Written by Phil Cerroni
Party honors Barbara S. Austin Elementary School’s 25 years of excellence
By Sissy Courtney
Barbara S. Austin Elementary School in Coppell celebrated its 25th year Sep. 13 with an old fashioned birthday party complete with cake, sack races, face painting, and its namesake, Barbara S. Austin.
Ms. Austin was guest of honor at the party and said what it meant to her to have her name given to the school.
“It was the biggest surprise of my life – it was the biggest prize of my life,” Austin said. “I’d been on the school board for years and years, and we were building this school. I had no idea what we were going to name it, and it was just a big shock to me when they announced it at a school board meeting. The other board members got together and decided to give it my name, and it was just overwhelming.
A resident of Coppell for 35 years, Ms. Austin retired and moved to Cedar Creek Lake in East Texas.
“The (25) years have gone by very fast,” Ms. Austin said. “I’ve enjoyed retirement, but I always love to come back. Coppell is very near and dear.”
Two of the school’s original teachers are still on staff, Beth Cook and Gay Dobdcka, and they were also honored at the party. Most of the school board members attended, and Superintendent Jeff Turner was also there.
“I think it’s an outstanding opportunity for us to celebrate in Coppell,” Turner said. “We have a community that really has grown around the schools, and the schools and the city have a joint relationship. Austin is one of our older elementary schools in terms of this footprint. We have eight of them just like thi,s and Austin I think was one of the first.
“We’ve been really successful here,” Turner said. “These kids are some of the best kids they you’ll find in the State of Texas, and we have a great staff here, so we’re just really excited about bringing the community back and celebrating the birthday.” This is Turner’s 11th year in Coppell.
Laurie O’Neill has served as principal at Austin Elementary for four years.
“It’s an amazing school; it’s been 25 years of just pure excellence at this campus,” O’Neill said. She said she is starting to meet some of the next generations coming through the school.
“They’ve got great stories to share with us, and it’s great to hear the history of the school as well as to share with them what we’re doing now. There’s a lot of history in this building; there’s a lot of history that’s been told. This school is excellent simply because the people who have come through these doors have made it what it is today.”
Former student Jenny Mitchell attended Austin 25 years ago and has two children attending, Alana in fifth grade and Ashton in second.
“It feels weird,” Mitchell said. “My daughter had the same fourth grade teacher that I did; we both had Ms. Kelham.” Mitchell works as a dental assistant and has a toddler who will attend Austin in a few years.
Barbara S. Austin Elementary school is located at 161 South Moore Road.