Cleveland ISD is starting the new school year on Tuesday, Aug. 8, with a full staff, which is quite an accomplishment considering that the District now has 2,134 full-time and part-time employees. This makes Cleveland ISD the largest employer in Liberty County, and leading the District is Superintendent Stephen McCanless.
At the back-to-school convocation for Cleveland ISD on Monday, Aug. 7, McCanless shared that the District has enrolled 1,092 new students over the last two weeks, and more students are expected to be registered each week going forward. This puts Cleveland ISD’s enrollment as of Aug. 7 at more than 12,400 students.
With the District growing so rapidly, this year was likely the last year for all District employees to be gathered in the Cleveland High School gym for the back-to-school convocation. The bleachers in the gym seat 1,825 people and Cleveland ISD had to place another 300 chairs on the gym floor just to accommodate all of the staff.
“We will be exploring other options for our convocations, possibly hosting two separate convocations next year – one on the south end of the District and the other on the north end,” McCanless said.
Surprisingly, only a couple of new positions were added this school year.
“We added an emergency options manager. Last year, we started the school year with so many unfilled positions. This year we were able to hire more certified teachers,” he said.
McCanless attributes the District’s ability to be fully staffed to Cleveland ISD trustees, who raised the starting salary for teachers to $61,000 this year. All returning staff will get a $2,000 bonus and all teachers hired by Sept. 1 will qualify for the $2,000 bonus. Bilingual teachers will also receive a stipend of $7,000 annually.
The District went to great heights this year to get the message out that Cleveland ISD was hiring and paying a competitive salary. Over the summer, several skybanners were pulled by airplanes around the Valley Ranch Shopping Center in New Caney, the Houston Zoo and other locations.
“I think these efforts make it possible to attract more teachers this year,” McCanless said. “Some of the comments we have heard from new teachers to the District are that Cleveland ISD is ‘next level’ and has ‘innovative leadership’. We’ve also heard that people believe Cleveland ISD is dedicated to teachers and invests as much as it can into teachers. Aside from offering a competitive salary, Cleveland ISD also offers excellent benefits at a lower cost thanks to the School Board.”
McCanless said that District employees appear to be very happy to be part of Cleveland ISD.
“The overall vibe of the District is so positive. That makes people excited to be part of things,” he said.
McCanless also mentioned that Cleveland ISD residents will be happy to learn that the District is nearly ready to open a new southern service center next door to Cottonwood Elementary in the Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove. This will help students get home sooner, improve congestion on Plum Grove Road and will save taxpayers money for fuel and manpower.
“It will open sometime in January. The service center will have 23 offices and a huge breakroom/conference center. The conference center will have audio and video equipment that will allow us to livestream board meetings there. Residents in those communities to the south will be able to attend the meeting at the conference center and be able to participate just like they would at the Cleveland ISD boardroom in Cleveland,” he said.
The service center cost $4.7 million and was funded through the District’s fund balance.
Another grand opening on the horizon is the Cleveland ISD administration building on SH 321 across from Cleveland Middle School and Cleveland High School. This project was funded by the 2019 bond approved by voters. McCanless said the District administration office expects to move into the new building in February.