South Dakota school district receives surprise $1.5 million gift

November 23, 2022

WHITE RIVER, S.D.–A rural western South Dakota school district is one of several across the country to receive a surprise donation from billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott.

White River School District got $1.5 million from Scott about a month ago. Scott, who has a 4% stake in Amazon, has donated just under $2 billion over the last seven months to hundreds of organizations, including a number of public school districts.

The district is renowned in South Dakota for its basketball legacy, but its student population is small. It serves just 415 students from Pre-K through high school, nearly all of whom are housed under one roof in the town of just over 500.

About 90% of students are Native American, and the school district stretches about 900 square miles. A handful of students and faculty commute 30 minutes each day, either driving from ranches or from the nearby town of Norris.

Superintendent Louie Krogman ignored the initial email about the donation in mid-September, assuming it was a phishing scam.

“They sent a follow up email after I didn’t respond, and then I decided to call them to make sure it was real,” Krogman said. “I about fell out of my chair hearing it.”

The funds have no strings attached. They can be used to pay for student scholarships, technology updates or even a new gym. The White River gym is not only used for school activities and assemblies but also for community events.