Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 6
Trustees Remain Open to Closing Schools • Superintendent Earns 2-Year Extension • Medians in Coppell Will Get Drier • Old Town Coppell May Get Wetter
If you were surprised to receive this email, given the format change I announced in yesterday’s bonus edition, then you’re among many subscribers who fell for that April Fools’ Day prank. Several people emailed me to lament their lack of a fax number, and some asked about a prorated refund on their subscription. My reply to each one: “Have you looked at a calendar today?”
OK, enough fun and games. We have lots of serious news to report. You may have already read about Coppell ISD Superintendent Brad Hunt’s contract extension on Facebook, where I broke that news on Tuesday morning, but the article on that topic in this edition includes a few details that I declined to upload to Meta’s data centers.
Trustees Remain Open to Closing Schools
When Coppell ISD’s $321.5 million bond package was being crafted last fall, there was a lot of sturm und drang about closing an elementary school. Although there are no plans to shutter a campus anytime soon, the district’s trustees are discussing that idea in the long term.
During their periodic budget workshops, the trustees have been trying to help the administration by ranking their priorities. One of the dozen or so items on that in-flux list is “Consider closing/repurposing underutilized campuses/facilities.” Last month, Trustee Leigh Walker wanted that concept removed from the priorities list for at least a few years.
“When we talk about these things, we have to be very intentional, because it is anxiety-inducing — to say the least — for our community,” Walker said during the trustees’ March 6 workshop. “If we truly don’t want to deal with this for the next couple of years, we have to be very loud and clear with that.”
Trustee Manish Sethi countered that a potential school closure has to remain on the table, considering that Coppell ISD has dipped into its fund balance to cover shortfalls and has more than 1,000 empty seats in its elementary schools. The district’s demographer predicted there will be nearly 1,500 empty seats by the 2028-2029 school year.
“I understand it’s creating anxiety,” Sethi said, “but so is our responsibility to our citizens, when they pay taxes, that we are frugal and we are not just spending it away because … we are afraid of discussing hard topics.”
Board President David Caviness agreed with both of them. Like Sethi, he didn’t want to take the topic off the table. But like Walker, he wanted to intentionally communicate that no campus would be closed or repurposed on short notice without justification.
“There’s a lot of dominoes that have to fall before we get there and puzzle pieces that have to move,” Caviness said.
Walker offered a caveat: “I want to say that, in my mind, we don’t close or repurpose any of our campuses — whether that’s New Tech, Pinkerton, Lakeside, you name it — we don’t even look at that for the next two to three years, comma, barring something crazy that happens.” (Yes, she said “comma” out loud.) Walker later brought up the bond election: “If our bond doesn’t pass, for instance, and we have to use M&O dollars to have basic capital investments, I mean that’s a very different story.”
M&O is an abbreviation for “maintenance & operations.” Every school district has two tax rates: the maintenance & operations rate and the interest & sinking rate (also known as the debt-service rate). If Coppell ISD voters approve any of the four bond propositions on the May 6 ballot, the interest & sinking rate will increase. This slide from the district’s bond presentation helps illustrate the difference.
The largest proposition in the bond package, the $270 million Proposition A, would cover priority condition needs at all campuses, including interior refreshes, roof repairs, new furnishings, and new playgrounds. It would also finance major renovations of three elementary schools: Austin, Lakeside, and Valley Ranch.
Getting back to the March 6 workshop, Walker eventually backed off her push to remove a potential closure from the priorities list.
“We have to not clench onto something … and say ‘never, never, never,’” she said. “But at the same time, if we’re giving direction to staff, I just want to be clear, saying that’s a very low priority for me.”
Sethi agreed that closing a campus should remain near the bottom of the list.
“This is not a near-term priority at all, but it’s something we want to be discussing all the time,” he said, “so if we have to make really hard choices, it’s a continuity of multiple years of [the] community seeing that this was really thought through.”
All articles about the bond election will be outside the Chronicle’s paywall, so feel free to help the community see this one.
Superintendent Earns 2-Year Extension
Coppell ISD Superintendent Brad Hunt received a vote of confidence from the Board of Trustees on Monday via a two-year extension of his contract, which now runs through December 2027.
That’s an interesting date. One of the things that Hunt has in common with your correspondent — besides a Dallas ISD diploma and a fondness for dad jokes — is that his youngest child should graduate from high school in 2027.