Cleveland ISD seeking voter approval of $125 million bond

Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless is pictured at the opening of the new Northside Elementary campus in August 2022. The District is now hoping to build a new middle school next to that campus on FM 2025.

Cleveland ISD has announced its intention to seek a $125 million, zero tax rate increase bond to address the growing number of students. The District saw enrollment numbers of 11,930 students at the end of the 2022-2023 school year and demographers are projecting that the District will see 119 percent growth over the next 10 years. By the 2032-2033 school year, Cleveland ISD is anticipated to have student enrollment of more than 25,000 students.

School officials say the bond is necessary to address these needs. If approved by voters in the Nov. 7, 2023, general election, this bond will be used to build a new middle school next to the new Northside Elementary campus on FM 2025, construct a new Career and Technical Education building on the old baseball fields next to Cleveland High School, convert the existing middle school campus in Cleveland to a 9th and 10th grade center, and make improvements to Southside Elementary and Douglass Learning Academy.

“We are supposed to start this coming August with 11,900 students and that is with the new charter school in Colony Ridge coming online. They moved about 800 of our students to their campus, but we had another 800 students move into the area just this summer,” said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless. “We are projected to enroll 150 students per month. With roughly 25 students per classroom, we are adding an average of six classrooms of students per month.”

Based on a nine-month school year, that is the equivalent of 54 classrooms of new students each year.

McCanless said it is important for Cleveland ISD voters to understand that the bond revenue will not require an increase in the ad valorem tax rate. With the new property tax relief bill recently approved by the Texas legislature, property owners should see a significant decrease on their tax bills next year. The $18 billion tax relief bill, which still must be approved by Texas voters in November, provides an increase in the homestead exemption, bumping it from the current $40,000 for most homes to $100,000.

Here is a complete breakdown of the proposed $125 million bond with information provided by Cleveland ISD:

  • New middle school – The bulk of the $125 million bond – $94.777 million, will go toward construction of a new middle school. Located on FM 2025 on property already owned and partially developed by Cleveland ISD, this campus will serve 1,600 students in grades 6 through 8. “This project involves an adaptive reuse of Santa Fe Middle School [design] and will include athletic amenities such as track and football fields, along with support facilities, restrooms, concessions, and bleachers for 900 people,” according to Cleveland ISD.
  • New CTE building – Located between Cleveland High School and Cleveland Middle School on the former baseball and softball fields, the new CTE building will allow an expansion of career and technical education courses and free up space within Cleveland High School for the conversion of current CTE classrooms to traditional classrooms. It is projected to cost $22.886 million and is the second-most expensive project to be funded by the bond. One of the new programs that Cleveland ISD hopes to add to the CTE program is auto mechanics. “The recently completed Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, and Information Technology programs will be retained. Other programs to be relocated and expanded include Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Veterinary Sciences; Construction; Health Science; Law & Forensics; Manufacturing (welding); and Automotive. The campus will also feature staff offices, restrooms, a vending area, collaboration space, material storage yard, parking, and special equipment and technology. The estimated capacity of the new building will be 250 students, and there will be a Kitchen/Café in the existing building,” according to Cleveland ISD. The CTE courses prepare students to enter the workforce upon the completion of high school, which is important for those not considering college or university courses.
  • Conversion of Cleveland Middle School to a campus for 9th and 10th grade students – Coming in at a cost of $1.636 million, the conversion of Cleveland Middle School will include infrastructure improvements to address intrusion, public address systems and access control requirements within the main campus and the portable buildings that surround it. New signage will be added, as will new sidewalks, restriping of the existing parking lot and renovating space for storage.
  • Renovations to Southside Elementary – The District plans to spend $4.6 million to address mechanical, electrical and plumbing needs on both the main campus and the portable buildings. Some flooring and ceiling tiles will be replaced where needed. The roof will also be replaced on the main campus. Other improvements are fresh paint throughout the campus, replacement of old HVAC systems and plumbing fixtures in the pre-kindergarten classrooms. Aluminum canopies will be erected between exterior buildings to improve the safety and welfare of students and staff.
  • Douglass Learning Academy – The District will use $587,977 from the bond to make much-needed maintenance upgrades. The old lighting system will be upgraded to an LED system, which should help save energy costs in the long-term, McCanless said. “The campus houses several portables that will also need to be retrofitted for safety and security,” according to the District.

Anyone who has driven around Cleveland ISD’s campuses in recent years will have noticed a high number of portable buildings dotting the campuses. McCanless said that since 2015, Cleveland ISD has spent $12 million on portable classrooms, which is roughly half the cost of a permanent elementary campus that costs around $25 million. For every 10 portable classrooms, Cleveland ISD can expect to spend $1.1 million for the buildings, networking connections, plumbing and electrical connections, and furniture, he said.

“Currently, Cleveland ISD houses approximately 40 percent of its student enrollment – roughly 4,760 students – in portable classrooms.”

Stephen McCanless, Cleveland ISD superintendent

“Brick and mortar campuses last a lot longer than portable buildings, so the savings long-term is significant. With portables, you get some longevity out of them, but they are not meant to be long-term solutions for the students,” McCanless said. “If the bond isn’t approved and we have to add more portables at the high school, the only area left to place them is on the practice field that is used by soccer and football teams, and the marching band.”

The cost and overall look of portable buildings aren’t the only concerns for the Cleveland ISD board and officials. Student safety is the biggest consideration.

“With weather and other outside forces, it’s always better to have your students within one building that you can secure to ensure their safety. When we have to move students during bad weather, we have to move hundreds of students out of the portable buildings. We are sometimes forced to move them in unsafe situations,” McCanless said.

When considering the threat of an active shooter on a campus, portable buildings make the task of keeping students safe more challenging for District police and local law enforcement personnel.

“The portables serve a purpose because we have to buy them, but they are not the best solution for students and staff,” he said.

With any public bond issue, the biggest challenge is convincing voters that the bond is essential and in their best interests. McCanless knows it is a hard sell in Cleveland ISD where previous bonds have failed, but he’s optimistic and is offering to meet with each and every resident to address their questions.

“If you hear something or question something about the bond, I am available. Come to the Central Office or call the Central Office, and I will make myself available. The deputy superintendent and the chief financial officer will also make themselves available to make sure that voters have the facts they need on which to base their decisions,” McCanless said.

To reach Cleveland ISD, call 281-592-8717.

McCanless will be the guest speaker at the Aug. 3 luncheon of the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce at Cleveland Civic Center. These luncheons are open to the community and anyone can attend. To reserve a ticket to the luncheon, call the Chamber at 281-592-8786.


    $ 760 MLLION BONDS. THE SCHOOL IS SEEKING A TOTAL OF $3 BILLIO. DOLLARS ADDITIONAL. THE school plan to REQUEST THIS I IN MULTIPLE 125 Million DOLLAR WE must have the courage to say no. Do not allow the school to use the kid’s as bait. We request a independent audit of all financial statements. We must also get a request a detailed plan to solve this increase I. Students. The continued tax burd6on homeowners is criminal

    • The City of Cleveland City tax rate per the appraisal district website is 0.7155. This increases your taxes from 1.6908 to 2.4058. Google the zoning map for Cleveland and you will see that it’s very small, so almost everyone south of city limits going to Cleveland schools isn’t paying the city tax, yet us long-time residents are. We have the highest City tax in the county, even though Cleveland city limits itself aren’t as big as Dayton or Liberty’s, nor do we have the amenities such as the their parks, a municipal fiber internet service, and a community pool. Also we have the highest school tax in the county at 1.211800. Grand Oaks has been growing slower than expected because of the city and school tax rates.

      The figure about us doubling in size in 10 years is understated, as the number of new move-ins is higher than what census numbers indicate. This means we are on a path to financial implosion. Cleveland will continue voting down bonds, and we will continue to have superintendents resign when the bonds fail. The only solution is an obvious and easy one: create another ISD specifically for that community, and make it a proper city too. It’s a decent ways down 1010 to get there, longer than the drive into Splendora, and there’s no reason not to create its own city charter, as it meets the population threshold. That way you can start charging them a city tax and also take the strain off Cleveland.

      • Hello “Cleveland”. BRAVO! or BRAVA! Will you be sharing this at the luncheon. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, needs to hear this! You opened my eyes. We are new residents and we’re appalled at the school tax, esp. on seniors. And we have no children or grands in schools here. Ours are in Tomball. Dvora DeAngélis (I’m on FB and Nextdoor. Would love to make your acquaintance!) Thanks SO MUCH for sharing. 😊🐝🌺

  2. I think Tarkington and Hardin will be next wanting bonds. Lots of new residents moving in. All sales adds say no restrictions.

  3. More taxes, school bonds, etc, is not the way to address the flood of illegal aliens. To correctly address the problem, slap the crap out of every damned democrat you know!

  4. Won’t need any new schools if you just get rid of the illegals. Cleveland is going to rue the day that the county and other officials allowed the colonia to come about.

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