Board of Trustees forum emphasizes community engagement, combats cheating


Disha Kohli

School Board place 6 candidate Nichole Bentley talks about how she wants to see the schools paying attention to all the students, not just those who are ranked or failing during the Board of Trustees Candidate Forum on Tuesday evening. School Board elections early voting will be held from April 23 to May 1 and Election Day will be on May 5.

Fiona Koshy, Editorial Page Editor

The Coppell ISD Parent-Teacher-Organization held a Board of Trustees Candidate Forum in the Coppell High School Lecture Hall on Tuesday night.


The forum covered introductions, question and answers and closing statements from each of the seven candidates running: Manish Sethi and Balki Chamkura for Place 2, Nichole Bentley, Dan Koller and Lynne Ryan for Place 6 and Tracy Fisher and Ron Hansen for Place 7.


The forum lasted an hour and a half and was moderated by Coppell High School PTO President Lisa Johnson, who was pleased to see the lecture hall nearly full with engaged citizens.


“One of the candidates talked a lot about community engagement, and I think an event like this helps you see that we’re a pretty engaged community,” Johnson said. “It always makes me feel really good when people get out and care enough about what candidates have to say.”


The audience was comprised mainly of Coppell residents, parents of Coppell ISD students and current Board of Trustees members.  


“We live and work in these communities,” Coppell resident Fred Hotz said. “Our children participate and play sports in these communities, and we believe we should support our communities and become active participants in the process.”


Not only did Hotz gain some insight into candidates, but he was informed about the issue of cheating amongst some high school students.


“The high school experience should not be only about achieving good academic standards, but also becoming good citizens and learning,” Hotz said. “There is a lot of value from learning to improve someone’s life in the long run rather than getting the scores.”


Although there is no decisions being made yet, some ideas were proposed on how to possibly limit cheating, including capping the amount of AP classes that factor into a student’s GPA for ranking or restricting students from seeing their GPA until a certain time their senior year.


“I have no doubt with community input we’re going to figure this out,” Fisher said. “We know [cheating] is a problem, and that’s 99 percent of working your way to the solution.”


Other topics were brought up regarding education. Sethi would like to see teachers being taken better care of, as he believes that the answer to many school problems comes back to how teachers are treated. Bentley believes that schools should be focusing not only on students at the top or bottom of their grade, but those in the middle.


Because Coppell is such a diverse community, Chamkura emphasized the importance of community outreach to ensure that the board represents everyone from the town. Similarly, Hansen is a firm believer that citizens should be involved in their community, especially when it comes to their children.


Despite the position on the CISD Board of Trustees being unpaid, the candidates who presented their views were full of passion and determined for change in the community.


With his experience as a journalist, Koller understands the rights people have to information and promised open communication between the board and Coppell residents.


Ryan wants to make sure that money is being spent wisely within the community, as she is aware how high taxes are for residents.


“We need to pay attention to the numbers,” Ryan said. “Are we really getting what we’re paying for?”


Place 5 on the Board, David Caviness, came to the forum to learn more about some of the people he will be serving with. With some big decisions such as rezoning coming up, Caviness is looking forward to working alongside some of these candidates.


“Just looking for candidates that have that skill set and ability not only to come in and be new and bring fresh ideas, but also know how to work within a group setting and build consensus [is] important,” Caviness said.


Caviness estimates that there was only half of the crowd at last year’s forum.


“It shows that we care,” Johnson said. “We care about education and we care about our town and each other. We want the kids to succeed.”


Early voting begins on April 23, and election day is on May 5. A Facebook livestream of the forum can be found here.


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