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It's less than two months before Christmas, and Bob and Pat Endries of Brillion, Wis., have announced their gift to local schools: $4 million.

But there's a catch. By May, Brillion voters must pass a $13.7 million bond to build a new high school and a school auditorium to get the money.

The offer is intended to help the 850-student Brillion schools pay the principal and interest on the bond. The school board was slated to vote Nov. 3 on whether to put the bond to voters next spring.

Mr. and Mrs. Endries believe that a new high school and a venue for the arts would help make the town of 3,000 people in northeast Wisconsin a better place to live.

That's important to the Endries, who often have a hard time recruiting employees to work in their three businesses, the largest of which is Endries International, a 500-employee company that distributes nuts and bolts.

But there's no telling what Brillion voters will do. Last May, they defeated bonds to build an school and an auditorium.

All of the town's students are now crowded into facilities on a 17-acre parcel, said Brillion schools chief Jack Lewis. "The donation could spur us in the right direction," he added. "But I don't know what will happen."

Status quo

Many actors experience disappointment on their way to the big time, and Maria Sweeney's 4th grade class last spring was no exception.

Last school year, the Ridgewood, N.J., students wrote a play about conditions in Third World sweatshops to cap their study of the topic. They had planned to mount the production for a schoolwide assembly at Hawes Elementary School. But school officials decided the play's content was inappropriate for the entire K-5 school. Students protested but settled for presenting it to classmates and parents.

Tipped off by a newspaper article about the students, Scott Ellis, the resident director of the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City, offered to help. So last week, on a Monday night when the Roundabout would otherwise be dark, 18 5th graders brought their anti-sweatshop message of social justice to Broadway before a 500-strong, invitation-only audience.

In one scene, Walt Disney Co. executive Michael Eisner faces off with Mickey Mouse over factory conditions. In the 30-minute play, said Bill Carbone, the schools' public information coordinator, "there are no sacred cows."


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