Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 48
Superintendents Get Contract Extensions • Classes Continue Despite Omicron • Irving Alcohol Rules Aren’t Changing Soon • What’s With All Those Clothing Bins?
Superintendents Get Contract Extensions
The Coppell ISD Board of Trustees gave Superintendent Brad Hunt a vote of confidence last week by extending his contract.
After an 11-minute closed session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Trustee Leigh Walker made a motion to “approve the superintendent’s contract as amended.” Before the unanimous vote in favor of Walker’s motion, Board President Nichole Bentley called it “a motion to extend your contract.”
Nobody mentioned the length of the extension during open session, so I asked Director of Communications Amanda Simpson for more details. She told me Hunt’s contract has been extended until New Year’s Eve of 2025, which would be two years longer than his existing deal. Simpson said the amended contract will be posted on CISD’s website after Hunt and Bentley both sign it.
Their attorneys might want to give the amended contract an extra once-over before it gets posted online. The version I downloaded from the website on Friday evening says, “The Board, by and on behalf of the District, does hereby employ the Superintendent, and the Superintendent does hereby accept employment as Superintendent of Schools for the District for a term of three (3) years, commencing on January 1, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2023.” I’m no lawyer, but I’ll say on information and belief that the length of time between those two (2) dates adds up to four (4) years.
Hunt’s posted contract also says his annual base salary is $250,000. However, the Texas Education Agency’s Superintendent Salary Reports, which were most recently updated last March, say he makes a bit more than that: $255,000. According to that webpage, the superintendents in the four districts that border Coppell ISD all make more money.
Lewisville ISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers announced in November that he will retire at the end of this month, and that started a trend. As reported by Channel 8, at least seven other superintendents in the region — including the leaders of Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD — have announced plans to resign or retire since Rogers did. Perhaps the Coppell ISD trustees wanted to prevent Hunt from being lured away to one of those open gigs.
If so, they wouldn’t be alone in that strategy. On Jan. 13, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees emerged from an hour-long closed session and unanimously voted to extend the contract of Superintendent John Chapman by one year — taking it through June of 2027 — and to raise his salary by 2 percent.
“The board had a good discussion and very much wants to be on record as telling Dr. Chapman we appreciate him,” Trustee Randy Schackmann said. “All of our staff and administration have worked during such challenging times, and Dr. Chapman, you get to be the admiral of the navy and drive the ship, and we appreciate what you’ve done and will continue to do.”
(Do you remember when I transcribed a testy tirade by Schackmann back in Coppell Chronicle No. 19? That outburst happened at a special meeting devoted to evaluating Chapman’s job performance. I guess everything worked out.)
Meanwhile, back at the Vonita White Administration Building, Bentley had plenty of praise for Hunt before Tuesday’s vote.
“I’m really pleased with everything that you’ve been doing,” she told him. “I know it’s been an incredibly hard time, in a lot of different ways, and, you know, there’s no way to do all of this perfectly; you’ve done it impeccably. And I just want to thank you for everything that you’ve done and how committed you are to the district.”
Hunt was named superintendent in 2017, but his history here goes all the way back to 1990, when he was hired as a teacher at Coppell High School. (One of his current bosses, Walker, was a CHS student back then.) His subsequent job titles in the district have included Coppell Middle School West Assistant Principal, Director of Human Resources, Coppell High School Principal, and Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services. He and his wife, Janay, have a daughter and a son who are Coppell ISD students.
Trustee Neena Biswas thanked Hunt for maintaining the district’s high standards during what has obviously been a rough two-year stretch. “We have a lot to be proud of,” she said.
“That is a testament to our amazing students and phenomenal teachers and great parents and families,” Hunt said in response. “I mean, it really is a village and everybody working together, and I cannot thank our students [enough] for their resiliency and our teachers for their commitment to our kids. They are the best.”
Classes Continue Despite Omicron
Richardson ISD closed a single school on Thursday and Friday due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant, while Grapevine-Colleyville ISD closed all of its campuses. The Dallas Morning News reports that school districts from Mansfield to Mesquite are being forced to make similar moves. But Coppell ISD’s doors have remained open, even though “our numbers are very high,” according to Superintendent Brad Hunt.
“We are doing what we can to help keep our school buildings open, to help keep our kids in class,” Hunt said during the “COVID Update” portion of Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. “We believe that’s the best way for them to learn.”
Hunt said the fill rate for substitute teachers is 84 percent, which he called “not ideal, but manageable.” Of course, cafeteria workers and bus drivers are just as susceptible to the virus as teachers and students.
“It really is all hands on deck as we are trying to make certain that all classes are covered,” Hunt said. “That means, also, that people at central office are taking on additional duties and responsibilities, but we’ve got people out at this area too.”
A few years ago, the Legislature mandated that all kindergarten through third-grade teachers and principals must attend “Reading Academies” that eat up 10 work days over an 11-month period. Hunt said CISD had suspended that because the district can’t afford to have teachers doing anything but teaching right now.
Trustee Manish Sethi asked whether the district still offers Super Sub Bonuses for substitute teachers. Hunt said those incentives are still in place and have helped. He said Durham School Services will likely adopt a similar program for bus drivers.
“There are ‘help wanted’ signs pretty much everywhere,” Hunt said. “And so we want to make sure that we’re staying competitive.”
Trustee Tracy Fisher, who has been the board’s strongest proponent of masks and mandates, came as close as she could to calling for a mandate without actually doing so. Hunt pointed out that previous mandates approved by the board included various exemptions, so any new mandate probably would as well.
“I would surmise that maybe some of the same people not wearing a mask today would still not be wearing a mask with a mandate,” Hunt said. “Maybe they would; I don’t know.”
Hunt reminded the trustees that the district partnered with Tom Thumb to offer vaccination clinics before all football games at Buddy Echols Field in the fall semester, and he said two more clinics have been scheduled for Jan. 25 and Feb. 15 at Valley Ranch Elementary School’s gym. He also mentioned that a company called Curative still offers COVID tests by appointment in the visitors’ press box at Buddy Echols Field between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.
Near the end of the discussion, Board President Nichole Bentley said she would be open to closing an individual campus for a long weekend if a certain percentage of its student body or faculty was absent.
“We don’t have that crystal ball, so I don’t know what the future will hold,” Hunt said. “We could, you know, get to that point where we have to do a school closure. We’d have to make up that time if we went beyond our two bad-weather days. I don’t know if that would magically make everything go away or not; I don’t know.”
Irving Alcohol Rules Aren’t Changing Soon
In Coppell Chronicle No. 46, I told you about the Irving Planning and Zoning Commission debating a proposal to loosen the city’s alcohol restrictions. Based on Tuesday’s work session on the proposal, the expectation that the commission would have approved it during their Jan. 3 meeting is laughable.
On Tuesday, some of the commissioners remained dead set against the proposal as drafted. Those who seemed more open to changes were still very confused by many aspects of the proposal. Assistant Planning Director Jocelyn Murphy walked the commission through a set of Frequently Asked Questions that were intended to allay any concerns about unintended consequences, but Commissioner Michael McPhail was unmoved.
“The ordinance we have on the books now allows us to do a great many things with alcohol in different ways,” he said, “and I keep coming back to an old phrase the League of Women Voters used to use: ‘specific bills for specific ills.’ If you’re having a problem with an existing ordinance, acknowledge it and fix it, using the processes you already have.”
Twelve people, including at least seven Valley Ranch residents, signed up to speak against the proposal during the “Citizen Comments” portion of the work session. Many of them said the proposal would make Irving more dangerous and less family-friendly.
They were joined by former Mayor Herb Gears and former City Council Member Sharon Barbosa-Crain, who both said Irving’s bureaucratic hurdles for restaurants could be simplified without eliminating the city’s R-AB zoning requirement. (R-AB is an abbreviation for “Restaurant with attendant accessory use of the sale of Alcoholic Beverages for on-premises consumption.”)
The only person who signed up to speak in favor of the proposal was i Fratelli Pizza co-founder David Cole, who chairs the Irving Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors. A lifelong Irving resident, Cole said he’s seen plenty of faulty forecasts regarding alcohol while raising his own children in the city.
“None of them have ever been in danger, even though as time went on, alcohol got added to restaurants [and] package stores got added,” he said. “There’s been many years of predictions of the world blowing up because Texas Stadium sold beer, because restaurants were gonna get alcohol, and nothing has happened.”
Cole and the proposal’s opponents will all get another chance to say their piece next month. Although the proposal clearly has no hope of being recommended to the City Council as is, the commissioners must continue their public hearing on the existing draft during their Feb. 7 meeting because of the motion to postpone that they approved during their Jan. 3 meeting.
What’s With All Those Clothing Bins?
Not to brag or nothing, but I have lost 45 pounds since the beginning of September. (Contact my wife and coach, Jessica Koller, if you want to duplicate my success.) Consequently, there are lots of clothes in my closet that don’t fit anymore.
I could take these items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, both of which have nearby stores in Lewisville, but there are plenty of other options closer to home. The northwest corner of Sandy Lake and Denton Tap features no fewer than five bins for clothing donations. As recently as November, there were six bins there.
Two of the five bins are branded as WeCycle. Two others are affiliated with an outfit called Recycling for Hope. The fifth is labeled Recytex. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) The bin that has disappeared since November belonged to Recyclement.
I was wondering why there are so many bins on one corner, and I also wanted to know where the clothing placed in these bins ultimately ends up. So I called the numbers printed on the bins, hoping to get answers to those questions. But when I dialed those numbers, I didn’t hear anything like “Thank you for calling Recyclement” or “Welcome to WeCycle.” In each case, I was greeted by a robotic voice that simply recited the number I’d just dialed, as if I’d called a teenager who hadn’t bothered to set up an outgoing message on his first phone.
I’ve been calling and emailing these organizations since November, and the only one I’ve heard back from is Recycling for Hope. Nabil Shakeel, whose title with Recycling for Hope is Field Director, told me the clothes placed in his company’s bins get shipped overseas, mostly to Central America, South America, and the Middle East.
Shakeel said the donated items are first sorted in a warehouse to figure out their proper destination. A piece of clothing that would be appropriate for Guatemala, he said, might not pass muster in Jordan. The clothes that aren’t suitable for anybody to wear are converted into industrial cleanup rags called “wipers.”
Recycling for Hope has clothing bins all over Coppell. Besides the two at Sandy Lake and Denton Tap, there’s one behind the former Boston Market at Belt Line and MacArthur, and I spotted another outside that mysterious Metroplex Medical Centre at Sandy Lake and North Coppell Road. Recycling for Hope also has a bin at our struggling Dairy Queen, in the time-warped parking lot that still features one of these antiques:
The Recycling for Hope website says hosting a bin can be a fundraiser for a church or a nonprofit. I asked Shakeel to explain, and what it boils down to is that Recycling for Hope will pay you rent for your land, because the company is selling all of the clothing placed in the bin. I told Shakeel about my trouble making contact with the other clothing collectors, and he wasn’t surprised. He said many of the other bins are placed by “fly by night” operations that don’t bother to get permission from the land owner.
“They drop their bins, and they’re there until they’re not,” he said.
You know, Recyclement’s bin did disappear after I started calling and emailing them. That could just be a coincidence, but I like to imagine somebody at that organization hearing my voicemail and saying, “Oh crap! It’s the Coppell Chronicle. He’s on to us. Quick — get that bin out of there!”
• After I featured his impressive mustache in last week’s Chronicle, Coppell Fire Chief Kevin Richardson explained that it was a Movember effort: “I was planning on entering several competitions at the end of November, but unfortunately our prevention protocols in dealing with the pandemic sidelined most events. Plus, my ’stache wasn’t quite ready, so I decided to keep it going for a bit longer, now that it’s three months in the making and just now starting to show its potential. All in all, it’s for a great cause and continues to bring awareness to the campaign for improving men’s health.”
• If you have an idea for a business that could increase the vitality of Old Town Coppell, you should know there’s a “for sale” sign in one of the vacant lots across the parking lot from the Farmers Market pavilion.
• Is anybody else haunted by the coupons for Kelly’s Texican that still appear on the back of our grocery receipts, five months after the restaurant went out of business?
• Shout out to the Coppell mom tooling around town with “NKOTB” vanity plates and an “I’d rather be listening to New Kids on the Block” license-plate frame. That’s hangin’ tough right there.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical: Coppell High School’s Cowboy Theatre Company will transport you to Bikini Bottom if you buy a ticket and declare, “I’m ready!” Performances are scheduled for Jan. 29, Jan. 30, Feb. 4, Feb. 5, and Feb. 6.
Red Cross Blood Drive: The American Red Cross says it is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Click the link if you’re willing to donate a pint between noon and 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Rejoice Lutheran Church.
Coppell Lions Club Pancake Breakfast: You can also donate blood at this annual fundraiser between 7 and 11 a.m. on Feb. 12 at First United Methodist Church, where gluten-free pancakes will be available upon request. The entry fee is $5 per person, but the maximum charge for an entire family is $20.
PEROT! American Patriot: Theatre Coppell will present the world premiere of a new play by Dallas Morning News columnist Dave Lieber. Nine performances at the Coppell Arts Center are scheduled for the final three weekends in February.