Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 42
Fisher Seeks State Seat as Democrat • Akerly Running for County Treasurer • Smart City Board Mulls Heady Topics • Coppell ISD Also Visioning its Future
Fisher Seeks State Seat as Democrat
Remember that list of qualified candidates for the March primaries that I mentioned in last week’s Chronicle? A notable Coppell name was added to that list yesterday in a noteworthy way.
Longtime Coppell ISD Board of Trustee Tracy Fisher is running for the State Board of Education, and she’s running as a Democrat. That last part is noteworthy because Fisher used to be a Republican precinct chair. In 2018, she won the GOP primary for Precinct 2805, earning 55 percent of the votes to Bill Hurlbert’s 45 percent. She said she opted not to run for that seat again in 2020 because of the party’s shift away from her values regarding community and education.
“Our future rests on how successfully we educate students today, and 80 percent of Texans care about that across party lines,” Fisher said. “Public education should not be political — these are our kids — but I felt the Texas Democratic Party best supports public education in our current political climate.”
Her switcheroo will prompt some detractors to say, “Well, it’s about time! She was always a RINO anyway.” During the school board’s recent debates about masks, Fisher has been the strongest proponent of continuing a mandate. When Republican Ron Hansen challenged her in the 2018 school board election, his campaign repeatedly called her “Taxing Tracy.”
(By the way, that derogatory description is not alliterative. Neither are “Twisted Tracy,” “Thrifty Tracy,” or “Tactless Tracy.” You can’t just weld words that happen to have the same leading letter. That’s not how you accomplish alliteration.)
Fisher’s first run for office was unsuccessful; in her 2011 bid for the Place 5 seat on the Coppell school board, she earned 48 percent of the votes to Amy Dungan’s 52 percent. One year later, Fisher cruised to the Place 7 seat, earning 83 percent of the votes.
Fisher was unchallenged in 2015. When she faced Hansen three years later, she won 63 percent of the votes. In May of this year, she fended off two challengers by capturing 60 percent of the votes.
She’s going to have to log a lot of miles to win this election, and those roads will be tough for a Democrat. The newly drawn map for State Board of Education District 14 stretches from the Red River to Waco, and the Texas Tribune’s redistricting app says Donald Trump would have defeated Joe Biden by 22.4 percentage points in this district if it had existed in 2020. To put that in perspective, the previous version of State Board of Education District 11 — which included Coppell before redistricting — went for Trump by just 10.2 percentage points.
Fisher said she’s running for the State Board of Education because she wants to support communities, parents, educators, and — most of all — kids across Texas.
“Having been very actively engaged in the Texas education system, I've continued to witness many state decision-makers working against our kids, educators, and parents,” Fisher said. “Public education has never been more critical to our local communities and state. We have work to do, and we have to work together to get education right for today’s Texas kids.”
Speaking of active engagement, the Texas Association of School Boards gave Fisher its inaugural Advocate of the Year award in September. In October, Missy Bender — a former Plano ISD board member who is now the Regional Advocacy Director for Raise Your Hand Texas — spoke during a Coppell ISD Board of Trustees workshop about “Community Engagement and Legislative Advocacy.”
Coincidentally, I just got around to watching the video of Bender’s presentation yesterday. In a bit of foreshadowing, Trustee Anthony Hill — the only member of the Coppell ISD board with a longer tenure than Fisher — asked Bender this:
“In the day and age when you have turnover on boards, how do you make sure that this sticks? Because you have veteran board members who go and advocate and testify, like Trustee Fisher; she goes and testifies. But when you lose the Trustee Fishers of the world, how do you get those people who are replacing those individuals to embrace it and understand the importance of it?”
Fisher believes she will be able to keep serving as a Coppell ISD trustee while running for the State Board of Education. If she wins the state seat, though, she will of course have to resign from her Coppell term, which doesn’t officially end until May 2024.
The incumbent on the State Board of Education is Republican Sue Melton-Malone, who resides in suburban Waco. She told me she plans to run for re-election, but as of 11 o’clock this morning, Fisher was the only qualified candidate from either party. The filing deadline is 6 p.m. tomorrow.
Akerly Running for County Treasurer
Tracy Fisher is not the only longtime Coppell resident whose name I noticed on the list of qualified candidates yesterday. Shelly Akerly is seeking the Republican nomination for Dallas County Treasurer.
Unlike Fisher, Akerly is a first-time candidate. If elected, she will become Dallas County’s banker, payroll coordinator, and chief investment officer.
“I’m an accountant by degree and by temperament,” Akerly said. “The treasurer should be more fiduciary than policy. Policy is decided in the Commissioners Court.”
Time for disclosures: I met Akerly earlier this year when I paid her for an hour of her husband’s time. Bruce Akerly is an attorney, and Shelly is his office manager. I consulted with him as I filed the paperwork to form a limited liability corporation called Suburban Subscriptions. Meanwhile, two of the Akerlys’ children are among my fellow members of the Coppell ISD Education Foundation Board of Directors. Additionally, the foundation’s lone employee is the Akerlys’ daughter-in-law.
Akerly has a tough path to victory in this election, for two reasons:
Just as it’s extremely difficult for any Democrat to win a statewide campaign in Texas, it’s extremely difficult for any Republican to win a countywide campaign in Dallas.
She’s going up against a political dynasty.
Akerly is challenging incumbent Treasurer Pauline Medrano, a Democrat who won this seat in 2014 and was unchallenged in 2018. Before becoming the county treasurer, Medrano served four terms (the maximum allowed) on the Dallas City Council. Her brothers Robert and Ricardo served on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees and the Dallas City Council, respectively. Her nephew Adam has won multiple terms on both the school board and council.
“I believe everyone should be involved or contribute somewhere,” Akerly said. “When I discovered that the office of treasurer wasn’t challenged in 2018, I decided to run. It’s not an office I’ve long sought, but it is an elected position that fits my skill set, and I’m willing to step up and use my skills and talents on behalf of all the residents of Dallas County.”
Smart City Board Mulls Heady Topics
Not long after I launched this newsletter, I learned that Coppell has a volunteer panel called the Smart City Board. Figuring out what exactly this board has done since its first meeting in January 2020 has been on my backburner for a while. The board’s annual report to the City Council — which happened on Nov. 9 — was the kick in the pants I needed.
Board Chair Todd Storch said the council established the Smart City Board so they could operate as futurists, looking ahead and providing direction regarding Coppell’s Vision 2040 initiative.
“We’re not making recommendations on things that should be done today or tomorrow or next quarter,” Storch said. “This is very forward thinking.”
The board has identified six “smart portfolios” that classify its work:
Resource Management & Digital Twin Development
Climate Action, Adaptation & Renewable Energy
Congestion, TaaS, Autonomous Vehicles
Robotic Workforce & Automated City Services
Connected Homes & Businesses (Smart Buildings)
Reverse Globalization (Local, Regional Supply Chains)
The board offered four recommendations that apply to two of these portfolios during the council’s Nov. 9 meeting.
In regards to “Climate Action, Adaptation & Renewable Energy,” the board recommended establishing a program to bring all existing and future city-owned property and infrastructure to green building certification standards. The board also recommended creating an education program and providing incentives for implementing sustainable and resilient improvements.
As for “Connected Homes & Businesses (Smart Buildings),” the board recommended that, by 2024, the city obtain an expert assessment of our network and power infrastructure to review the investments necessary for 2040 and beyond. The board also recommended another series of educational and incentive initiatives to encourage the implementation of smart programs for connected homes and businesses.
Storch reminded the council that they dipped their toes into the “metaverse” when they met exclusively via Zoom during the early days of the pandemic.
“Everything that we do live is going to be happening in an alternative reality,” he said. “All of that is happening already — we’re at the very forefront of that — and that is going to take lots of bandwith.”
The Smart City Board has gotten together for one of their monthly confabs since that November council meeting. On Dec. 6, they kicked around ideas related to their “Robotic Workforce & Automated City Services” portfolio. During that discussion, Storch predicted that autonomous Teslas would be menacing our roadways in less than two years. Meanwhile, the city’s liaison to the board — Director of Enterprise Solutions Jerod Anderson — discussed the possibility of robots eventually doing everything from painting lines on athletic fields to fighting fires and enforcing speed limits. (Robotic cops? No thank you.) However, Anderson said the city’s near-term focus is on automated services.
Speaking of which, I took my 13-year-old with me the last time I paid my utility bill via the Justified Automated Collections Kiosk (J.A.C.K.) in the Town Center parking lot. Although J.A.C.K. has a male name, it has a female voice, a la Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. My son suggested that J.A.C.K.’s voice should be replaced with the voice of whoever holds the office of mayor.
Huh. We have some smart kids in this smart city. The J.A.C.K. experience would be immeasurably improved by a Max Headroom version of Wes Mays.
Coppell ISD Also Visioning its Future
The Smart City Board isn’t the only local group with an eye on the future. Coppell ISD has a Visioning Committee, and Angie Brooks — the district’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction — briefed the school board on the committee’s activities during the aforementioned October workshop.
Brooks’ presentation covered a number of topics, including social emotional learning, mental health, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She also discussed planning for new facilities, including a potential consolidation of the district’s administrative offices and the possible addition of a new elementary school. But what made my ears perk up was Trustee David Caviness’ inquiry about a new high school.
“I hear more and more — even more than I would have said three, four, or five years ago — community-wise about a second high school,” Caviness said. “Has there been any talk throughout this process about what that would look like?”
Brooks said the Visioning Committee has discussed a second comprehensive high school — with its own athletics program separate from Coppell High School’s — but the idea was rejected for two reasons: the basic cost of the additional staff and facilities, and because having people in Coppell ISD root for two varsity football teams, two varsity baseball teams, etc., would negatively affect the community’s “small town feel.”
Meanwhile, Caviness made me sit up and say “amen, brother” when he offered constructive criticism of the way the district solicits input from parents.
“Some of those surveys we get as parents, whether it’s Panorama or whatever, I don’t finish most of them,” he said, “because they’re either really long, or they’re written on this level way up here that is not where most people in the community have some feedback.”
Man, I am right there with him. I bailed out of the district’s most recent parent survey because none of the multiple-choice answers were “I have no frickin’ idea.” My younger son is about to complete his third semester at Coppell Middle School East. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t set foot inside that building since he enrolled. I’ve never met any of his teachers or even spoken to them on the phone. How should I know how well they’re preventing bullying or caring for his emotional needs?
[kicks over soapbox, stomps off in a huff]
• I’m sorry to report that Little Greek has closed for good. An undated note taped to the door — which is addressed to “Valued Guest,” as if the restaurant had just one — blames the “painful” decision on “rising supplier costs, employee shortages and never ending Covid.”
• Golden Boy Coffee has been shuttered for nearly five months, but a “Now Open” banner was still hanging on the building this morning. If I were the landlord, I’d remove that banner long before the next tenant opens the door, just to avoid a “boy who cried wolf” scenario.
• DECA is an organization that prepares students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. Coppell High School will take a huge contingent to a DECA competition on Jan. 20 in Garland, so it would be nice if Coppell ISD residents could volunteer their time as judges. Click here to review the judges’ briefing. If you’re interested, click here to register by Dec. 20.
• The agenda for Tuesday’s Coppell City Council meeting includes a reception for incoming and outgoing members of the city’s various boards and commissions. It’s scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Town Center atrium. If you’re free at that time, stop by to thank these volunteers for their service.
• Because you enjoy my slightly irreverent take on municipal affairs (you do enjoy it, right?), you may also enjoy the latest entry in D Magazine editor Tim Rogers’ annual ranking of the Dallas City Council’s Christmas sweaters.
Lol, I couldn’t agree more about those School/Parent Surveys! (1 per kid/school!) I mean, they start off okay, but then they devolve into topics/“questions” that I have no earthly idea of what they’re asking me about! (Wait, what, huh!?) The Surveys are way too long and those rigid “answer” options don’t always fit. If (they) truly care about what parents or students think about our schools- at least ask us real questions and allow us to answer truthfully. The last Survey I filled out I told myself- never again! What a time-waste, and for what?
PS. Dan, I feel ya. Once your middle-schooler reaches a high school campus the closest you’ll get to entering those as a parent will be the parking lot. I would love to see the inside one day!
Thank you for another very important newsletter about our community! When longtime school board members chose to no longer run for re-election, such as Barb Schmidt, Judy Baggett, and Kathy Gautille, I worried that their replacements might not continue the high standards they set! They always put students FIRST and teachers a close 2nd. But then Tracy Fisher and Robert Key led the way to keep our district outstanding in every way! I’d be sorry to lose Tracy, but she’d be awesome at the State level! ,