By Thomas Hair
Online Copy Editor
By the time the average Coppell student nears the end of high school, they feel like they have been here forever. No student, however, can even begin to compare to the time Donna Carpenter has invested at Coppell High School.
Carpenter has lived in Coppell for 28 years, first moving here to teach Culinary Arts at Flower Mound Marcus High School in 1984. In 1987, Carpenter took time off from teaching to raise her two sons – Colin (Class of 2007) and Craig (Class of 2005), but returned to her career in 1997 when she began teaching apparel and design classes at CHS. Carpenter has been a proud Cowgirl ever since.
“Once you come into a place like Coppell High School, being here for that long is wonderful,” Career and Technologies (CTE) teacher Becky Richards said. “Longevity at the same high school is great. I think it says a lot for your integrity and a lot for your teaching ability that they have that much faith in you.”
Her sheer dedication to the lives of Coppell students is difficult to match. Even when not employed by the district, Carpenter was volunteering at Coppell schools as many as 20 hours per week.
It was this dedication that swiftly earned Carpenter promotions and accolades during her time at CHS. She quickly became the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department head, and in 2006 was promoted to CTE Coordinator of the Coppell ISD.
“[Carpenter] has had a very rich and rewarding career with CHS and CISD,” Assistant Superintendent and former CHS Principal Brad Hunt said. “Mrs. Carpenter was the Teacher of the Year for Coppell High School in 2006 and really put her mark on the school in a very positive way. She has been an active part of the Coppell community for many, many years.”
However, as the old adage proclaims, all good things must come to an end. After nearly three decades in Coppell, Carpenter will be trading in her cowboy boots for good and moving to Denver.
Carpenter has already tendered her resignation to the school board. Although the timeframe is currently undefined, Carpenter has announced that she will likely depart sometime in April.
Carpenter’s husband, Rex Carpenter, is pursuing a job opportunity in Denver. An architect with international firm HKS Inc., Rex Carpenter has been designing play areas for critically ill patients at the Children’s Hospital for almost 10 years as part of country music legend Garth Brook’s organization, Teammates For Kids.
“What Teammates does is it takes athletes and teaches them how to be philanthropic because they have these wonderful, wonderful salaries that they are paid to play sports,” Donna Carpenter said. “Teammates has [athletes] pledge based on their athletic statistics. Garth works with people like my husband to bring in corporate donors.”
In the past, Rex Carpenter’s contributions to Teammates For Kids had been completely voluntarily. In a few months’ time, however, he will be paid as director of the organization’s Denver office. Rex Carpenter will also continue his work as an architect for HKS, as the firm is opening a new office in Denver as well.
After 28 years in Coppell, Donna Carpenter is excited about the change in scenery from Coppell to Denver and what it will entail.
“I am going to live in a high rise-condo on the 25th floor overlooking the mountains, and I’m no longer going to be my own pool boy,” Donna Carpenter said. “I’m looking forward to a little time to decide if I’m going to work on my Ph. D or what I’m going to do. I’m still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.”
As much as Carpenter is ready for a change, tearing herself away from Coppell after being cemented here for so long will be difficult.
“It’s going to be hard because this is my home. There are never times when I go to the grocery store that I don’t see people that I know,” Donna Carpenter said. “I’m going to be in Denver and I won’t know people like I do in Coppell.”
As much as she will miss Coppell, it is likely that Coppell will miss her diligence and vision far more.
“I’ll just miss her. She has always been a stabilizing factor at this school,” Richards said. “Coppell is always on the cutting-edge and she’s made sure that we strive to be that way. I think we’ll have a huge loss when she leaves .”
In her years as a Cowgirl, Carpenter accomplished far more than the ordinary teacher. Only a few years after her arrival at CHS, she pioneered the Teen Leadership program. More recently, she helped establish the Red Jackets and played an integral role in the formation of the CTE Academies (EMAC, PSA, STEM) and their continued success.
“She did so much with the engineering academy and the solar car and is really supportive of what’s happening in CTE classes,” Hunt said. “She’s a risk-taker, she’s visionary, and she just has a real heart for education and for kids. You can see her fingerprints all over that building.”
More than anything else, Carpenter will leave behind a legacy of creating an educational environment where students can gain-real world experience.
“I hope that I’ve helped grow purposeful education here, so that kids know why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Carpenter said. “My passion and purpose is that we provide programs while you’re in high school so you have a better understanding of how what you’re doing relates to what you’re going to do in college and in your career. That’s important, that’s why I love what I do.”
As CTE coordinator in the past few years, Carpenter has had great opportunities to establish purposeful education. In her current job for the district, manages all the funds in the CTE Department and organizes business partnerships. It will be difficult to replace her once she finalizes her family’s move to Denver.
“That’s still in negotiations,” Hunt said. “They’re still looking at different options to try to make sure all of her roles and responsibilities are covered. So that has not been finalized.”
Carpenter is looking at her relocation as a grand adventure and a chance to re-invent herself.
“I’m looking forward to an adventure,” Carpenter said. “Everyone needs to change what they do, and it’s time for me to change. I just hope they let me come back and visit.”