Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 36
Pickleball Making a Name For Itself • CISD Lifts Mask Mandate … For Now • Silver Line’s Path Gets Clearer • Our Rulers Discuss Their Rules
Pickleball Making a Name For Itself
The parking lots at Coppell’s Wagon Wheel Tennis Center are consistently full. “It’s almost like we’re doing a special event each day,” said Eric Clay, who manages the facility.
Clay recently told the Coppell Parks and Recreation Board that the tennis center has had 30,000 visits this year. Last year, he said, that number was right around 24,000.
“Since the CDC said, ‘Hey, tennis and golf are great social distancing sports,’ people have found us,” Clay said. “We have grown quite a bit with the number of humans coming through our gates,” and he attributed most of that growth to pickleball.
Pickleball is a game similar to tennis, but it’s played on a smaller surface with paddles and a Wiffle ball. It has been around since the 1960s, and its silly name has been attributed to both a dog and a boat. (This article tries to settle that dispute.)
Regardless of how pickleball got its name, its popularity has altered the name of the facility that Clay manages. He told the Parks and Recreation Board that its new name is the Wagon Wheel Tennis and Pickleball Center. Just to be sure, I checked with Parks and Recreation Director Jessica Carpenter, who told me that name change is official.
The Wagon Wheel facility has four courts exclusively dedicated to pickleball, and pickleball lines are painted on eight of its tennis courts in case more space is needed. That space is often needed on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, when the facility hosts open pickleball play and veteran players make sure that beginners are welcome.
“This group will put a paddle in their hand and get them on the court and allow them to play,” Clay said. “They’ll take a step back from their recreating and help walk them through the rules — help walk them through just the basic strategy or whatnot. That’s something special right there.”
That welcoming nature is an area where tennis players sometimes miss the mark, Clay said.
“When they are out there,” he said of the pickleball players, “you will hear them. You will hear them before you see them. They’re having a great time. They’re smiling ear to ear. It’s been a number of occasions I’ve had tennis people walk by and just say, ‘What is it about these pickleball folks? They’re always smiling.’”
To drive that point home, Clay showed the Parks and Recreation Board this video featuring some of those smiling faces.
I couldn’t resist that sales pitch, so on a recent Thursday morning, I dropped by the Wagon Wheel facility for the first time to try pickleball, also for the first time. One of the people featured in the video, Barb Schmidt, and two other pickleball enthusiasts indulged me as I figured out where to stand and how to hold the paddle. They couldn’t have been more accommodating, and I had a good time while huffing and puffing around the court.
Maybe I’ll see you at the Wagon Wheel Tennis Center — excuse me, the Wagon Wheel Tennis and Pickleball Center — next Saturday morning.
CISD Lifts Mask Mandate … For Now
WARNING: This article includes a naughty word you probably wouldn’t say in front of your mother. Prepare yourself accordingly.
If you’re a Coppell ISD parent, then you probably already know that the school district’s mask mandate is no more. Here’s how we got to that decision.
The first item on the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting was a closed-session discussion of the mandate, which was set to expire that evening whether or not the board took further action. When the trustees returned to the dais, they heard from nearly 40 constituents during “open forum,” and all of those people had something to say about masks. It seemed that many speakers on both sides of the issue were using prepared talking points.
Several of the folks who are against the mandate listed all of the places that their children are free to go without masks: churches, restaurants, stores, sporting events, birthday parties, etc. Pinstack was mentioned by name at least twice. These speakers lamented that their children’s schools are the outlier when it comes to masks.
(Having visited the East Coast twice this month, I’ll point out that masks are still required on planes and in airports. That’s your cue to mockingly say, “Ooh, look at me. I’m Dan. I’m a fancy lad who flies on airplanes.”)
Meanwhile, the speakers who were in favor of continuing the mandate repeatedly warned that “flu season is coming.” One speaker went a little broader: “Winter is coming.” Whether or not that was an intentional reference to Game of Thrones, I appreciated it as a fan of House Stark.
Once “open forum” was over, it was time to deliberate and vote. Citing a Public Health Guidance document issued on Sept. 17 by the Texas Education Agency that says “school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask,” Trustee David Caviness made a motion to rescind the mandate. Caviness pointed out that Irving ISD’s COVID stats are comparable to CISD’s on a per-capita basis, even though Irving ISD has not required masks nor has it provided a virtual-learning option, as CISD did until Oct. 12. Caviness also referenced CISD’s good marks on Dallas County’s hex map that shows new cases over the previous 14 days.
Tracy Fisher tried to amend Caviness’ motion so that the mandate would still be in place for younger students who are not yet eligible for COVID vaccines. (The FDA has since authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children as young as 5.) Fisher pointed out that CISD’s mandate offers exemptions for medical, religious, and philosophical reasons, so any parents can easily opt their children out of it.
“If you remove this, then the decision is made by the child and not the parent,” she said.
Nobody seconded Fisher’s amendment, which led her to make an off-mic comment about feeling “awful lonely up here sometimes” — but not quite off-mic enough that your correspondent didn’t hear her.
Caviness’ motion was approved on a 5-1-1 vote, with Fisher in the minority and Neena Biswas abstaining again. This time, Biswas’ explanation for her abstention was that the debate was moot due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates and the aforementioned guidance from the Texas Education Agency. “We already know what we should be doing,” Biswas said. The first time she abstained, on Aug. 30, Biswas said she thought the mandate decision should be Superintendent Brad Hunt’s, not the board’s.
Before Monday’s vote, Board President Nichole Bentley asked Hunt to talk with his staff about what kind of metrics would necessitate a return of the mask mandate, and then communicate those metrics to the community. If there is an uptick of COVID cases, she doesn’t want anyone to be surprised by a new mandate.
One more thing: After about five people had spoken during “open forum,” Bentley remembered that she wanted to say, “Our community has rocked being respectful, unlike everybody around us” — contrasting CISD’s meetings with school board meetings in neighboring districts — and she thanked those in attendance for continuing to be respectful. If Bentley had said that at the outset, I wonder if the first speaker would have stuck to his script.
That first speaker was a guy named Kris Honey, who referred to Hunt and six of the seven trustees as hypocrites and tyrants; he exempted Caviness “for having a backbone.” Honey punctuated his comments by saying, “Let’s go, Brandon, and seven of you can join him.” In case you’re not aware, “Let’s go, Brandon” is a euphemism for “Fuck Joe Biden.” (This Associated Press article explains how that came to be.) So, in effect, Honey stepped up to the mic and raised two middle fingers to the board. Stay classy, dude.
Silver Line’s Path Gets Clearer
Coppell Chronicle No. 25 included several maps of parcels that DART is acquiring for the future path of its Silver Line trains. My requests for nine other maps are still being denied due to pending litigation, but I recently got my grubby hands on another.
On Sept. 27, the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees approved a motion to sell “real property near the intersection of Sanders Loop and E. Belt Line Road, described as 3.2534 acres situated in the McKinney and Williams Survey, Abstract No. 1054” to DART. The school board had at least seven closed-session discussions of that property this year before deciding on a final sales price, which has not been disclosed. Here’s what the property looks like:
According to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, Coppell ISD owns a total of 22 acres on Sanders Loop. To put that in perspective, the land surrounding Wilson Elementary on South Coppell Road is just 9.45 acres. So, in theory, Coppell ISD could still build a school on Sanders Loop even after selling those 3.2534 acres to DART.
Meanwhile, the Coppell City Council on Sept. 28 approved a resolution that allows DART to acquire three parcels within Coppell via eminent domain. While the eminent domain proceedings are between DART and the property owners, DART has a policy about not beginning such proceedings without the blessing of local authorities. The properties covered by the council’s Sept. 28 resolution are labeled CB1-014B, DE1-005, and DE1-006. They were shown in Coppell Chronicle No. 25, but here they are again:
By the way, Deputy City Manager Traci Leach’s memo to the council regarding the Sept. 28 resolution repeatedly abbreviates “eminent domain” as “ED.” Anybody who watches commercials during TV news knows that abbreviation has already been claimed by a certain type of dysfunction.
Our Rulers Discuss Their Rules
Speaking of dysfunction, the Coppell City Council had another discussion on Tuesday regarding “Council Code of Conduct and House Rules.” As you may recall from Coppell Chronicle No. 34, the Oct. 12 discussion on this topic included Council Member John Jun asking a pointed question of City Manager Mike Land, which led Council Members Brianna Hinojosa-Smith and Kevin Nevels to criticize Jun’s tone and demeanor.
In the ensuing two weeks, cooler heads have prevailed. Jun has since had private conversations with Land, Nevels, and Mayor Wes Mays, and Jun said he requested that the topic be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s work session to “clear the air” so the council could “just move on from this point.” He apologized to the city staff and said he doesn’t want there to be tension in future meetings.
Hinojosa-Smith was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, so we didn’t get to see her response to Jun’s comments. Nevels said his private conversation with Jun since the Oct. 12 meeting lasted more than two hours. Nevels also said he took time to review the video of that meeting.
“Looking back, I definitely look at ways that I could have handled that better, but I think several of us are learning and growing as council members,” said Nevels, who, like Jun, has been on the council for less than a year. “The common thing I saw was passion for service of this community. I think all of us want to do our best job on that. Obviously, we’re learning how to work together.”
Mays said he appreciated Jun’s comments during Tuesday’s follow-up.
“When you’re first elected, being under the spotlight puts incredible pressure,” Mays said. “I felt horribly pressured my first couple of years, and it makes you say things I regretted. I still regret some of the things I said back then. You know, we can all work to be better. I’m in a new position now, and the same thing happens to me; I get mouthy sometimes myself, and I’m really working to control that.”
Meanwhile, over at the Vonita White Administration Building, the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees included the latest in a series of discussions regarding the “Board Operating Procedures.” Although the agenda did not list the proposed changes to the operating procedures, it was clear from the trustees’ debate that several of the changes had been proposed earlier that day.
“I don’t have a problem looking at the items,” Trustee Tracy Fisher said. “I just have a problem looking at the items right now — I mean, just on the spur.”
Anthony Hill, who was first elected in 2007, said the operating procedures have been discussed more this year than in any of his previous years of service.
“We are spending too much time on the topic,” Hill said. “It’s not beneficial to what we need to be doing.”
As he has done in previous meetings, Trustee David Caviness advocated for following the board’s past practice of addressing the operating procedures only once per year. He put forth a motion to delay any deliberations on the operating procedures until April.
Fisher offered an amendment to his motion: delay the deliberation until November, with the understanding that no new changes would be proposed in the interim. The problem, Caviness said, is that was the understanding the last time the board delayed deliberation, “and we walk in today to another slew of things on there.”
In the end, the board voted 4-3 to deliberate about the proposed changes on Nov. 29, with Caviness, Neena Biswas, and Manish Sethi in the minority. Biswas made it clear that she was voting against the delay because she wanted to have the debate right then and there.
I’ve filed a Public Information Act request to find out exactly what changes have been proposed this year and who proposed them. As soon as I have that information, my subscribers will too.
• When I was a comic-book-reading boy (as opposed to the comic-book-reading man I am today), the Justice League of America would periodically team up with the Justice Society of America, their counterparts from Earth-2. Those joint adventures came to mind when I saw that the Coppell City Council and the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees were scheduled to have a joint meeting tomorrow evening at the Coppell Arts Center. Alas, that meeting has been postponed until a date to be determined.
You may be more excited about these public meetings that, as far as I know, are still scheduled as planned: Dallas County Tax Assessor John Ames will be at the Cozby Library and Community Commons for a town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, and Brad Jones, who became interim president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in May, will be at Coppell Town Center at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 for a presentation and Q&A.
• Longtime Coppell resident Cindy Patterson asked me to help get the word out about a GoFundMe benefiting her son Brandon, who was seriously injured while lake diving in July. He is paralyzed from the chest down and facing a lengthy rehabilitation.
• Coppell High School’s varsity marching band finished third at the Bands of America super regionals competition, which wrapped up Oct. 23 in St. Louis. Before competing again in San Antonio this weekend, the band invites the community to enjoy its competition performance, “Carousel,” at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Buddy Echols Field.
Coppell Baseball Association: Registration opens tomorrow for the spring recreation leagues.
Date Night in the Park: The Coppell Parks and Recreation Department will host an outdoor screening of The Princess Bride at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Andrew Brown Park East. This is intended to be an adults-only event, so I can’t say this loudly enough: LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME. If you have kids and would like to attend, please reread the previous sentence, then book a sitter for Saturday night.
Holiday House Gift Market: The fundraiser benefiting Project Graduation is scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. next Sunday at Coppell High School.
FWIW: the Pfizer vaccine is not quite approved, still has to go the CDC and the ACIP I believe, who are both meeting Tuesday. So 5-12 will possibly be eligible for shots in arms starting Wednesday with full vaccine immunity 5 weeks later. So we parents are still waiting!
I’d love to know if anyone attends church with that guy. I’m sure his pastor is proud.