Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 49
Coppell ISD Sees No Need for Chaplains • Districts Approve Calendars for 2024-2025 • Council Greenlights Revised Memorial Plan • Irving Official Drops Big Hint About H-E-B
When I worked at The Dallas Morning News, my final boss was hired into that position from outside the company. To help him steer clear of social blunders, I gave him a list of all the married couples in the newsroom who had different last names. That list had at least 25 couples on it.
I thought about that list after I sent out last week’s edition, which began with an analysis of the campaign finance reports filed by the candidates in Texas House District 115. In that article, I reported that Kate Rumsey’s campaign received a $1,000 contribution from Coppell attorney David Thompson. When I published that fact, I didn’t know that Thompson is Rumsey’s husband.
Coppell ISD Sees No Need for Chaplains
Although the Texas Legislature had four special sessions after its 2023 regular session, no bills advanced that would provide public schools with a piece of the state’s $32 billion surplus. Yet our elected officials in Austin somehow found time to pass a new law about chaplains in education.
Senate Bill 763 — which was introduced by Sen. Mayes Middleton of Galveston and signed into law by Gov. Gregg Abbott — altered the Education Code to say “a school district may employ a chaplain instead of a school counselor to perform the duties required of a school counselor.” The law also says such chaplains are not required to be certified by the State Board for Educator Certification.
Another notable aspect of the law: It requires the trustees of each school district in Texas to take a recorded vote on whether or not they will authorize their campuses to hire chaplains. Coppell ISD’s trustees unanimously said no to that question on Monday.
Board President David Caviness, who said he’s the son of a youth minister in a small town, also said chaplains aren’t necessary in Coppell ISD.
“This doesn’t add anything to what we have. We’re fully staffed,” Caviness said. He later added, “We’ve worked so hard, and we’ve employed so many, to make sure that we’re shored up in that area with trained, licensed counselors.”
Trustee Nichole Bentley agreed with that point: “There might be a place, perhaps in a really rural area, where there aren’t the services or maybe there aren’t the resources for a district, but I think we’ve been so committed to social-emotional wellness and taking care of the mental health of our students.”
Superintendent Brad Hunt pointed out that Coppell ISD has great relationships with congregations representing a variety of faiths, from Baptists and Bahá’ís to Methodists and Muslims.
“As far as needing additional support in that area, as a school district, I believe we’re in a good place,” Hunt said. “You know, if we ever were [in need], I think we could reach out to them at any time without it being an official board policy or resolution, but I know the state is requiring that boards must consider that for Senate Bill 763.”
That required consideration elicited optional commentary from a pair of trustees who thought it amounted to a bunch of horse hockey (my words, not theirs).
“The weird part of this is the bill requiring that we have to vote on it. That is so unusual,” Trustee Manish Sethi said. “That seems a very political thing to do rather than something that would help public education.”
Bentley said trustees consider very few matters as part of their normal operations that involve recorded votes mandated by the state government.
“It just feels a little bit like a bit of cat and mouse going on,” Bentley said. “I have no problem going on the record saying that.”
The trustees in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, which includes portions of Coppell and Irving, will consider chaplains this Thursday. Trustees in two of Coppell ISD’s other neighboring districts — Irving ISD and Lewisville ISD — have not yet scheduled their votes, but they must do so by March 1.
The trustees in our remaining neighbor, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, considered chaplains on Dec. 11, when they voted 6-1 to allow them. (Becky St. John dissented.) A week later, trustees in Southlake’s Carroll ISD also voted in favor of chaplains, 5-0; Eric Lannen missed that vote, and one of Carroll ISD’s seven board seats is vacant.
Districts Approve Calendars for 2024-2025
Coppell ISD trustees approved calendars for the next two school years on Monday. The vote was unanimous, but Leigh Walker’s enthusiasm was singular.
“I love calendar adoption day! I love this. It’s so awesome,” Walker said, inspiring giggles from most of her fellow trustees as well as Superintendent Brad Hunt. “I love the process. I love the options. I love everything!”
Assistant Superintendent Kristen Eichel laid out the process, which began in October with input from the District Educational Improvement Committee, as well as the PTO presidents, and culminated with a community survey in December.
Nearly 3,150 people participated in the survey, which featured three calendar options. Here are some highlights of the option favored by most respondents and approved by the trustees for 2024-2025:
The first day of school will be a Wednesday, Aug. 14, and the last day will be a Thursday, May 22. The high schools’ graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Friday, May 23.
The last day of the fall semester will be a Thursday, Dec. 19, and the first day of the spring semester will be a Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Spring break will be March 17-21 to align with Dallas College’s schedule, because some students take dual-credit classes there.
All schools will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 5, which is Election Day.
As someone who loves education, voting, and democracy in general, my heart broke when Eichel explained the primary reason for closing schools on Election Day, when several campuses will serve as polling places.
“We had received input from families that didn’t feel it was safe to send their students to school,” Eichel said. “We’ve had some staff that [also] had those considerations.”
I didn’t know that school districts cannot opt out of elections duty, but Board President David Caviness said it’s non-negotiable: “We don’t have an option when the county comes to us and says they want to use your facility.”
Although there will be no classes on that Tuesday, students will be expected at school on Monday, Nov. 4. One of the rejected calendar options featured a four-day weekend in early November, but Eichel said a survey of other districts that have closed on only Election Day revealed no significant attendance drops on the prior Monday.
However, significant attendance drops are one of the reasons the approved calendar includes no half-days before breaks. Apparently, a lot of families turned those half-days into full days off.
Coppell ISD was the last of Coppell’s three school districts to approve its 2024-2025 calendar. Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD students will start their year on Monday, Aug. 12. They will have the same spring break as Coppell ISD students, but they will also enjoy a full week off in October (Oct. 14-18). Their final day of school will be Thursday, May 22.
Lewisville ISD students will start school on Tuesday, Aug. 13, and go to class through Friday, May 23. The final day of each semester will be a half-day, as will their final day before spring break. Their spring break will be March 10-14, which aligns with the University of North Texas.
Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and Lewisville ISD will join Coppell ISD in closing their campuses on Election Day.
Council Greenlights Revised Memorial Plan
When the Coppell City Council saw three possible designs for a veterans memorial last month, they favored the simplest and cheapest option. But they weren’t crazy about how its six towers matched the obelisk in Town Center Plaza.
(See “Council Likes Simplest Design for Vets Plaza” in Vol. 3, No. 45)
On Tuesday, Director of Community Experiences Jessica Carpenter showed the council two revised concepts for their favored design. Concept A features six panels made of frosted and tempered glass. Each one would bear an etched seal for a branch of the military, and it would be internally lit with that branch’s official color. The panels would be 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide.
The memorial’s rear wall would be 50 feet wide and 12 feet tall. That wall would be anchored by a pin-mounted, stainless-steel flag that would be backlit.
“This design would be very, very vibrant in both the daytime and the nighttime, allowing the space to be activated and used, and kind of a different experience based on what time of the day that you’re there,” Carpenter said.
Concept B features the same rear wall, but the glass panels would be replaced by six 15-foot towers made with the same sort of stone used on the obelisk. Each tower would feature an 8-foot backlit panel made of perforated metal.
Carpenter was seeking a consensus from the council on Tuesday, and they undoubtedly told her to proceed with Concept A. Olsson Studio will now get to work on finalizing that concept so the project can be put out to bid. Carpenter said the estimated cost is in the ballpark of $875,000.
Irving Official Drops Big Hint About H-E-B
Three weeks ago, I speculated that Dallas County’s first H-E-B grocery store might be built in the Irving portion of Coppell ISD, specifically on a vacant tract along Interstate 635. If you missed that article, get caught up here:
That Jan. 7 article ended with the fact that the Irving City Council would have the final say on a request to allow a restaurant with alcohol sales on the site. The council unanimously approved that zoning change on Thursday evening, but comments made during their work session on Thursday afternoon were far more interesting to this reporter.
The comments came from Council Member Al Zapanta, whose district includes the vacant tract. Zapanta obviously wanted to spill the beans when discussing the case but couldn’t bring himself to utter those three magic letters: H-E-B. Watch how he responded to a question from Council Member Brad LaMorgese:
This is my first attempt to insert a video into the Chronicle. Just in case it didn’t work, Zapanta said this “major development … may be a grocery store that will have a barbecue restaurant inside of it.”
Oh, really? Hmm. That sounds a lot like the four H-E-B stores that have opened in Collin and Denton counties recently, each of which features an eatery called True Texas BBQ where diners can enjoy beer with their brisket.
During Thursday’s formal meeting, the developer of this top-secret project was represented by Joe LaCroix, a civil engineer with Fort Worth-based Baird, Hampton & Brown. LaCroix declined to reveal any details when I contacted him a few weeks ago, and he was just as tight-lipped on Thursday when answering a question from LaMorgese.
“The restaurant will be located within kind of the shaded area there, inside the retail center,” LaCroix said, as this schematic was displayed:
Before making the motion to approve the zoning change, Zapanta said this to LaCroix with a smile on his face: “I do appreciate what you all are going for, and I know we’re somewhat under a — I guess I want to call it an NDA of who that really is gonna be.”
In case you’re not aware, an NDA is a non-disclosure agreement. You and I don’t have an NDA about H-E-B, so I’m AOK with you sharing this article, FYI.
• There are plenty of places to grab a cup of joe in Coppell, including Gas Coffee, George Coffee + Provisions, Liberation Coffee Co., and — of course — Starbucks. But do any of those joints sell Yemeni coffee?
Sayfani Yemeni Coffee House is taking over the space in Valley Ranch Plaza that was briefly (if ever) the home of Mama Bear Cafe. Meanwhile, the leasing flyer for that shopping center on the southwest corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Belt Line Road indicates a vacant space a few doors down will soon be occupied by Singas Famous Pizza. That would be a second new pizza parlor at the same property. Just around the corner, Bombay Curry Pizza has scheduled a “grand tasting event” for next weekend.
• Five Guys is now serving burgers and fries in the Irving portion of Coppell ISD, specifically on the southwest corner of Interstate 635 and Belt Line Road.
• Charleys Cheesesteaks will sell you Philly-style sandwiches with no apostrophes at 413 E. Round Grove Road in Lewisville.
• When Portillo’s opened its first Texas location in The Colony last January, Chicago natives around these parts lost their minds. The hot-dog-centric chain is reportedly eyeing a spot along the convergence of State Highways 114 and 121 in Grapevine.
• On Jan. 11, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees gave Superintendent Wendy Eldredge a 3 percent raise and extended her contract by one year through March of 2027. She was hired last March.
“We just want to extend our appreciation to you for your efforts over the last several months,” Board President Cassandra Hatfield told Eldredge before the 6-0 vote. (Trustee Tara Hrbacek was absent.) “We are excited about the future of the district. We believe in the work that you’re doing to support our continuous improvement model, and we are looking forward to continuing to work together.”
We may never know who anonymously accused Eldredge of making racial comments about Black and Hispanic students last summer, but it’s safe to say that person’s complaint did not have the desired effect.
• At least 100 people converged on The REC of Grapevine last Tuesday for a forum featuring Sam Eppler of Dallas and Francine Ly of Irving. They’re the candidates competing for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District 24, which encompasses most of Coppell and is currently represented by Republican Beth Van Duyne of Irving. When the forum’s moderator asked, by a show of hands, if anybody in the room was from Coppell, my raised hand was awfully lonely. The proceedings were supposedly recorded, but technical difficulties have prevented the video from being made available yet. I’ll let you know if that changes.
• A pair of Dallas County volunteer deputy registrars will be at Coppell High School on Wednesday to register new voters during the lunch periods. If you want to vote in the March 5 primaries, you must register by Feb. 5.
• Attention, pickleball and badminton players: The gym at The CORE will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday while its curtain is replaced.
• Shreenathdham Haveli, the Hindu temple on Sandy Lake Road, hosted a blood drive on Saturday. I’m told 42 donors — including City Council members John Jun, Biju Mathew, and Kevin Nevels, plus council candidate Ramesh Premkumar — rolled up their sleeves and gave a collective 30 pints to Carter BloodCare.
• Three weeks ago, I reported that the Coppell High School swimming and diving team’s practice time had been severely curtailed because the Coppell YMCA’s pool was out of commission. (See “Pump Problem Temporarily Displaces Swimmers” in Vol. 3, No. 46.) That makes it even more impressive that the team won an array of accolades at the district meet this weekend.
• The City of Coppell’s latest auction of surplus and impounded items will end at noon on Tuesday. The sale includes a variety of vehicles, an Apple watch, a desk lamp, a pin and a challenge coin from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, and a Schecter Diamond Series guitar in an alluring shade of green.
• There’s a private Facebook group called “Coppell, Texas” that allows people to seek guidance from their neighbors on topics of local interest. This may be one of the most important questions ever posed in that group:
I informed this inquiring individual that my partners at Stripe would soon be charging $30 to her credit card on file, just as they did in each of the previous two years. If you’re a free subscriber who’d like to receive this newsletter on a weekly basis instead of getting it just once a month, now would be a great time to upgrade to a paid subscription.
Be Your Own Boss: Want to learn how to start your own business? Justin Runyon of Runyon Coffee and Kevin Henderson of SMB Law Group will discuss their entrepreneurial journeys at 2 p.m. today at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
9 to 5: At 2:30 p.m. today, Coppell High School’s Cowboy Theatre Company will present one more performance of Dolly Parton’s musical based on the 1980 film.
Coppell High School basketball doubleheader: The Cowgirls and Cowboys basketball teams will both play at home on Tuesday. The varsity girls are scheduled to tip off at 6:15, followed by the varsity boys at 7:30. I said last week this would be Senior Night for both teams, but the boys’ Senior Night will actually be a week later. Nonetheless, let’s jam the gym, folks!
KCBY Film Festival: Productions by Coppell ISD students will be showcased at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Coppell High School auditorium.
Coppell Republican Women: Melanie Grammar will share practical steps to engage locally in government at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Caregiving Heroes: The support group for people who are assisting loved ones with aging or other concerns will meet at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the library of First United Methodist Church.
Coppell Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards & Community Gala: The theme for this event is “A Night in Paris,” but it will actually be a night in Grapevine — specifically the Embassy Suites on Bass Pro Drive — starting at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Be Mine Valentine Dance: The Coppell Arts Center will host an event for dads and daughters at 5 p.m. on Feb. 4. Registration is required.
Community Summit: Coppell civic and service organizations are invited to share details about their missions and plans for 2024 between 6 and 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons. RSVP via the link.
Coppell Lions Club Pancake Breakfast: The annual fundraiser will happen from 8 to 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 10 at First United Methodist Church. Tickets are $5 for individuals or $20 for families. That price gets you all the pancakes, biscuits and gravy, sausage patties, coffee, juice, and milk you want.
Caribbean Nights Gala: The Coppell Arts Center Foundation will host an event featuring a buffet dinner, casino games, and live entertainment. Wear your best “resort cocktail attire” to the Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10.
House District 115 Candidates Forum: Scarlett Cornwallis, Cassandra Hernandez, and Kate Rumsey are the Democratic candidates in House District 115, which encompasses the vast majority of Coppell; John Jun is the lone Republican candidate. They have all been invited to an education-focused forum at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the Coppell Arts Center.