Coppell Chronicle Vol. 2, No. 40
Arts Center to Nearly Double Its Staff • Bus Provider Needs Drivers and Time • Lightning Warning System Gets Upgrade • Should Council Members Appoint Themselves?
The final Sunday of each month is when I reach out to everybody on my mailing list, as opposed to only my paid subscribers. If you’re not among the 620 people in the latter group, you missed these articles in November:
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Arts Center to Nearly Double Its Staff
The Coppell Arts Center’s managing director has received the green light to increase the size of her staff by leaps and bounds.
Ginene Delcioppo recently told the City Council that her staff booked 166 events for the Arts Center’s 2021-2022 season, and 182 have already been booked for the 2022-2023 season. She said the facility — which was named the Best Live Theater Venue in The Dallas Morning News’ Best in DFW awards — hosted an event or a rehearsal on 346 days in its first year.
“Our staff is starting to see those limits,” she said during the council’s Nov. 8 work session. “We are at capacity, and we are lacking a little bit in our quality of service.”
Delcioppo is one of the Arts Center’s seven full-time employees, and they have five part-time colleagues. Those part-timers work up to 35 hours per week with partial benefits. The 12 individuals’ combined salaries and benefits cost $896,823.
Delcioppo wants to be one of 13 full-time employees, augmented by 10 part-timers who would work up to 20 hours per week without benefits. Those 23 individuals’ salaries and benefits would cost $1,390,097, necessitating a budget increase of nearly $500,000.
About $237,000 of that difference can be covered by budget reallocations, Delcioppo said, including paying for fewer contracted workers such as security guards and stagehands. She asked for the remaining $263,000 to be covered by hotel occupancy taxes (aka HOT funds), and a majority of the City Council agreed.
“When this was starting up,” Mayor Wes Mays said of the Arts Center, “we knew that there were going to be changes in the program as we went forward, especially in the first few years. I just see this as evolutionary growth of the program in a very positive way.”
Mayor Pro Tem Biju Mathew said the council last heard from Delcioppo in late August (see “Arts Center May Flip Script on Bookings” in the Sept. 5 edition), and he wanted to know what had changed since then to warrant such an increase.
“We started, as a team, to sit down and go over our roles, our responsibilities, and the amount of events that we have at the center, and also how we are going to be able to continually serve the community in a fashion that they expect from us,” Delcioppo said. She then described a few “slipups” and “mishaps,” including a patron not getting a response about a private rental in a timely manner and a situation in which Delcioppo herself had to step in as a stagehand.
She said every position on the Arts Center’s roster has turned over at least once since the facility opened. Each of the part-time positions has done so at least twice, and one of them has turned over five times.
“The majority of the full-time staff works six days a week,” Delcioppo said. “It can only be continued for so long before they will all burn out and quit.”
Mathew’s follow-up question: Why weren’t these staffing issues brought up when the council was finalizing the budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1? In Delcioppo’s defense, City Manager Mike Land said she did inform the council in August that she would be coming back to ask for more staff. Because this newsletter is largely based on me watching recordings of public meetings, I checked the tape. Sure enough, Delcioppo said this on Aug. 30:
“If we are going to successfully move forward, we need to shift this organizational chart around a little bit. We need to add development into what we do, so we can try to attract more revenue.”
On Nov. 8, Council Member Kevin Nevels asked how much more revenue Delcioppo would expect to see if her staff was expanded as she requested. She estimated that the center could book an additional $100,000 worth of private rentals. As for the additions she proposed on the development front, her “lowball” estimate was an initial $20,000 per year that could grow “exponentially.”
Council Member John Jun credited Delcioppo for making a strong case, but he said such a big budget jump was a lot to digest. He also worried that the Arts Center will not be able to eventually pay for itself. Council Member Don Carroll countered that other city departments are not expected to be self-sustaining.
“I always have to remind myself: This is a quality-of-life amenity that we have here,” Carroll said.
Bus Provider Needs Drivers and Time
If you work from home or have a flexible schedule, and you really want to contribute to the success of Coppell ISD, consider becoming a bus driver for Durham School Services. They could use the help.
Kacy Davis, Durham’s general manager for Coppell ISD, recently told the Board of Trustees that his operation’s biggest challenge is staffing. They would like to be 110 percent staffed, he said, but they are at about 90 percent, or seven drivers short.
“We have enough to cover our routes, per se, but if any one person calls in, then that’s when the delay happens, and we have to split, combine, or double the routes,” Davis said during the board’s Nov. 14 meeting.
Nearly half (47 percent) of the district’s students are registered with Durham as bus riders. That includes 6,171 regular-education students assigned to 41 routes, and 168 special-education students assigned to 21 separate routes. On an average day, four to five routes are broken up due to driver absences.
Davis presented some other numbers to illustrate the staffing challenges. Since Oct. 1, Durham had reached out to 200 potential applicants who had been identified through various sources such as LinkedIn or Indeed. Only 15 of those 200 turned in applications. Only 10 of those 15 cleared their background checks. And only two of those 10 had begun training by Nov. 14, but Davis anticipated that two others would start after the Thanksgiving break.
In addition to transporting students between their homes and schools, Durham operates shuttles every class period between Coppell High School, CHS9, and New Tech High. There are also shuttles throughout the day between those three campuses and the Coppell YMCA, which hosts swimming and diving practices during each class period.
“We’re still, constantly, every day trying to find a logistical method to reduce our timing and make sure our efficiency is a lot better,” Davis said. “So it’s an ongoing process.”
Durham and CISD strive for efficiency by staggering the times that different types of schools begin and end their days, so one driver can service multiple levels. For example, elementary students are dismissed at 3:05, and middle-schoolers get out 30 minutes later. Davis and his boss, Regional Manager Richard Lindell, said they’d love to see that timespan widened.
“Even though we have 30 minutes between bell times, the bus doesn’t leave the elementary when the bell rings. We leave 10 minutes later,” Lindell said. “So we really, effectively, only have 20 minutes to deliver an elementary route and then be at that middle school when the bell rings.”
Davis said a range of 37 to 40 minutes would make all the difference in the world.
“A lot of times, 30 minutes is just not getting it in today’s situation,” he said, “being that we’re growing in this area and there’s so much infrastructure going on.”
Lightning Warning System Gets Upgrade
Coppell’s system for warning residents about dangerous weather will soon be able to deliver verbal instructions in addition to strobe lights and sirens.
This month, the board of the Coppell Recreation Development Corporation (CRDC) approved a contract with Perry Weather, a Dallas company whose products are used by neighboring cities such as Grapevine, Colleyville, and Lewisville. The $150,000 contract calls for the installation of 12 outdoor warning systems and five weather stations that will be linked to the National Lightning Detection Network.
“The second a lightning strike happens, you guys are going to know about it,” Coppell resident and Perry Weather employee Brooks Middleton told the CRDC board during their Nov. 14 meeting.
The 12 outdoor warning systems will replace 12 similar units from another company, Thor Guard. There are four of them at Wagon Wheel Park, plus two at Andrew Brown Park West, one at Andrew Brown Park Central, one at Andrew Brown Park East, one at MacArthur Park, one at Moore Road Park, one at the Coppell Justice Center, and one in Old Town. Thor Guard’s equipment “has become outdated and is no longer being regularly serviced and supported by the vendor,” according to a memo from Park Operations Manager David Ellison.
“What’s fun is when you’re practicing at Andy Brown Central and Andy Brown West goes off, but Andy Brown Central doesn’t go off,” one of the CRDC board members said. Parks and Recreation Director Jessica Carpenter replied, “Hence the recommendation to replace the system. We’re expecting much greater reliability with this new system.”
In addition to the increased reliability, the main difference between Perry Weather’s equipment and Thor Guard’s is that the new system can broadcast personalized text-to-speech messages during an emergency. Carpenter said her staff plans to use this feature sparingly; it will most likely be deployed when a park is full of people during a special event.
Should Council Members Appoint Themselves?
A list of appointees to various boards and commissions was part of the Coppell City Council’s consent agenda this month, which meant it could be approved without debate. However, Mayor Pro Tem Biju Mathew had an issue with a portion of the list.
Mayor Wes Mays and Council Member Cliff Long have been members of the Coppell Recreation Development Corporation (CRDC) Board of Directors since 2019 and 2018, respectively. That board will have two new members — George Cooper and Rohinton Karanjia — starting on Jan. 1, but Mays and Long will be among the five holdovers.
Mathew, who served on the CRDC board before he joined the City Council in 2018, pulled the appointees list from the consent agenda because he wants all seven of those board positions to be filled by residents who don’t already hold elected office. Council Member Mark Hill agreed with him.
“It should be an all-citizen board,” Hill said. “We have plenty of people who are willing to serve. Nothing against the council members who are on it, but I just think we need to open up that opportunity for more citizens.”
The CRDC governs the use of sales taxes to pay for projects related to parks and recreation, including athletics for youths and adults, entertainment and public gathering facilities, and exhibition and museum facilities. Mays said having two council members who can lend perspective and history to the other CRDC board members has been “invaluable.” Before Mays and Long were on the board, former Mayor Karen Hunt and former Council Member Marvin Franklin did double duty.
“A lot of times, we’re there to answer questions that are not able to be answered otherwise,” Mays said.
Long agreed, and he said, “It was in the documents when the CRDC was set up that it would be that way.”
While Long was talking, City Attorney Bob Hager walked up to the mayor and city manager and said something that was not picked up by the microphones. Shortly thereafter, Mays requested an executive session to consult with Hager. When the council returned to the dais, Mays said Hager had advised that “we would have to take any changes to the constituent members up separately.” The item on their posted agenda was about approving the submitted list of appointees.
Before the unanimous vote to approve the list, Mathew said he would be requesting that a change to Coppell’s Code of Ordinances be added to a future council agenda. “We need to have more citizens appointed to this board,” he said.
Here’s what’s odd: During this long holiday weekend, when I didn’t want to bother anybody to help me figure out what I was missing, I looked over the relevant portion of the Code of Ordinances, the latest version of the CRDC’s bylaws, and the CRDC’s restated Certificate of Formation from 2014. I couldn’t find anything in writing that says a certain number of CRDC directors must also be elected members of the City Council.
On a related note, a reader emailed me with a beef about not getting appointed to the Coppell Library Board. He was told he was among eight applicants for four slots, which went to three incumbents (Anne Diamond, Frank Gasparro, and Mathew Ittoop) plus Patricia Graziano, who had been one of the Library Board’s alternate members. All I can say to this frustrated reader is, “Hey, at least you had a chance to interview for the job.” If I had a dollar for every resume I’ve submitted over the years without acknowledgement of receipt, I’d have at least 100 bucks.
• Chris Collins, the developer whose latest plans led last week’s edition (“Old Town Business Owners Oppose Proposal”), has invited all interested parties to drop by his office at 564 S. Coppell Road at 7 p.m. on Tuesday to enjoy some Frito pie while discussing options for saving the old church at Bethel Road and Main Street. A petition against his proposal has more than 1,000 signatures, so he’s going to need a lot of Fritos.
• This North Texas Real Estate Information Systems data regarding October home sales and leases in Coppell was compiled by the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University:
• Tickets for the Coppell ISD Education Foundation’s Wreath Raffle, benefiting the Taylor Storch Memorial Scholarship, can be purchased through Wednesday. Meanwhile, Friday is the deadline to nominate a Coppell ISD student or teacher for one of the foundation’s Super Star awards.
• With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror and Christmas on the horizon, it’s important to remember that your children’s teachers have all the coffee mugs they’ll ever need. Hey, you know what would be a better gift idea?
Fa La La La Lights: The deadline to register your home or business for the City of Coppell’s decorating contest is 5 p.m. tomorrow. Judging begins on Friday.
A Little House Christmas: Theatre Coppell will stage nine performances of a Christmas story based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of Little House on the Prairie books. The first show is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday at the Coppell Arts Center.
Lighting Up Heritage Park: The Coppell Community Chorale will provide a soundtrack as structures including the Thweatt Farm Windmill, the Kirkland House, and the Minyard’s Grocery Store Museum & Gift Shop are lit up between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Vintage Christmas: You can write a letter to Santa, take a picture with Santa, or enjoy some special treats at many Old Town businesses and attractions between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday.
The Nutcracker: Ballet Ensemble of Texas, which is based in Coppell, will present four performances of the Christmas classic — 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, plus 2 and 6 p.m. on Dec. 4 — at the Irving Arts Center.
Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting: The lighted parade will start at St. Ann Catholic Parish at 6 p.m. on Saturday, then wind down Samuel and Parkway boulevards to Andrew Brown Park East. There will be a variety of activities in the park, including an outdoor screening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Change the World Animal Event: Members of Girl Scout Troop 7236 will be at the Cozby Library and Community Commons between 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 to raise awareness of animals that are up for adoption. Attendees will have an opportunity to make pet toys and win door prizes. For more information, email email@example.com.
HarpEssence Holiday Concert: You can listen to four concert grand harps at 3 p.m. on Dec. 4 at the Coppell Arts Center. Admission is free.
Madrigal Feast: The 28th annual edition of the Coppell High School choir’s dinner and show, which is called “Cinder Ella-Phant” this year, will take place on Dec. 9 and 10. Seating begins at 6:30 p.m., and the feast starts at 7.
Holiday Craft Fair: Crafters from the Coppell Senior and Community Center will have a variety of items — including knitted and crocheted items, tote bags, and ornaments — at the Cozby Library and Community Commons from 1 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 11.
Holidays at Heritage Park: You can sip hot cider and eat a German cookie between 6 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 10 while learning about the families that lived in the Kirkland House, Wilson House, and Ihnfeldt House.