“CHS has always been my heart”


Sidekick File Photo

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer has worked in Coppell ISD for 37 years. For her service, she was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29.

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer’s office is messy. It has Coppell shirts strewn over the worn couch and a blinking monitor with emails waiting for replies. Her office phone rings nonstop and the chairs surrounding the large center table are hastily pushed in. It isn’t the typical high school principal’s office.

But Springer isn’t most principals. The office is more of a stopping point; a necessary closed off space to hold meetings but not much else. You’d be much more likely to find her in the hallways of CHS than in her office, stopping and chatting with a student or member of her staff, or at a Coppell ISD event outside school hours, watching and cheering along with the parents on the sidelines.

“Most principals are very different from me,” Springer said. “They like to sit in their office, make executive decisions and rule over a school. I think this is our school; it’s not just my school, so I want to use the time I have here to get out of this office and go find my kids and get to know them and make sure they know I love and respect them.”

As such, she begins every day with a prayer: “Lord, send me somebody that needs to be told they’re loved, somebody that needs somebody to believe in them, send me that kid today. Let me make a difference in their world. I want to love with a love people understand is unconditional. I don’t need you to pass all your classes for me to love you, I need you to realize because you showed up in this building you are someone I am going to love.”

Whether Springer is talking about Coppell, which was a “one horse town” when she arrived, pronouncing biology without the “I” or calling you by your name at every possible opportunity, you would think she was a Texan through and through. Yet her Southern attitude toward forming relationships and hospitality come from Mississippi, her birth place, and Tennessee, where she moved at age 8. She would later return to play college basketball at Mississippi State.

Coppell High School ’18 graduate Cole Bryant hugs CMS East Principal Laura Springer. For her 37 years of service in Coppell ISD, Springer was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29. (Courtesy CMS East Yearbook Staff)

“I got a scholarship to Mississippi State and we were very poor,” Springer said. “There was no way I was going to make it to college without a scholarship so I worked really hard to perfect my game as much as I could. I was lucky to have a college scholarship or I don’t know what I would have done, to be honest.”

Basketball was Springer’s ticket out of a childhood that housed more than sports and joy. Growing up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father, Springer never felt safe.

“My father was a mean alcoholic,” Springer said. “I watched him beat my brother and sister a lot, and for some reason, because I was small, he didn’t beat me. But it was worse watching him do that to them. It was scary and he would come in and at times, he would come in and he was so drunk he was shooting [a gun]. We learned how to crawl out a window and go hide in the woods until he sobered up. I grew up not feeling very safe; feeling like at any minute, you could go.” 

After divorcing her father, Springer’s mother, Margie, Springer’s older brother Sunny and older sister Myra were left without a stable income or source of food. Squirrels, rabbits and deer became regular meals, caught by Sunny, who became a hunter and fisherman out of necessity. In a day and age where women did not work, Margie struggled to find a job to support her family. Springer herself got her first job at 12 as a basketball referee for YMCA games, helping pay whatever was necessary to keep the lights and heat on. 

Her family and childhood is what she credits for her mindset and success today. She sees work ethic as vital, as well as faith, in whatever shape it comes.

“I’m a very simple person,” Springer said. “I believe that you get out of this world with what you put into it. If you’re going to be negative every day, you’re going to surround yourself with negative people and all you’re going to see are the clouds in the sky. I just wanted to make sure that I surrounded myself with others who saw the good in others, so I saw the positive in life.”

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer has worked in Coppell ISD for 37 years. For her service, she was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29. (Nandini Muresh )

Sunny did more than feed Springer. He was also the one to spark her love for basketball. Five years older than her and looking for a partner in crime, he taught his tagalong sister all the games he wanted to play, including basketball – one that would change her life. 

When at West Side High School, Springer wanted to become an EMT due to her love for biological sciences. But Randy Simmons, her high school basketball coach in Memphis, changed her mind, and she hoped to follow in his footsteps, helping athletes on their way to the future as he helped her get a college scholarship. Majoring in physical education with a minor in science, Springer later added on health and adaptive physical education, both which would later align with her priorities at CHS.

At Mississippi State, Springer met Beth Wright, her primary inspiration for her teaching philosophy, an English teacher who became like family. After failing an initial class essay, Wright offered to mentor Springer, and shape her into a writer. Over the next four years, she guided her in academics and life, attending every home basketball game, and on her graduation day, Springer told her that she would pay it forward.

“I want to be the kind of teacher that sees somebody in need and helps them with whatever they need to become successful in their life,” Springer said. “I told her that I’m going to be what you have taught me to be, somebody who helps kids and loves them and sees the good in them and not the bad.”

She got her first coaching job in San Angelo, Texas after college. There, she met a former Grapevine Principal Skip Casey who informed her of the open head girls basketball position at CHS, encouraging her to head to Dallas-Fort Worth, an area of growth in population and innovation. When she first arrived at CHS as head girls basketball coach in 1985, Cowboys weren’t only a mascot; they were the demographic of her students. 

“When I got here it was just a little country town,” Springer said. “Our kids wore cowboy hats and boots to school, our girls all wore boots and skirts and we were really country. There was nothing around here. It was like an isolated little oasis off of Dallas. As we grew, we changed that. We were Cowgirls and Cowboys but we didn’t dress like Cowgirls and Cowboys anymore. It grew and grew and grew and now we’re busting at the seams.”

We were Cowgirls and Cowboys but we didn’t dress like Cowgirls and Cowboys anymore.

— CHS Principal Laura Springer

Girls basketball coach was the first of many hats Springer would wear for CISD. She taught biology, health, driver’s education and became an assistant principal at CHS before being named principal of Coppell Middle School East. 

“She has a big, big heart, she’s crazy funny and has a wonderful sense of humor,” Coppell ISD Superintendent Dr. Brad Hunt said. “Springer is someone who knows people’s names, which is real[ly] important in high school to know who the kids are, but it goes deeper than that. She knows what their needs are, she knows who they are as people, she knows their parents. Her understanding of what it means to give back, be a servant and leader, really hones the relationships she has at CHS.”

Leaving CHS to become principal at CMSE in 2006 was a hard decision in more than one way. She would, of course, have less student interaction as a full-time administrator, which was the very reason she moved away from coaching: to impact a larger group of students. 

But what cemented Springer’s decision was the slew of tragedies occurring at CHS related to drugs and alcohol.

“There were a lot of kids committing suicide, there were a lot of kids with drug problems that overdosed,” Springer said. “I love kids, the number one thing I care about is them being safe and successful. I thought I needed to go down to the middle school level and see if I can help kids not start drugs and alcohol. Give them a firmer foundation of character and a value system so they realize this is a trail that’s coming at you and you’ve got to veer from it because it will take away your life.”

Establishing the FISH! philosophy (choose your attitude, play, make their day, present moment)  and her famous trait of knowing every student’s name, Springer began her legendary tenure at CMSE.

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer gives a student a gift for East Santa. For her 37 years of service in Coppell ISD, she was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29. (Courtesy CMS East Yearbook Staff)

“When she was named high school principal, the East kids all freaked out and we were all so excited,” CHS senior Katy Kryzak said. “The [Coppell Middle School West and Coppell Middle School North] kids were like ‘why are you guys so excited?’ We were like ‘just wait. She’s the best person ever, and you just have to experience it.”

Spending 12 years at CMSE, she built her staff to precise specifications, each instilled with the philosophy she hoped to carry through CISD: love the kids. She would soon leave her beloved East with glowing reviews. 

“I just always knew that her heart was at Coppell High School and she had a long history there and had such an influence there,” said Hunt, who worked alongside Springer as a teacher and administrator. “We wanted her at CHS: someone who has such a heart for kids, someone who knows this district, someone who understands how it all works, someone who had been at the middle school, since it’s important to know where kids are coming from to know where they’re going to.”

Springer returned as principal of CHS for the 2019-20 school year.

“We just had the best time together [at CMSE],” Springer said. “But CHS has always been my heart, so I thought ‘OK, I want to go home.’ I came back to bring some stuff here. [The] culture needed to change here. We were all about business and we forgot that we each should be loving each other, caring about each other, respecting each other, so I decided I would come here.”

She came to CHS along with the first class of freshmen from CHS9, many of whom had just left CMSE a year prior. According to Hunt, the addition of the secondary campus furthered his selection of Springer for CHS principal. He knew there would need to be close collaboration and a strong leader at the flagship campus to support CHS9. She brought along with her some staff, including CHS science teacher Jodie Deinhammer. 

Deinhammer went to CMSE to work under Springer after working under her at CHS. Deinhammer then returned to CHS when Springer became principal.

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer has worked in Coppell ISD for 37 years. For her service, she was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29. Sidekick File Photo

“I knew I would like her immediately when I first met her,” Deinhammer said. “She works to make everybody feel important; she’s always looking out for everyone’s best interests. I like the environment that she creates. She’s brought a lot of unity to the staff and to the students. She brings a lot of pride. For a long time this school had a ton of student pride and student spirit and then it went away for a while but it’s coming back as we see kids that are just happy to be here and love their school.”

Students know her for supporting them through their disciplinary action and taking a personal interest in their time in in-school suspension. Learning, as well as working under Springer is said to be a different experience than other principals, one that holds a different culture. CHS assistant principal Chris Gollner, having known Springer for 17 years, considers her to be a second mother to him and everyone at CHS.

“She brings in that family atmosphere to the high school,” Gollner said. “She’ll tell you like it is. She’ll pick you up when something happens and make sure to love you and take care of you. She’ll also kick you in the butt to make sure you’re doing what you need to do. Those belly-aching laughs and sarcasm are what I’ll always remember her for. Education is a hard job, especially now, and those are what really get you through the hard times. I thrive off her sarcasm, which may not always be a great thing, but she has an art with it.”

CHS is known for its competitive and often cutthroat academics, an environment Springer calls “brutal” for mental health. Springer attempted to combat this by only ranking the top 10 percent of students. 

“I want you to have friendships, I want you to go do things and experience being a teenager,” Springer said. “Enjoy this stretch of the road. These ninth through 12th grade years are yours, your time to enjoy, to experiment, to go and look and decide what you want to do and who you want to be.”

She also brought along her focus on mental health, as well as drug and alcohol usage prevention, a topic she promotes with the feverence of someone who has experienced it personally. 

Coppell High School Principal Laura Springer has worked in Coppell ISD for 37 years. For her service, she was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29. (Angelina Liu)

“I’ve lost a very good friend, and watched some die right in front of me from an alcoholic driver that came from the wrong side of the road and hit us head on,” Springer said. “It’s a horrible thing to have to be a part of and it made me realize I’ve got to talk to kids. It takes an instant to take away somebody else’s life or to give up your own. I’ve had so many kids come through school and get caught in drugs and watched them change from a vibrant beautiful young adult to someone so addicted they don’t even care for themselves. It’s just heartbreaking.”

Setting a tone of helping with these mental health issues, those that come in all shapes and sizes, is another goal. In that striving for a cultural shift is what most credit Springer for: a changing environment, one healthier for students and staff, and a place people are happy to go. However, until this year, Springer had not served as principal for a full in-person year at CHS due to COVID-19.

“Even with these recent interruptions, Springer has never faltered,” Gollner said. “If she could hug everyone, she would, and she does. You’re never going to stop her loving. She wanted every kid in the building, of course safely, so she could love them and take care of them. While tough decisions are being made or being provided to you, Springer keeps it together and looks at it like ‘we’re a family, we’re going to get through this.’”

Springer, for these accomplishments and dedication, integrity and honorable service, was awarded the Cliff Long Leadership Award on Jan. 29.While grateful, her response to the award was a glorified “aw, shucks” and compliments to those who won it before her. And in that perhaps, is the magic students and staff and community leaders alike have found in Springer for the last 37 years at CISD, and will certainly for many more years to come.

“I’m not going to give up on being a school that can take care of each other, love each other, respect each other.”

— CHS Principal Laura Springer

“I’m not going to give up on being a school that can take care of each other, love each other, respect each other,” Springer said. “I’m going to fight for that. We fill this building full of people from y’all keep hearing this message over and over and finally y’all will believe it and we start practicing.When we can build a culture of love, respect, care for each other, and ability to work hard and get what we want, that will be my proudest accomplishment. I’ve been blessed with so many great students and adults I’ve worked with. I hope to do this until y’all say ‘you’ve got to get out of here Ms. Springer, your job’s done.’”

Follow Anjali (@anjalikrishna) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.