Donor: Million-dollar gift would be ‘frosting on the cake’ for fine arts facilities in new high school

NEW ULM – District 88’s $46.9 million school building project will be a $47.9 million project, after a New Ulm couple has pledged to add $1 million to the funds being sought in the Aug. 12 referendum.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, have pledged the million-dollar gift to supplement the fine arts facilities in the new high school, if the voters of the district approve the bond referendum.

“We’ve been thinking about this, and how we can be of help in the community, and to education. Education is a big deal in our minds,” said one of the couple.

“We’ve had a good experience with the school district, and feel the school district has had a positive influence in the community. We think the district has acted conservatively and made the best uses of the facilities and the resources they have had.”

“However, you do come to a point where you have to step back and assess if you can and how you can continue to provide the services this community needs,” the man said. “I think they’ve done this. I think the superintendent, Jeff Bertrang, has been instrumental in pulling together various aspects of our community, and taking a look at our facilities. They came to the conclusion that in order to carry out the mission, they need to invest and realign the resources of the district.”

The gift depends, of course, on the community passing the bond referendum on Aug. 12. The million-dollar gift is intended to supplement the funds being spent to build a fine arts auditorium and facilities in the new high school.

Exactly how that money would be used is unknown at this time, since a design for the new high school won’t be drawn up unless the referendum passes. The donors want their gift to be used to provide the extra amenities and features that would turn the fine arts center into a first-class facility.

“I’ve spent enough time sitting in those wooden seats in the Middle School auditorium,” the donor said.

The couple hopes their gift would allow the facility to be used for other community events as well as school events, such as plays or community concert performances.

“We’d like to provide the frosting on the cake,” the donor said. “Whether it is super-duper speakers, or cushiony seats, we don’t know yet.”

The gift would be contingent on the district designing plans for an appropriate facility, the donor said. “If they’re going to put up some kind of a barn, I’m not going to put a nickel in. But I assume they are going to build a respectable auditorium.”

“It’s all contingent on the voters going forward with this,” the donor said.

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