Coppell Chronicle Vol. 2, No. 49
Bond Decisions Placed in Boards’ Laps • Which Elementary Would Get Left Out? • Trustee Wants Full 3-Year Term • New Reign Begins at Dairy Queen
During Monday’s meeting of the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees, a few of the “Open Forum” speakers admitted they recently learned that school board members are volunteers. These folks had assumed the trustees were compensated for their hours on the dais.
Unlike our local elected officials, I ask to be paid for paying attention to their meetings. If this is the first Coppell Chronicle you’ve received since 2022, that’s because you signed up for a free subscription. In the meantime, you missed these articles that I sent to my paid subscribers:
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Bond Decisions Placed in Boards’ Laps
The trustees who govern Coppell ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD are on the clock. After receiving recommendations on potential bond packages, they have three weeks to decide what they’ll ask voters to approve.
On Monday, the Coppell ISD Bond Steering Committee identified $511 million worth of needs, but a survey indicated that taxpayers wouldn’t support more than $320 million worth of debt. (The district’s most recent bond package, which was for $249 million, barely passed; it was approved by only 50.2 percent of voters in 2016.) Consequently, the committee recommended breaking up that $511 million package into two phases.
The first phase, at a cost of $310.2 million, would include $82.6 million worth of “priority condition needs” at all campuses and facilities, $41.6 million worth of technology upgrades, $11 million worth of safety and security investments, $5 million worth of equipment and furnishings, and $4 million worth of vehicles. Additionally, it would include these construction projects at particular campuses:
Renovations of three elementary schools ($69 million)
New rehearsal spaces for fine arts programs at Coppell High School and Coppell Middle School North ($31.9 million)
New pre-K classrooms at three elementary schools ($15.6 million)
New labs for career/technical education and STEM courses at CHS and all three middle schools ($11 million)
Improvements to the CHS Tennis Center ($7 million)
A renovation of the auditorium at the Coppell High School Ninth Grade Campus ($6.8 million)
The Bond Steering Committee’s slide presentation indicated that a $310.2 million bond package would increase the debt-service tax rate by 7.17 cents per $100 of valuation. That means the owner of a $450,000 home (the average value in Coppell ISD) would see a monthly tax increase of almost $27, or about $323 per year.
The remaining $200.8 million in the $511 million recommendation would be put to voters five years from now, and it would include the following:
Renovations of five elementary schools ($115 million)
A multipurpose building that would serve as the district’s new headquarters ($53.7 million)
New pre-K classrooms at two elementary schools ($10 million)
“There’s just an awful lot of basics, and there’s also some bells and whistles here,” Jim Walker, who co-chaired the Bond Steering Committee, said Monday. “And ultimately, the school board will decide whether or not to call an election and what to call, and the voters in the district will decide what they’re going to approve and what they’re not going to approve.”
A day later and about 7 miles to the east, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Bond Planning Committee recommended a $716 million bond package that would cover most of the same basic needs enumerated in the Coppell ISD recommendation, as well as the reconstruction of three elementary schools and two alternative schools. Committee member Billy Bob Messer said the $719 million could be covered without raising the district’s debt-service tax rate (also known as the interest & sinking rate), which he proudly said is the region’s lowest:
(The CFBISD committee’s presentation was tag-teamed by multiple people. Was I delighted to hear that the key portion was handled by a gentleman who goes by Billy Bob? You’re darn tootin’ I was!)
Despite Messer’s good news about not needing to raise the tax rate, his committee’s proposal would still need approval by voters, and a state law would require the ballot proposition to include this statement: “THIS IS A PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.” That’s because a district could lower its debt-service tax rate if it didn’t sell bonds.
Any school district that intends to call a bond election for May has until Feb. 17 to make that decision. The Coppell ISD trustees have scheduled a workshop for Feb. 6, and their regular monthly meeting is set for Feb. 13. The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD trustees will conduct their regular monthly meeting on Feb. 2, followed by a workshop on Feb. 16.
Which Elementary Would Get Left Out?
Coppell ISD’s Bond Steering Committee recommended renovating eight of the district’s 11 elementary schools. The two newest schools, Lee and Canyon Ranch, were built in the 2010s, so they don’t need renovations. That means one of the nine other schools would be left out, assuming the trustees adopt the committee’s recommendations.
Pinkerton Elementary parents believe their school would be that unlucky one because it is by far the district’s oldest campus and its smallest. It also wasn’t based on the same set of architectural plans as the eight “footprint” schools.
Two dozen people signed up to speak during Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting, and most of them were associated with Pinkerton, including several students who talked about why they love their school.
“If y’all do close Pinkerton, y’all are never gonna sleep again, because the voices of those children are going to haunt you for the rest of your lives,” Pinkerton parent Jason Moore told the trustees.
Bond Steering Committee Co-Chair Jim Walker acknowledged the passion for Pinkerton during his opening remarks.
“If a group of parents cares that much about their kids and their teachers and their school, clearly the district is doing something right,” Walker said. “And I don’t think there’s any question that [Principal] Amanda Sweeney and her team are clearly doing a good job over there at Pinkerton, but that’s true of every elementary school that we have.”
The Bond Steering Committee was presented with four options regarding elementary schools, and three of them called for closing or repurposing one unnamed campus. If Walker or Cindy Powell, the consultant who guided the committee’s work, addressed why one elementary school would not get renovated during Monday’s presentation, I missed it.
So I posed that question to Walker via email. His response was more than 500 words, but this was the key sentence: “The overall issue, in my view, involves consideration of enrollment projections for our district’s elementary schools and current/projected classroom and facilities usage as well.”
Ah, yes. As I wrote two weeks ago (“Trustees Open to Widening Open Enrollment”), Coppell ISD’s demographer projects that there will be 1,496 empty seats in the district’s elementary schools six years from now. So it might make sense to close a school and readjust attendance zones accordingly. But here are some reasons why Pinkerton may not close:
1. Pinkerton is Coppell ISD’s only elementary school associated with the International Baccalaureate program.
“What we’re doing is like throwing out a Van Gogh painting because the frame is messed up,” said Moore, who — like a lot of Pinkerton parents — assumes his school is on the chopping block.
2. The Bond Steering Committee recommended putting money into Pinkerton.
The most expensive category in the first recommended bond package is the $82.6 million worth of priority condition needs across the district, which includes $8.7 million to address deficiencies at Pinkerton. That’s the largest amount dedicated to any elementary. The associated amounts for the footprint schools range from $4.1 million for Denton Creek to $6.5 million for Valley Ranch.
3. Superintendent Brad Hunt hinted that Pinkerton may have a long-term future.
The second of the committee’s two recommended bond packages includes a multipurpose building that would consolidate the operations and staff of the Vonita White Administration Building, Victory Place, and the Brock Center, which sits right next door to Pinkerton. Hunt said this on Monday:
“It would be the district’s recommendation that we look at selling Victory Place and Vonita White. We wouldn’t be recommending doing anything as far as selling the Brock Center, just because of where that land is, right by one of our elementary schools. If that ever were to expand or change, we would want to be able to have that.”
I may be opening a whole can of worms here, but I think Austin Elementary is a more likely candidate for closure, for a few reasons:
It is the district’s second oldest elementary.
It is less than a mile from Mockingbird Elementary and only 1.5 miles from Town Center Elementary.
It shares land with a building that Coppell Fire Chief Kevin Richardson would like to repurpose. (See “Chief Proposes Fifth Fire Station” in the Sept. 11 edition.)
Whether I’m right or wrong about Austin, all Coppell ISD schools will still be open a year from now. Near the end of Monday’s meeting, Board President David Caviness said this while summarizing the trustees’ Jan. 9 budget workshop: “There was no pending changes or facility changes or campus closures in the upcoming fiscal year.”
Manish Sethi added that the trustees have never talked about whether or when to close a school, nor have they discussed what would happen to special programs offered at a closed school.
“What we have been doing is getting community input before the decisions are made,” Sethi said.
Trustee Wants Full 3-Year Term
Municipal elections in Texas are typically decided in May, but the world was largely locked down in the spring of 2020. So state officials delayed that year’s proceedings until November.
Neena Biswas was the only person who joined the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees as a result of that election. On Monday, she tried to make a case for extending her term until November of this year.
“I did miss out on six months of my term,” Biswas said.
Her peers seemed taken aback by this request. Moments earlier, Biswas had participated in a 6-0 vote to schedule a May 6 election for her Place 4 seat and Board President David Caviness’ Place 5 seat. (It wasn’t a 7-0 vote because Nichole Bentley was absent.) Biswas’ request didn’t come up until the trustees had moved on to their next agenda item, calling a special election for the Place 7 seat that Tracy Fisher vacated last October.
Once that special election was called, Biswas made a motion to reconsider the regularly scheduled election. For the record, though, Caviness articulated the motion for Biswas after she said this: “I don’t know how that would play out — would that be eight members on the board or, you know, what it would be —but it basically means I was not actually given the six months of my term.” In any case, the motion died because nobody seconded it, which is what happens to just about all of Biswas’ motions.
Biswas is not yet officially running for reelection, but three other people have filed paperwork to seek the Place 4 seat: Samit Patel and Ranna Raval, who are both members of the Bond Steering Committee, and Julie Waters, who is among the most vocal Pinkerton parents. Meanwhile, Caviness is unchallenged so far in his bid for a third term in the Place 5 seat. The deadline to declare a candidacy for either seat is Feb. 17.
Jobby Mathew, who was appointed to the Place 7 seat in November, turned in his candidacy paperwork on Tuesday, the first day of the separate filing period for the special election. Potential challengers have until March 6 to do the same. The winner of the special election — which will culminate on May 6, just like the general election — will get a one-year term that expires in May of 2024.
New Reign Begins at Dairy Queen
Here’s hoping brighter days, including more consistent hours, are ahead for Coppell’s much-maligned Dairy Queen.
Since 2020, our local purveyor of Dilly Bars and Hungr-Busters has been owned by Elite Restaurant Group, a Los Angeles firm that owns 40 other Dairy Queens across Texas as well as the Gigi’s Cupcakes and Mimi’s Café chains. Nothing has changed on the ownership front, but what was once Coppell’s only restaurant is under new management.
On Jan. 13, a Lufkin resident named Misti Evans posted in the “I ❤️ 75019” group on Facebook that her “district” had just taken over our Dairy Queen. She encouraged prospective “team leads,” cooks, and cashiers to apply for jobs via LonestarDQ.com.
I stopped by during the afternoon of Jan. 20 to get more details, but the front door was locked. This was the second time in the past six months that I’ve been stymied by a locked door there in broad daylight, when any reasonable customer would expect a Dairy Queen to be open.
On Jan. 21, a woman named April Garner said in the “I ❤️ 75019” group that she was looking to hire managers for our Dairy Queen, including a general manager. Garner’s post included an email address, so I contacted her on Thursday. She immediately called me and explained that she is a “market lead” for Lonestar DQ, while Evans is a temporary supervisor who relocated from southeast Texas until a permanent GM can be hired. Garner also had a solid explanation for why the door was locked on Jan. 20: The entire staff had quit.
Despite that setback, Garner said our Dairy Queen is now open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and she hopes to expand those hours to 10 p.m. by tomorrow.
• In last week’s edition, I asked subscribers to tell me if I missed any local meeting spaces in my “Plans for Banquet Hall Get Derailed” article. Multiple commenters pointed out that I neglected to mention the Coppell Senior and Community Center. Coincidentally, that will be the venue for a “community conversation” on Tuesday evening about the future of Old Town Coppell.
• Tuesday is the deadline for local businesses to apply for $10,000 from the Coppell Business Rent/Mortgage Assistance Grant Program and $5,000 from the Coppell Business Revenue Recovery Assistance Grant Program. (See “Lots of Free Cash Remains Unclaimed” in the Oct. 16 edition.) You can click here to see which businesses have already received said grants, which were financed by federal funds the city got under the American Rescue Plan Act.
• Last Tuesday morning, Coppell ISD’s social media accounts congratulated the Coppell High School cheerleaders for finishing second in a National Cheerleaders Association competition. The prior evening, the Board of Trustees voted to report the cheerleaders’ former coach, Charlotte Alexis Irons, to the State Board for Educator Certification because she did not have “good cause” to abandon her employment contract.
• Here’s a quick summary of last night’s Coppell Chamber of Commerce Members’ Choice Awards. DFW International Airport, AlphaGraphics of Irving, and Hemingway Brunch were named the Large Business of the Year, the Small Business of the Year, and the Emerging Business of the Year, respectively. I don’t understand the difference between Volunteer of the Year and Ambassador of the Year, but I don’t need to, because Realtor Kathy Shafer won both awards.
• As teased in the Jan. 1 edition (“Deposit Fee Instituted for Party Trailer”), the City of Coppell now offers a Tool Lending Trailer that service organizations, neighborhood groups, and homeowners associations can reserve for a weekend in exchange for a refundable $100 deposit.
• The City of Coppell announced that Kent Collins has been promoted to the position of Deputy City Manager. He has been the Director of Public Works since 2018, and his resume includes five years as Flower Mound’s Assistant Town Manager. Collins replaces Vicki Chiavetta, who retired last week.
• Sushi Sakana — a chain with locations in Dallas, Plano, and Southlake — will take over the Coppell space recently vacated by Zena Sushi, according to a form filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
Mamma Mia! The Coppell High School Cowboy Theatre Company will stage four more performances of the ABBA-inspired musical — at 2:30 p.m. today, at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 5. Check out this preview produced by KCBY.
Coffee and Connection: Coppell ISD’s Intervention Services Department invites all parents of students with disabilities to network at George Coffee + Provisions between 9 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Cyber Threat Awareness: New Tech High senior Maya Mata will discuss how to protect yourself and your devices from online threats at 4 p.m. on Friday at George Coffee + Provisions.
State of the City: Mayor Wes Mays will review the 2023 vision for our fair suburb during a luncheon scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 9 at the Coppell Arts Center.
Coppell Lions Club Pancake Breakfast: The 36th annual fundraiser is scheduled from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 at the First United Methodist Church of Coppell. Tickets are $5 per person, with $20 being the maximum charge for a family.
Dyslexia Awareness Day: Coppell ISD senior Samantha Saenz will discuss how she overcame her struggles with dyslexia at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 11 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons. The event will also feature a panel discussion, activity stations, snacks, and prizes.
Texas Black History: Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, Deputy Director of the African American Museum in Dallas, will discuss why we celebrate Black History Month at 2 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
The Odd Couple: Theatre Coppell will stage nine performances of Neil Simon’s classic comedy starting on Feb. 17 at the Coppell Arts Center.
Regional Neighborhood Summit: I’d never seen Coppell, Flower Mound, and Lewisville collectively labeled as the “Tri-Cities” until I saw a promo for this event scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon on Feb. 18 at Life Safety Park.
Frost Fest: This free festival for families will feature a variety of snowy activities, no matter what the actual weather looks like on Feb. 18. It’s scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Levy Event Plaza in Las Colinas.
Thank you for keeping us informed!
Hmm? I like your thinking Dan! It’s definitely “a can of worms” the City & CISD should consider! I agree with the fire chief’s logical proposal to return a fire station to Moore Rd so that the department can better serve residents within that (very built out) eastern sector of Coppell. Lastly, I attended Pinkerton Elem 50 years ago and fondly remember my favorite teacher- Mrs. Clayton, 3rd grade🍎. It would be a loss to Coppell seeing it shuttered away- I believe it’s worth saving for a variety of good reasons.