The largest monetary gift to an Oklahoma school district was announced this week in Enid.
Nine businesses and individuals contributed more than $3.4 million to Enid Public Schools to assist with capital improvement needs. The funds will be coupled with a $99 million bond issue recently approved by Enid voters. The private donation is the largest ever contributed to an Oklahoma kindergarten to 12th-grade school system.
"The businesses and individuals involved have set the bar high for what a private/public partnership can accomplish," said Shawn Hime, Enid Public Schools’ superintendent."What an incredible way to invest in our children and to invest in the future of this community. Their gift will impact Enid for generations."
The private donors include: Continental Resources (NYSE: CLR), $1.5 million; Advance Food Company, $1 million; Groendyke Transport, $250,000; Atwoods, $200,000; Lew and Myra Ward, $125,000; Security National Bank, $100,000; the Dillingham Family, $100,000; Parrish Enterprises Ltd., $100,000; and Northcutt Auto Group, $25,000.
Business leaders in Enid said they understand that strong schools play an important role in economic development. They pointed to the connection between quality education and a thriving local economy. Education is essential to a community’s quality of life, they said.
Harold Hamm, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, said his involvement in the project stems from his belief that public education impacts, not only the future of individuals, but also the success of a community. Continental Resources is an Enid-based independent natural gas and oil exploration and production company with operations in the Rocky Mountain, Mid-Continent and Gulf Coast regions of the United States.
"Quality public schools certainly have provided me the opportunity to escape the poverty cycle. I also want to express my gratitude to the other private donors for their participation in this noble endeavor. It is indeed rare for the private sector to fund primary education," Hamm said. "The importance of building exceptional public schools cannot be understated. As a CEO recruiting professional talent to Enid, I frequently see the significance of a strong school system in attracting and retaining talented people for our community. Passing this school bond election is among the most significant achievements our community has accomplished and will pay dividends for decades."
Paul Allen, co-founder of Advance Food Company, said he hopes Enid’s private/public partnership will inspire others to invest in public education. Advance Food Company, founded in Enid, is a leading national manufacturer of value-added, center-of-the-plate meat products, reaching customers through restaurants, foodservice venues, schools and universities, military bases and healthcare facilities.
"We have a passion for this community. One of the foundations of a great community is a strong public education system. We are thankful the community feels the same and passed the school bond," Allen said. "We are pleased to participate in this donation and help reduce the financial burden on the community. With these tough economic times, the private sector needs to stretch itself and be financially supportive of community improvements."
The contributions will be used to help fund a three-year facility improvement plan developed by Enid residents. The donations and bond funds will be used to update all district schools and build two new elementary schools.
The private donations allowed the district to lessen the amount of its bond issue request, while also keeping taxes as low as possible for local residents.
"The generosity of these companies created new possibilities for our schools," Hime said. "As you look around Enid, and take in what makes it special, you’ll find the footprints of these companies everywhere. They are true community partners, and we’re glad to have them as friends of Enid Public Schools. There’s not a thank you big enough for what they’ve done."
Enid Public Schools consists of one high school, three middle schools, 10 elementary schools, an alternative academy and adult education center. Its highly qualified teaching staff serves 6,800 students and a community of 50,000 residents. Last year, Enid Public Schools’ enrollment grew by nearly 5 percent, outpacing other districts across the state.