ExxonMobil makes $590,000 gift to Meeker School District

Jim Branch, ExxonMobil’s Piceance project executive, said the gift to the Meeker School District was an example of the company “investing in the communities in which we operate.”

Jason Hightower, second from left, principal of Meeker Elementary School, is congratulated by ExxonMobil executive Jim Branch after the presentation of a $590,000 gift to the Meeker School District.
Jason Hightower, second from left, principal of Meeker Elementary School, is congratulated by ExxonMobil executive Jim Branch after the presentation of a $590,000 gift to the Meeker School District.
RBC I As far as the Meeker School District is concerned, energy company ExxonMobil deserves an A+.
At a presentation June 23, ExxonMobil officials announced a $590,000 gift to the Meeker district, benefiting the math and science programs at the new elementary school and teacher training.
“What a great gift,” said Meeker School Board President Mary Strang. “They (ExxonMobil) went above and beyond. It just goes to show how serious they are about being a community partner.”
ExxonMobil is serious about its ongoing investment in the Piceance Basin as well.
Company officials combined the check presentation with a tour of its gas-processing facilities and a expressed commitment to continue operations in the basin long term.
In these economic times, when activity in the Piceance Basin has slowed down, ExxonMobil’s announcement was welcome news.
“They are a stabilizing influence, and in the current downturn in the oilfield, they have indeed been that,” said County Commissioner Ken Parsons of Rangely. “They’ve been here and kept going and kept their presence high, really much like Chevron. Since our county really has so much reliance on oil and gas as a part of its economic mix, I think it’s really good that they are taking a measured approach to all of this. I’ve heard them say this a multigenerational project and we need to get in there and try to do it right.
“You know, that’s our goal as we go through the give and take of private industry and government and trying to figure out a way that’s fair and equitable and mitigate the impacts and also a way in which we don’t overburden our businesses and industry, particularly in downtimes like this,” Parsons said.
Jeff Madison, Rio Blanco County natural resources specialist and planning director, said, while last week’s announcement didn’t come as a surprise to him, he appreciates ExxonMobil’s methodical approach in the Piceance Basin.
“We work with representatives of ExxonMobil on a regular basis, so for the county, none of the information given on the tour was new,” Madison said. “ExxonMobil has been working on a steady buildup in production capabilities for several years now. They have the same number of drilling rigs operating in the county today (seven) as they had last year, with projections being a continued slow buildup.
“Unlike some of the other companies, they continue to take a long-range approach to the development of the natural gas resources in the Piceance. This has served them and us well to date,” Madison added.
While Rio Blanco County and ExxonMobil are waiting for a legal challenge to the county’s application of a use tax to be determined by the Colorado Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case, last week’s presentation and tour focused on the energy company’s current and future plans in the Piceance Basin and its role as a community partner.
“We strongly believe in investing in the communities in which we operate, and improving math and science education is a signature part of ExxonMobil’s community involvement program,” said Jim Branch, ExxonMobil’s Piceance project executive.
Even with the court case pending, County Administrator Pat Hooker said, “The use tax issue has, thus far, not had a negative impact on any of those relationships (with energy companies), even ExxonMobil, the company involved in the litigation.”
Jason Hightower, principal of Meeker Elementary School, said the district had been talking to ExxonMobil about a possible gift.
“This has been in the works for about five months,” Hightower said. “We were patiently waiting to see what they would be able to do for us. We’re real excited about what this will mean for the education of the kids, because that’s what this is all about.
“This really helps solidify in our local community’s eyes that those guys have a genuine commitment to this region,” Hightower said of ExxonMobil. “They are trying to make this a statement of what elementary math and science can be, and what can happen when private industry and public schools work together. We’re excited to be a part of that.”
ExxonMobil’s gift includes two parts: One, a five-year $354,000 grant and a three-year $236,000 grant. Details of the gifts include the purchase of equipment for a math and science lab at the new elementary school, funding the district’s first-ever math and science coordinator, and providing an interactive whiteboard system for each of the 19 classrooms at the elementary school as well as math and science classrooms at the high school (four) and middle school (three).
While Meeker representatives were delighted with the ExxonMobil gift, officials on the other end of the county were also impressed.
“I attended the luncheon and the presentation award for Meeker’s School District,” said Peter Brixius, town manager for Rangely. “ExxonMobil is a great host and very generous in their support for education in Rio Blanco County.
“The gift of $590,000 was not only impressive, it is the kind of award that provides real and positive change for the students in Meeker,” Brixius added. “I believe ExxonMobil is to be commended for its generosity and foresight, and the members of the Meeker School District, community and the School of Mines should be commended for their vision.”
The $236,000 gift includes funding for the Colorado School of Mines to develop a program to improve math and science, kindergarten through fifth grade, in the Meeker School District.
“They are looking forward to working with a rural district,” Hightower said of CSM, adding the college was already working with some front-range school districts. “They are real interested in the instruction and curriculum for elementary math and science.”