Coppell Chronicle Vol. 2, No. 14
Cowpokes Go Nuts for Donuts • CISD Trustees Aren’t All on Same Page • Check Out the Library’s Magazines • Take a Stroll Through Rolling Oaks Cemetery
It’s the last Sunday of the month, so I’m back with another completely free edition for everybody on my mailing list. If you’re not among my … [double checking] … 524 paid subscribers, here are some articles you missed in May:
City Desperately Needs More Lifeguards
Hogs Go Wild on Ritzy Cul-de-Sac
Council Concerned About Late-Night Library
School District Projected to Keep Growing
For Drainage’s Sake, Sheds May Have to Go
This has been a tough month for Coppell ISD, due to the controversy covered in last week’s edition. The past several days have been much tougher for our state and our nation, and I don’t need to spell out why. Given that today’s edition will include more drama and death, let’s get things started with a literally sweet story.
Cowpokes Go Nuts for Donuts
Jacquie Graves cooked up a fun way to end the school year. The fourth-grade teacher at Pinkerton Elementary assigned her students this persuasive-writing prompt: “Donut City is looking for a new donut for their everyday lineup. Convince them that yours is the one to add.”
As far as the students knew, this was a theoretical exercise. In reality, Graves had a surprise up her sleeve. She took all of the designs dreamt up by her students, and the fourth-graders in Kori Haverstock’s class, to Donut City. On Wednesday, the Cowpokes found out all of their ideas had been turned into actual donuts.
“The squeals could be heard down the building,” Graves wrote in a Facebook post about the donuts. “They were so excited.”
Rachel Yoon has owned Donut City with her husband, Peter, for about four years. Although the shop is known for fulfilling custom orders for birthday parties and other special occasions, Yoon said Graves’ order was the first associated with a school assignment. Decorating all 47 donuts, each of which had a unique design, took about four hours.
“It was very fun and exciting for us as well,” Yoon said. “They were all different. They were very creative.”
Graves picked Donut City for her secret project because the shop features so many elaborately decorated donuts on its Instagram account (@donutcity_coppell). The treats that Yoon’s staff created for the Pinkerton students included a variety of animals, a ballerina, and Harry Potter.
“I was blown away with the time and effort Donut City put in to making this special for these fourth-graders,” Graves said.
CISD Trustees Aren’t All on Same Page
Because Coppell ISD has gotten so much negative press lately, Superintendent Brad Hunt took a few minutes during Monday’s school board meeting to list a number of positive developments, including:
Coppell ISD had 37 National Merit Scholarship finalists, a record number for the district.
Coppell High School was the only school in the nation to have finalists in the print and broadcast categories of the National Scholastic Press Association’s Pacemaker Awards.
Coppell High School’s chapter of the Technology Student Association won a state competition in only its second year of existence.
Several contributors to Coppell Middle School East’s yearbook, The Stampede, were recognized in the Journalism Education Association’s National Student Media Contest.
All three middle schools’ choirs won Sweepstakes trophies from the UIL.
Although Monday’s meeting included these highlights, it ended on a low point, with two trustees talking over each other as one of them lobbed accusations at a third. Before I detail that brouhaha, here’s what happened in the interim.
The first action item on the board’s agenda involved their operating procedures. Newly elected trustees are already required to undergo extensive training on the local and state level. Trustee Manish Sethi proposed adding language to the procedures that says a new board member is “encouraged” to do the following:
Review previous board meeting recordings to get current on the ongoing district policies.
Meet with the board president to discuss board policies and any suggestions new board members may have.
Have regular meetings with the appointed member to understand the role of governance and responsibilities of a trustee in the various appointed committees.
Neena Biswas, the only trustee who has joined the board since Sethi was first elected in 2018, deemed the proposal “a waste of words and paper and digital information” if it’s only encouraged but not required. She was the only member of the board who voted against it.
(This was not the first time Biswas, who was elected in 2020, has been an outlier regarding the board’s operating procedures. I most recently wrote about that in the Dec. 5 edition.)
The board then went into a closed session that lasted more than three hours. When it was over, they unanimously approved a motion to sell a 20-acre property in Cypress Waters to its previous owner, Billingsley Company.
They then turned to their final piece of business: electing their officers. Biswas nominated herself for president, and Leigh Walker then nominated David Caviness. Biswas voted for herself, but the other six trustees voted for Caviness.
Once that was settled, Tracy Fisher nominated current President Nichole Bentley for vice president, and Walker nominated Sethi. Bentley got two votes (from herself and Fisher), while Sethi got four. Biswas didn’t vote for either of them.
When Bentley tried to clarify that Biswas was abstaining from the vote, Biswas said, “I’m voting against.” She then said Sethi had disqualified himself because he disobeyed the board’s operating procedures. Bentley tried to tell her she could not bring up a topic that was not on the posted agenda, but Biswas disagreed. They talked over each other for several seconds, and Biswas repeatedly said Sethi violated attorney-client privilege during the board’s Sept. 21 meeting.
The trustees had no meeting on that date, but they did meet on Sept. 27, when they voted to extend the district’s mask mandate. My article about that meeting included this: “Trustee Manish Sethi said the district’s lawyers advised the board that they could rescind the mandate if [Attorney General Ken] Paxton does sue CISD.”
I reached out to Sethi last week to see if he wanted to comment on Biswas’ accusation. In his response, he said there was nothing confidential about that particular piece of legal advice regarding the mandate.
“We, as a board, always like to share as much as we can with the public for the sake of transparency, but it’s a fine line, and sensitive matters discussed in closed sessions remain protected,” he said via email. “Occasionally, we consult with our attorneys regarding our ideas and public information that can be shared, which was the case at the Sept. 27 meeting. No attorney-client privilege was violated.
“Trustee Biswas’ personal opinion is of little relevance in such legal matters,” Sethi added, “and further, Trustee Biswas’ behavior and lack of decorum speaks for itself!”
Sethi also informed me he was surprised when Walker nominated him; if you watch the video, you can see him shake his head in reaction. He withdrew as vice president the next day, so another election will take place during a June meeting. When that happens, all trustees ought to remember this sentence from their operating procedures: “Board members will not self-nominate from the dais.”
Check Out the Library’s Magazines
Despite being the author of a digital newsletter, I’m a big fan of print media. We all spend so much time staring at our smart phones and smart TVs that it’s nice to dumb things down occasionally by reading words on paper. I’m going to be out of town for a few days this week, and I’ve resolved to consume only print media while traveling. My carry-on bag will include a magazine that belongs to the Cozby Library.
Did you know the library will let you check out its magazines? I didn’t until I listened to this month’s meeting of the Library Advisory Board. Librarian Elizabeth Bittner informed the board — and this patron — that new magazines (fewer than 30 days old) can be checked out for one week with no renewals. Older magazines can be checked out for one week with two automatic renewals and, unlike new editions, can be put on hold.
“That’s not always obvious to patrons,” Bittner said. “A lot of patrons thought they could only use these in house.”
The Cozby Library has subscriptions to 42 print magazines, and patrons can access 44 titles digitally via the Flipster platform. Those two numbers would have matched, but two magazines — Eating Well and People en Espanol — stopped printing right after Bittner ordered subscriptions.
“Magazines are, you know, in decline for sure,” Bittner told the board. “Our magazine collection has been something of a struggle.”
To make it clear that magazines can leave the library, Bittner added green stickers to their covers saying as much. Some magazines also feature pink stickers that indicate the library might subscribe to those titles if there’s enough interest. Bittner purchased those editions at Barnes & Noble to test the waters.
Patrons’ responses to VegNews (“your ultimate source for all things vegan”) have been so positive that Bittner has already ordered a subscription. Other magazines featuring pink stickers include Allrecipes, MotorTrend, The New Yorker, Psychology Today, Wired, and children’s titles Girls’ World and Animal Tales. Bittner told the board that Psychology Today was checked out more than she expected, but MotorTrend wasn’t checked out even once.
“Sometimes, we make some guesses, and they don’t pan out,” she said. “So I’m really glad this was a worthwhile experiment, because of course, once we order a magazine, we’re stuck with it for a year, so it’s good to know what’s popular and what’s not.”
Take a Stroll Through Rolling Oaks Cemetery
If you’re looking for a venue for talking to your children about the massacre in Uvalde, or you just want a reverent way to mark Memorial Day, consider a stroll through Rolling Oaks Memorial Center.
The 36-acre cemetery on Freeport Parkway is owned and operated by the City of Coppell, which makes it unique. Manager Gary Decker, who’s been in charge for a little more than six years, told me Rolling Oaks is one of about 10 cemeteries in Texas that are run by municipal governments. Other such cemeteries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are in Cleburne, Grand Prairie, and Trophy Club.
Last week, the Coppell City Council renewed an annual contract with Rodriguez Graveside Services, which handles burials and the installation of headstones and other markers. Decker’s memo to the council said Rodriguez opened and closed 280 plots during the previous fiscal year for a total cost of $518,438. During this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, its invoices have added up to $542,181 so far.
Rolling Oaks opened in July of 2009, and its second phase opened in January of 2021. The grounds are divided into themed gardens, including the Garden of Honor for veterans and the Garden of Innocence for infants. There’s an Islamic Garden of Mercy tucked into the facility’s northeast corner. The Garden of Love includes this recreation of Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture.
Rolling Oaks features a funeral home and columbarium that are operated by Dignity Memorial. (I had to open a dictionary to find out that a columbarium is “a structure of vaults lined with recesses for cinerary urns.”) The grounds also include a pair of lakes and several pavilions with ceiling fans to keep mourners comfortable during services. I recently visited Rolling Oaks for the first time and was struck by these butterfly sculptures in the Zach Thompson Foundation’s Children’s Garden.
Decker told me the remains of nearly 1,300 people are buried at Rolling Oaks. I then posed a question that I’ve always had about the cemetery business: Won’t there come a time when you run out of space? Decker said that won’t happen at Rolling Oaks for at least 100 years.
Local Politicians React to Uvalde
Because the massacre in Uvalde coincided with the final day of voting in our primary runoffs, let’s take note of how candidates reacted to the news.
Republican Beth Van Duyne, who is seeking a second term in Congress, began her weekly email newsletter with this: “This week, the state of Texas and the entire country witnessed an act of unimaginable evil and horrific violence. We pray for the families, the school district, and the good people of Uvalde — our hearts are broken.” She then moved on to the formula shortage.
On her Twitter account, Van Duyne wrote: “Strengthening American families and stable home life is essential for raising a new generation who will be pillars of the community, not killers of their neighbors. Can we have that conversation?”
Jan McDowell, who on Tuesday earned the Democratic nomination in the 24th Congressional District for the third time in four election cycles, said the following in a series of tweets: “Enough with the thoughts and prayers. They are not working. … Until our lawmakers decide our schoolchildren’s lives are worth more than the politicians’ need to stay in office, this will continue to happen. … I stand with @MomsDemand in demanding common sense gun legislation to start to make that change.”
Democrat Julie Johnson, who is seeking a third term in the Legislature, began her weekly newsletter with links to several charities that are aiding survivors’ and victims’ families. She also provided links to hotlines for people in crisis. On Twitter, Johnson shared the front page of Thursday’s edition of The Dallas Morning News — which featured the 21 victims’ faces — and added this:
“These beautiful children are gone too soon. Their deaths lay at the feet of the Texas GOP for passing a ridiculous gun bill on a party line vote and refusing Medicaid funds to improve access to mental health care. Thoughts and prayers do nothing. Voting can make a difference.”
Republican Melisa Denis, who is challenging Johnson for her District 115 seat, said this on her campaign’s Facebook page: “I have reflected on the tragedy in Uvalde and know that we need to turn to our Lord and Savior for comfort. My Texas size heart is bleeding for these parents. We have to find a way to respect and love one another. Mental illness is real. No normal person would kill children. I believe in mankind. When I get to Austin, I will do everything I can to help find solutions. I believe that Texans can come together and find ways to protect our children.”
• I’m sorry to report that the Coppell Cowboys’ run through the UIL baseball playoffs came to an abrupt end on Friday. They were swept by the Carroll Dragons in a pair of shutouts.
• The gym at The CORE reopened on Wednesday with a new floor. Meanwhile, the facility’s outdoor pools will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. today and from 1 to 7 p.m. on Memorial Day.
• Do you have the pipes to competently sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”? The City of Coppell is seeking someone to belt out our national anthem during the “Celebrate Coppell: Party in the Park” event on July 2. Click here for audition details.
• Volunteers with the Coppell Rotary Club have placed American flags outside homes and businesses throughout the city in advance of Memorial Day. I’m told those flags will fly through June 18, rather than be taken down and then put back up for Flag Day. Click here for more details.
• For the third year in a row, the City of Coppell has placed signs around town displaying the names of graduating seniors. For the second year in a row, I’ve seen people online who don’t understand that this is supposed to be a scavenger hunt and are indignant about the city not telling families where to find their seniors’ names. What would be the fun of that? The signs will be displayed through June 8. Click here to learn more.
Adult Athletic Leagues: Friday is the registration deadline for The CORE’s softball, volleyball, and kickball leagues for grown-ups.
In The Joy of Others Walk-Run: A young man spoke to the Coppell City Council on Tuesday about this fundraiser scheduled for Saturday morning at The Sound at Cypress Waters.
Coppell Youth Soccer Association: Fall registration is now open for the youth recreation leagues as well as the adult co-ed league.
Locally Sourced: June 13 is the entry deadline for this Coppell Creatives exhibit that will be displayed from June 21 through July 17.
Coppell 5K: The 13th annual race is scheduled for June 25 at Andrew Brown Park East. Proceeds help Coppell Special Olympics athletes with uniforms, letter jackets, and equipment.