Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 11
Coppell ISD Loosens Mask Mandate • Strong Showing by Coppell-Area Voters • Update on City Manager's Raise, Extension • Coach Keeps Putting Himself in Lineup
Do you remember when I told you, in the first and third issues of the Coppell Chronicle, about the city getting its first Smoothie King? I have since learned that Smoothie King’s corporate headquarters is in Cypress Waters, which means it’s also in Coppell ISD. Who knew?
Do you remember when I told you, in the fifth issue of the Coppell Chronicle, about a tethering ban that was in the works? It was approved by the City Council on April 27, but that approval did not change this all-important part of the Coppell code of ordinances: “It shall be unlawful for an owner of an animal, without regard to mental state, to fail to keep the animal from running at large.”
Anyway, on to new business.
Coppell ISD Loosens Mask Mandate
Last Monday, Coppell ISD’s seven trustees and Superintendent Brad Hunt all sat at their dais together for the first time since the pandemic began. They were masked and separated by plastic partitions, but they were all up there. Previously, some trustees sat in the audience area to maintain social distancing. But that wasn’t possible on Monday, because the room was packed.
This was a special meeting with only one action item on the agenda: “Discuss and consider possible action for revisions to Coppell ISD 2020-2021 COVID protocols.” Ten people spoke during the “open forum” portion of the meeting, and letters from four others were read into the record. Many of the speeches were emotionally charged, and all were followed by rounds of applause.
Only one speaker was in favor of maintaining the status quo. The others asked the board to lift CISD’s mask mandate — if not altogether, then at least during outdoor activities, such as recess. One of the speakers is a student at Lakeside Elementary, who said this about masks: “They’re really hot, and I can barely focus because they keep on falling. I hate doing P.E. in them. They’re really uncomfortable, and they’re so hard to breathe in.”
Some parents decried how a year of mask wearing has affected their children’s mental states. Sam Knight — who believes “the CDC will bow in servitude to the will of whatever teachers’ unions or corporations like Coca-Cola will pay them the most money” — told the board keeping the mask mandate “would be a direct attack on the psychological dignity of my daughter.” He later added, “Little Debbie, the first-grade girl in your school, is not the threat to your public health. Little Debbie the snack cake, and the rest of the donuts in your teachers’ lounge, are the actual threats to your public health.”
Many of the parents who spoke to the board don’t necessarily want masks banned; they just want each family to be able to make its own choice.
“All of us here tonight, mostly, are confident in our children’s safety, as well as their teachers’ safety, when we consider children playing in the fresh air without a mask,” said Annick Davis, who also addressed the board during their previous meeting. “Any family that does not share my comfort level, they have the choice for their child to wear a mask while they’re playing.”
Many parents also want the district to stop asking teachers to divide their attention between students who are in their classrooms and students who are learning from home via Zoom.
“This school district needs to immediately roll up the failed experiment of the bifurcated learning environment,” said Jon Allred, who has a son at Mockingbird Elementary. “The best interests of my child have been sacrificed in many instances to the fear and, more often, the convenience of those who would want to keep their children home.”
As I told you in last week’s Coppell Chronicle, CISD is actively recruiting kindergarten families. Allred has a younger son who will be a kindergartner in the fall, but he said he hasn’t decided whether either of his sons will be enrolled in CISD next school year.
“At a recent board meeting,” Allred said, “the board spent a good deal of time collectively scratching your heads about dropping enrollment, and about parents choosing to home-school or go the private-/charter-school route. I don’t think that that’s much of a mystery, when we look at how this school year has gone.”
Once the “open forum” session was finished, the board and Hunt spent more than an hour discussing COVID protocols for the remainder of the semester, which ends May 26, and summer school. Among the highlights:
Trustee David Caviness asked whether Hunt has the authority to reinstate a mask mandate — without a board vote — on a particular campus if there was a COVID outbreak. Hunt said he believes he does.
Trustee Tracy Fisher asked whether teachers who already signed up to teach summer school would be able to back out of their commitment if they’re worried about teaching without an indoor mask mandate. Hunt said teachers would have that option.
Board President Nichole Bentley had to explain to a woman in the audience that she could not participate in the board’s debate. This woman was apparently a former student of Hunt’s, who told her, “Some things have not changed at all since high school, and that’s one of them.”
In the 57th minute of the discussion, Fisher made a motion that students be allowed to participate in recess or P.E. without a mask. But then Caviness offered to amend Fisher’s motion with a set of stipulations that wouldn’t fit on a CVS receipt if you tried to write them by hand. Rather than retype them, I’ll point you to the district’s official statement, because Caviness’ amendment — which he admitted was largely cribbed from Humble ISD’s mask policy — was unanimously approved.
As for parents’ concerns about teachers’ divided attention, the district announced on Friday afternoon that it may launch a “Virtual Academy” this fall, with a faculty exclusively assigned to remote students. Within 90 minutes of that announcement landing in my inbox, I had received two more emails from CISD — one for each of my sons — regarding how I could apply for them to transfer to the Virtual Academy.
Just a few minutes later, both of those emails were in my trash folder.
Strong Showing by Coppell-Area Voters
I have a few subscribers who don’t live in Coppell or Coppell ISD, so they may not know that whenever we have an election here, the candidates set up tents in the parking lot of Town Center (what we call our city hall) for the entirety of early voting plus Election Day. They and their supporters hang out there so they can chat with voters who are on their way into Town Center to cast their ballots. It turns into a little voting festival.
On May 1, our most recent Election Day, the candidates all teamed up to gather donations of non-perishable food from voters who visited their tents. (Thanks to Michelle LaFountain for the photo above of all the candidates with their donation boxes.) I’m told the accumulated packages filled four carts when they were delivered to the Metrocrest Services food pantry. Nice job, candidates!
Kudos also to our voters, not just for filling those donation boxes but for filling the ballot boxes as well. While the voter turnout for Dallas County as a whole was only 9.62% for the May 1 elections, the turnout for Coppell ISD precincts was 17.37%, and the turnout for City of Coppell precincts was 20.12%. The turnout among voters who could cast ballots for both the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees and the Coppell City Council was even higher: 21.70%.
Those turnout rates are better than the ones recorded in 2018, when the last comparable elections were held. (The Coppell City Council and the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees had no contested elections in 2019, and their 2020 elections were delayed until November because of the pandemic.) In May 2018, the turnout for Coppell ISD precincts was 17.02%, and the turnout for City of Coppell precincts was 19.88%. The turnout among voters who could cast ballots for both the board and the council was 19.07% three years ago, when Dallas County’s overall turnout was a measly 5.69%.
Because it’s never too early to look ahead to the next elections, let’s do just that.
Coppell: Unless a member of the City Council vacates his or her seat before next May, there will be no municipal election in 2022; Coppell’s council elections are on a schedule that skips every third year. The Place 1, Place 5, and Place 7 seats — which are held by Cliff Long, John Jun, and Mark Hill, respectively — will be on the ballot in 2023, as will the Place 3 seat, which will go to either Davin Bernstein or Don Carroll after next month’s runoff.
Coppell ISD: Three seats on the Board of Trustees will be on the ballot in May 2022, and the occupants of those three seats were all unopposed in 2019. Leigh Walker is about to begin her sixth year in Place 1. Manish Sethi — who was elected in 2018 to complete Jill Popelka’s unexpired term — is about to begin his fourth year in Place 2. And Anthony Hill is about to begin his [… counting … give me a second … running out of fingers …] 15th year in Place 3. Wow. To put that in perspective, most of the kids who were participating in kindergarten roundup when Hill was first elected have been out of high school for a year.
Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD: The seats occupied by Tara Hrbacek, Guillermo William Ramos, and Randy Schackmann will be on the ballot in May 2022. As you may recall, C-FB ISD has a unique method of conducting elections called cumulative voting. Candidates simply have to declare themselves candidates, as opposed to declaring themselves candidates for a particular seat. Because three seats will be on the ballot next year, each voter will get three votes. You can give all three of your votes to one candidate, or you can spread the love among the field.
C-FB ISD didn’t need an election in 2019, because Hrbacek, Ramos, and Schackmann were the only candidates for the three seats. In 2016, Ramos and Schackmann were two of the three winners in a five-candidate field.
Irving: In May 2022, Coppell ISD residents who live in Irving will get to help decide who occupies the at-large Place 2 seat on the City Council; at the moment, that’s Allan Meagher, who earned 55% of the votes in 2019 despite having four opponents. He had two opponents in 2016 but avoided a runoff by the narrowest of margins: 50.01%. Irving’s two geographic seats that overlap with Coppell ISD, Places 3 and 6, won’t be on the ballot again until 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Lewisville: There are a few hundred Coppell ISD voters who reside in Lewisville. Seats 4 and 5 on the City Council — which are held by Brandon Jones and Kristen Green, respectively — will be on the ballot in May 2022. Jones was unopposed in 2016 and 2019, while Green joined the council in 2019 after defeating one opponent.
Lewisville ISD: About 700 Coppell voters live in Lewisville ISD. The terms of Angie Cox (Place 3), Katherine Sells (Place 4), and Jenny Proznik (Place 5) will be on the ballot in May 2022. Cox and Proznik were both unopposed in 2019, while Sells defeated one opponent.
Update on City Manager’s Raise, Extension
A few weeks ago, I reported that the Coppell City Council capped their April 13 meeting by unanimously voting to:
Extend City Manager Mike Land’s contract through September 2023,
Raise his salary by 3 percent on Oct. 1 of this year, and
Give him a $10,000 bonus.
I’ve since learned, via an open records request, that his contract had been set to expire on Sept. 30, 2022, and that his current salary is $248,230.
To put that number in perspective, I filed some other open records requests. A website called Texas Demographics has a list of the state’s cities ranked by population, and Coppell is No. 83 on that list. So I contacted the eight cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that are closest to Coppell on that list — four with more people than Coppell and four with fewer — and asked for their city managers’ salaries. At a reader’s request, I’ve also indicated whether these municipalities employ any deputy city managers or assistant city managers.
So there you have it. Land’s salary is above the average for this particular peer group, but it’s not the highest in this group.
If seeing all these salaries has you thinking that managing a city seems like a career worth pursuing, here’s how to do it.
Coach Keeps Putting Himself in Lineup
My son has played in the Coppell Baseball Association since 2013, and I coached his teams for the first five of those springs, despite being more of a mathlete than an athlete. I didn’t know anything about coaching T-ball or baseball, but somebody had to do it. By the time he was 9 years old, the age when the players take over the pitching duties from their coaches, I knew I was out of my league — and this league too.
When he was 9, his team was coached by the father of one of his best friends, and that friend was also on the team, of course. But when my son was 10, his team was coached by a guy who was old enough to be a grandfather and wasn’t related to any of his players. At first, I thought this was weird. Before long, I knew it was wonderful.
The 2019 edition of the U10 Cubs were coached by Rocky Feemster, who’s as colorful a character as that name would imply. These were the key rules he laid out during the Cubs’ first practice:
Don’t throw the ball to anyone who’s not looking at you.
Don’t swing the bat until your coach tells you to. (“Go ahead and hold it by the barrel so you’re not tempted.”)
Run everywhere. (“This is a running game.”)
If you field or catch the ball in the outfield, don’t hold on to it. (“This is the one that’s going to keep me from having a heart attack.”)
(I don’t have a photographic memory. The rules and the associated quotes amused me so much that I wrote them down at the time.)
A lifelong fan of “the great game,” Feemster is an attorney who wears baseball ties to court when he’s litigating a case. He coached his sons’ teams when they were growing up, but they’re adults now. The last time he coached one of his own kids was 2006, when he led Coppell’s U14 all-stars. Feemster then spent a few years watching from the bleachers as his younger son played for Coppell High School.
For the last decade, each spring and fall, Feemster has told the Coppell Baseball Association to assign him to whichever age level needs a coach. Two years ago, that was my son’s U10 team in the rec league. At their first game, an umpire of similar vintage greeted Feemster thusly: “Well, well, well — look who got demoted to the minor leagues.”
I cracked up throughout that season — a season that ended with a city championship, by the way — because of the bon mots Feemster would deliver during games, most of which probably went over his players’ heads. Stuff like “You’ve got a bat in your hand; you might as well use it,” or “Swing hard, in case you hit it.”
Feemster would have been my son’s coach again in 2020, but the pandemic cancelled that season after one practice. This spring, he’s been assigned to a U14 team that, like my son’s 2019 squad, includes some boys who have never played baseball before. After they dropped both games of a doubleheader on Saturday, Feemster addressed the following topics:
Fielding: “You have to stop the ball. If the ball is not right to you, MOVE and get the ball! Don’t just stand there and expect your arm to grow 8 feet.”
Hitting: “You should never strike out on a called third strike. If you’ve got two strikes on you, and it’s close enough for the umpire to make a mistake, you have to try and swing.”
Winning and losing: “Nobody’s keeping score. I mean, we are keeping score,” he said as held up his scorebook, “but I’ve got scores in here going back to 2014. Who cares?”
Feemster wrapped up his post-game speech with this: “Here’s the great thing about baseball: Despite our mistakes today, we get another chance on Monday.”
Here’s the great thing about the Coppell Baseball Association: Each spring and fall, another group of kids (and their parents) get exposed to the wit and wisdom of Rocky Feemster.
In Other Sports News …
• The Coppell High School baseball team swept Denton Guyer in the first round of the UIL Class 6A playoffs last week. Their second-round opponent will be Jesuit, but that game (or games) have not yet been scheduled. UPDATE: Game 1 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Jesuit. Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday at CHS9. If necessary, Game 3 would begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Lake Dallas High School in Corinth. (Lake Dallas? Really?)
• Coppell’s Skyler Schuller finished second among Class 6A girls in the pole vault at the UIL State Track and Field Meet in Austin yesterday. Her vault of 13 feet, 6 inches was 3 inches lower than the winning mark set by Emily Fitzsimmons of Austin Lake Travis.
• The Coppell High School boys lacrosse team will play Austin Vandegrift today for the Class A championship of the Texas High School Lacrosse League. The game is scheduled to begin at noon in Humble. (Who would have guessed that Humble would be mentioned twice in this issue? Not me.)
Hah! There is absolutely nothing convenient about keeping my kid home from school this year. I’ve had to teach seventh grade, from grammar, to cotton’s impact on Texas to calculating percentages to the integumentary system, and don’t even get me started on Spanish 3. 🤦🏻♀️
Dan I am so grateful that you spend your time getting news that is both informative and important with some uplifting positive news. Look forward to this in my email every week. Thank you!!