Dear Cleveland ISD community,
There are many important decisions to be made this season on the ballot. Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Cleveland ISD (CISD) School Bond, and more. Arguably, to put each in order of importance, local offices and issues come first. Voters are most likely to feel a direct impact by the leaders elected to their local government and the outcome of local propositions.
On the ballot this season is a bond for CISD. The district has seen an unprecedented amount of population growth, the latest descriptive term to be used by CISD, TEA, and Austin is “hypergrowth.” At the end of the 2017 school year, enrollment was less than 5,000. As of October 2022, enrollment is nearly 12,000.
In an ideal world, boundary lines would be adjusted, and surrounding districts would help relieve the pressure. This isn’t an ideal world and it’s certainly not that simple. Surrounding districts would each need to vote to move the lines. Considering that these districts are also experiencing growing strains, moving boundary lines is not a real option.
Many voters feel frustrated or even duped by CISD after the last request for a bond. In fall 2021, the district had a bond on the ballot that was advertised thru meetings and signage as a “Zero Tax Increase.” Sounds great, right? Voters showed up to vote only to read on the ballot “This is a property tax increase.”
Let’s face it, nobody wants to pay more, in a good or bad economy. The claim of a “Zero Tax Increase” is that tax rates won’t go up. The current CISD tax rate is $1.2118, the rate will not go up with the passing of this bond. The district can only raise the rate with voter approval. The appraised value for your property will go up, a determination made by county appraisers.
There are many that don’t understand why a middle school was placed in this package rather than a high school. For CISD to keep the school tax rate as is, a high school did not meet the budget requirements. The next best solution is a new Cleveland Middle School to be located on FM 2025, adjacent to the new Northside Elementary. This would allow the current CMS to become a 9th and 10th grade campus, moving 9th grade closer to CHS and pulling an additional grade level out of CHS. Currently 9th grade students attend the old Northside on Blair. Athletes are shuttled between the schools. CTE students are learning more from a book than hands on, shuttling these students would be a logistical mess. (Imagine learning how to cook, weld, or anything salon based, primarily from a book. These types of trades are best learned hands-on) A new CTE facility will free up more classroom space at CHS and will allow this program to expand. Career and Technical Education (CTE) is an opportunity for students to earn certifications and licenses. CHS has students graduating that are ready to work above entry level and with skills to help them pay for college. Students in 9th and 10th would have access to this CTE facility along with CHS and the stadium for sports.
Southside Elementary and Douglass Learning Academy will also receive much needed repairs and improvements. These schools need HVAC, Electrical, and Security improvements. Southside also needs Roofing, Flooring, and many other miscellaneous repairs.
Portables are not the answer. The cost of an eight-classroom unit with plumbing, electrical, walkways, and canopies costs 1.3 million dollars. For example, Southside has 93 classrooms. That is nearly 16 million dollars before bathrooms, cafeteria, gym, library, office space, playground equipment, furniture, or educational material. Plus, during severe weather, students and staff in these units are moved to the brick-and-mortar portions of the campus for safety. It would be poor financial stewardship to create a portable secondary school that meets capacity needs and include the necessary non classroom spaces. A secondary school would lose the playground equipment but need a Band Hall, Football Field, and Track. Portables also do not withstand time structurally and have little to no resale value.
Voting yes to this bond will benefit students and staff. Smaller student to teacher ratios allows for more instruction time and student focus vs. the need to redirect or continuously reteach material. Less congestion in the hallways allows students to quickly move from class to class and evacuate in the event of an emergency. More space for CTE programs allows for more student participation and more fields of interest. I encourage you to vote on facts and always reach out to leaders with questions.