Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 37
Spread Your Wings at Nature Park • Double Your Hotels, Double Your Fun? • Proposed Procedural Changes Revealed • Trustees Approve Net Gains at Stadiums
Halloween was the final Sunday of October, so I sent last week’s edition to everybody on my distribution list, as opposed to just my favorite people: my paid subscribers. Now that we’re in a more intimate setting without all those freeloaders — who are all probably still sleeping due to the time change — can I ask you for a favor?
As of this morning, there are 371 of you. My lofty goal is 3,000 paid subscribers, because 3,000 people voted in our City Council runoff election last year. If someone cares enough to vote in a City Council runoff, then they ought to be interested in the contents of this newsletter, right?
So, here’s the ask: Please forward this edition to a few friends, or share a link to it on the social media platform that turns your stomach the least. Thanks!
Spread Your Wings at Nature Park
One of my greatest regrets … [strike that; too dramatic] … One of my recent regrets is failing to mention the Fall Frolic in this newsletter. The annual event, which happened yesterday at the Coppell Nature Park, is intended to raise the profile of that hidden gem. Hopefully, this after-the-fact article will help make more people aware of it.
My teenage sons are certainly aware of the Coppell Nature Park. I made them shut down their metaverse avatars yesterday so they could spend an hour experiencing the real world. We traversed a few of the park’s shady trails and crossed a couple of streams in the process. We were there at the same time as City Council Member Biju Mathew, several families, and at least a couple of Cub Scout packs, which warmed the heart of this former Cubmaster.
The staff of the city’s Biodiversity Education Center teamed up with Friends of Coppell Nature Park volunteers to offer several activities during the Fall Frolic. The first of these was asking visitors to drop and stomp wildflower seeds in the grass near the entrance to the park’s observation deck. There were stations along the trails where families could learn about the seasons or build birdhouses. There was even a live band playing the perfect genre of music for a nature park: bluegrass.
If you’ve never experienced the Coppell Nature Park, do yourself a favor and get out there while the weather is still ideal. It occupies 66 acres of reformed ranch land within Wagon Wheel Park; if you enter Wagon Wheel from Freeport Parkway, park your vehicle past the baseball fields and then walk to your right. Abandoned silos and fence posts along the 6 miles of trails provide evidence of the property’s past.
The trails all have names, and I’ve often wondered who the namesakes are. So I reached out to Maura Reed, the Biodiversity Education Center Coordinator, and Bruce and Betsy Wilcox, who lead the Friends of Coppell Nature Park, for more information. Thanks to their research and expertise, I now know that most of the trails are named for literal trailblazers — the Boy Scouts who created them for their Eagle Scout service projects. The exceptions are:
Callie’s Crossing is named for Callie Sementes, who died of cancer at the far-too-young age of 15. Her father and his friends created the trail in her honor.
Latta Cut-Off is named for Scott Latta, who completed GPS mapping of the nature park.
Pete’s Path is named for Pete Cotting, a Friends of Coppell Nature Park volunteer who created the trail.
Because I can’t resist a good spreadsheet, here’s one that lists all of the trails’ namesakes. If you can help fill in any of the missing information, please let me know.
Double Your Hotels, Double Your Fun?
There’s a guy who often speaks to the Coppell City Council about various things that are stuck in his craw. One of his repeat complaints is about the messy state of the trash bins behind one of the city’s few hotels. Given his fixation on that topic, he’ll likely be interested in this article.
There are four hotels within the city limits, but plans are in the works to double that number. The Coppell Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of these proposals last month; the City Council will have the final say when they meet on Tuesday.
One set of developers wants to put a Home2 Suites by Hilton and an Element by Westin along State Highway 121, just north of Sandy Lake Road. Another developer aims to place a Homewood Suites by Hilton and a Hilton Garden Inn on the corner of Point West Boulevard and Dividend Drive. All four hotels would be five stories tall.
The latter pair would be a stone’s throw from two of Coppell’s existing hotels, a Four Points by Sheraton and a Tru by Hilton that are both on Point West Boulevard. Our other two hotels are an Aloft and a Fairfield Inn and Suites that are both on Northpoint Drive.
To make all of this easier to visualize, here are a couple of maps. The blue pins are the existing hotels; the red pins are the proposed ones.
My favorite part of all this? The folks financing the hotels near Sandy Lake and 121 — who are calling their development “Sandy 121,” of course — have commissioned sculptor Brad Oldham to create a 9-foot hourglass called “Sands of Time” that will be the focal point of the property’s entrance. Oldham is perhaps best known for his “Traveling Man” sculptures in Deep Ellum. Here’s what he has planned for Coppell:
If you expand your focus beyond the city to the rest of Coppell ISD — as I like to do — you’ll find that there are nearly 30 hotels inside the school district’s boundaries. The district maintains a list of them, which indicates the elementary and middle schools that each hotel is zoned to, because families that live in hotels are entitled to public education for their children.
As for more conventional hotel users, if you have relatives who routinely come to town for the holidays, it’s good to know they have plenty of nearby lodging options besides your guest bedroom.
Proposed Procedural Changes Revealed
That’s kind of a hypnosis-inducing headline, but trust me when I tell you that it’s better than my first three cracks at it.
The posted version of the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees Operating Procedures says, “Board operating procedures will be reviewed annually by the Board and shall reflect a continuous improvement model. The annual review must be held by the April regular Board meeting.”
As you may recall from last week’s Chronicle, the trustees are reviewing their operating procedures far more often than annually. During their Oct. 25 meeting, Trustee Anthony Hill said the procedures have been discussed more this year than in any of his previous 14 years of service.
Because the agenda for that Oct. 25 meeting didn’t explain any of the latest proposed changes — which the board voted to defer discussing until Nov. 29 — I submitted a Public Information Act request to see a list of all the changes proposed in 2021 and who proposed them.
According to the list I received, Board President Nichole Bentley proposed six revisions in April and May. Most of these were minor, such as changing “business days” to “calendar days” or inserting “personally” into the phrase “may request” in the “Preparation of the Monthly Board Meeting Agenda” section. (The posted version says, “At least two Board Members may independently request that a subject be included on the agenda for a meeting.”)
Here’s another example: In May, Trustee Manish Sethi proposed an addition to the “Annual Board Review and Establishment of Board Goals.” He wanted the bullet point that says “Board Goals need to align with the District Core Values and Superintendent Goals” to go on to say this: “If the board feels Superintendent and district goals align and cover their vision and goals, the board can choose Superintendent goals as the board goals.” That addition is reflected in the posted version.
In September, the trustees voted to approve a change proposed by the board’s newest member, Neena Biswas. She wanted to remove “at the Superintendent’s discretion” from this bullet point in the “Communications” section: “The Superintendent (or designee) will distribute to all Board Members any information requested for the Board by the Board President or a Board Member.”
According to the list I received Thursday, Biswas proposed four more changes between 2 and 3 p.m. on Oct. 25. The first of these proposals regards a sentence in a section called “Board Member Requests for Information Not Related to Agenda Items.” The sentence says:
“Board Members will communicate their individual requests for detailed or sensitive non-agenda information to the Superintendent while copying the request to the Board President, as deemed appropriate.”
Biswas wants to add “or leadership team member/staff” after “Superintendent.”
Biswas’ second proposal would revise a sentence in a section called “Board Members' Concerns about the Superintendent's Professional Performance.” Here’s how the sentence is currently written:
“A Board Member who has a concern about the professional performance of the Superintendent will discuss such concern with the Board President who will determine the most appropriate manner to bring the concern to the Superintendent’s and the Board’s attention.”
Here is Biswas’ proposed revision:
“A board member who has a concern about the professional performance of the Superintendent will discuss such concern with the Board President and Superintendent present at the same time during a scheduled meeting. This will further be brought to the attention of other board members during a closed session.”
The third revision is in the same section, which includes this passage:
“Concern about the Superintendent’s professional performance may include the following:
A breach of any term of the Superintendent's contract.
Violation of a state or federal statute.
Violation of a Board Policy or Operating Procedure.
Failure within a reasonable amount of time to address a specific issue identified by a majority of the Board.”
Biswas wants to add “but is not limited by any of” between “include” and “the following.”
Her final proposed change would alter the “Preparation of the Monthly Board Meeting Agenda” section. There are five bullet points in that section, and Biswas wants to add a sixth:
“Board agendas should not disclose or allude to any person’s name, whether it be staff, team member, or employee, regardless of closed or open session. Reference may be made to the personnel job title or member duty but not disclose the name, unless specifically requested or authorized by the person in writing. This precludes naming persons who come specifically to make presentations during the meeting in open session.”
The trustees are scheduled to discuss these proposals on Nov. 29, as a result of a 4-3 vote they took on Oct. 25. Sethi and David Caviness were on the losing side of that vote, because they wanted to delay any further discussion of the operating procedures until April. Biswas was also on the losing side, but for a different reason; she wanted to debate them right then and there.
Trustees Approve Net Gains at Stadiums
As reported in Coppell Chronicle No. 32, the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees in September approved a $2.2 million contract to install artificial turf at the baseball and softball stadiums behind CHS9. That left about $285,000 to play with in the project’s budget.
On Oct. 25, the board approved a $272,000 proposal to replace the chain link fences between the dugouts and the outfield walls, as well as the backstop padding and netting. The height of the netting at the baseball stadium will go from 30 feet to 50 feet, while the softball stadium’s netting will increase from 20 feet to 40 feet. The nets’ width at both stadiums will be extended to the far ends of the dugouts.
Chief Operations Officer Dennis Womack said the extended netting should help the athletics department’s bottom line, because fewer foul balls will be lost during practices and games. Trustee Anthony Hill pointed out that the new nets will also make the games safer for fans.
“People are always walking around, and balls do fly over those fences quite easily,” Hill said.
There had been some discussion about replacing the stadiums’ scoreboards, but Womack tapped the brakes on that. Although he will look for “opportunities” for cosmetic improvements, the scoreboards are about 7 years old, and Womack would like to see them last 10 or even 15 years before being replaced.
“They’re still in a relatively young life,” he said, “and should have more life in them.”
So should we all, sir. So should we all.
• Morgan Green-Griffin, who is a librarian at the Cozby Library, recently received an Impact Award from the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement. A Coppell High School graduate, Green-Griffin has a Master of Library Science degree from the University of North Texas and is a Certified Volunteer Administrator.
• The City of Coppell is collecting gifts and gift cards for its Make a Child Smile program. Participants need to bring their donations to the city manager’s office by 5 p.m. on Dec. 6.
• Keep Texas Beautiful has provided a grant to the Biodiversity Education Center that will fund spring gardening classes on topics such as vegetables, composting, and “Texas tough” plants. Registration for these classes will open in January; interested educators and volunteers can get on the priority registration list by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contactless Document Shredding: Got some evidence to destroy? Coppell residents can bring up to four boxes of documents to the Coppell Service Center between 8 a.m. and noon on Saturday for complementary shredding.
Gobble Wobble 5K & Fun Run: Want to burn some calories in advance of Turkey Day? Today is the registration deadline for the third annual Gobble Wobble, which will happen at 8 a.m. on Nov. 20 at Andrew Brown Park East.
Coppell Holiday Home Tour: This Assistance League of Coppell fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 if you procrastinate. Kiddin’ Around Playcare is offering discounted childcare during the tour so you don’t have to drag your children through strangers’ houses.