaign between now and December 31st will be matched 1:1 up to $50,000 total. For more information and to donate,

26 thoughts on “Big Community Announcement: Decatur Education Foundation Receives Record-Setting $500,000 Gift”


  1. Not it!
    (in case anyone thought we had an extra half mil sitting around.)

    Very nice of the real donor though. I’m impressed.

  2. This is amazing and many thanks to the family that donated. I wonder if anyone can put that number in context for me. I know what half a million would mean for me personally (house renovation, college funds, travel to exotic locales, an ark for Heifer, etc) but what does it mean for the DEF? I guess I’m wondering what scale of projects could be funded.

    Again, a big thank you to this family!

    1. Ooh, an ark from Heifer would be a great thing to do with that extra cash – instead I think we settled on the rabbits this year.

      I would think this would provide a great reserve for the foundation. I don’t think they do capital projects, but every non-profit who relies on the comfort of strangers needs a rainy day fund set aside to get through lean periods. If last year their income was 250k, then the could conceivably have a one-year reserve.

      That frees up many charities to do ambitious projects. It’ll be interesting to see what they can up with!

  3. DEF is one of the best causes in town, both because of the children it serves and the excellent folks who run it. This was an excellent surprise.

  4. Fantastic! All of us in the community ought to be proud of what we’ve created in the Decatur Education Foundation. A real grassroots enterprise. Woohoo!

  5. How much money is spent depends if the funds are allocated for direct expenditures (i.e. they can spend it all) or as an endowment (it earns interest, and they spend just that). I suspect a combination of the two. At universities, the donors often specify which model (spend it down vs endowment) they would prefer.

  6. Thank you anonymous donors!
    I imagine the money will be spread around to a variety of DEF’s objectives, but I would love to see it focussed on literacy.

  7. AMAZING NEWS! Big Impact for DEF and how much fun to dream about the possibilities.

    I am proud when I see DEF funds spent to support kids with serious economic needs that can hinder achievement (connecting homes that can’t afford, laptops for kids with no other computer access, scholarships for kids to do things they couldn’t otherwise). I’d love to see some new programs to help those kids get the support they need at all levels.

    I also like the programs that support our teachers

    I’d also love to see DEF make some bold innovative moves around health and wellness. The nature of our system (small, committed teachers, active community, etc), might allow us to come up with some bright ideas for ensuring strong and healthy kids.

  8. Please note that, if you have been considering making a donation to DEF, however large or small, this is a strategic time to do it since it will be doubled as long as it is made before December 31. Note to self: Do it this weekend!

    In terms of how to use the money, I like the fact that the money was not earmarked for specific causes so that DEF and CSD can use the funds judiciously to benefit all children in Decatur. There’s a wide spectrum of needs from financial to academic to emotional/supportive to career to athletic to special needs to gifted, etc. And addressing one of those needs often addresses others as well. My personal vote is for rigorous, evidence-based multisensory instruction in reading, language arts, and math which would benefit both students struggling in those areas but also push ahead those already succeeding. A fair amount of struggling is going on in math in Decatur, at all levels, even among “gifted” or “advanced” students, with lots of use of tutoring. But I’m sure there’s lots of other important areas to address as well.

    1. If there’s math struggling going on at all levels.. then perhaps the math curriculum needs to be changed back to traditional math, i.e. algebra, geometry, trig, etc instead of the crazy disconnected mess of Math 1, 2, 3. …….Or the teachers need to be changed.

      1. The biggest frustration with the new math curriculum is that all us parents who learned math old-skool, then went on to careers in the liberal arts, suck at helping. I typically end up reviewing a couple chapters passed before even attempting to answer my kid’s questions, and I made it up through calculus back when I was in school. #floundering!

        1. Trust me that even college math majors struggle with helping with the current math curriculum. I believe some of it is set by the state and there’s not much that can be done about that. Theoretically, the idea has face validity–teaching the whole range of topics from math facts to algebra to geometry to trig to precalculus at a low level and then repeating the whole range again and again at higher and higher levels. But it’s not working in practice. I wonder if there’s any solid data from Georgia (vs. an ideal experimental setting or a very different state) showing that Georgia’s “integrated” approach works.

          But there’s some fantastic tutors out there that are helping individual students and groups of students in CSD get up to speed on math. So it’s not a lost cause if CSD could learn from those tutors and other curricula what works. For example, Clairemont used different math materials at their Saturday Math School in the past and that seemed to help those kids more than Everyday Math did.

          To be honest, I have no expertise in teaching math. I just know that me and my siblings struggled a lot less with math than today’s bright kids are. Something needs improving.

  9. As the parent of two hardworking students in City of Decatur schools, I’m thrilled about this gift. A big thank you to this very generous family!!

    At Home in Decatur is absolutely right about the struggles in math at all levels. I sincerely hope the DEF will consider focusing some of the money to raising the bar in math education.

  10. What a noble, generous investment in the future of our kids – a million thanks to this generous donor!

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