Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend of Texas | We Investigate

Records show CCISD spent nearly $8 million on land now under scrutiny

So far, Corpus Christi ISD has spent nearly $10 million for a new Mary Carroll High School campus.

The bulk of the money – nearly $8 million of it – paid for the land, which is a 60-acre site off Saratoga Boulevard near Weber Road. But it’s that location which has raised safety concerns by the Navy and community leaders.

The Navy is concerned about safety and noise from the nearby Cabaniss Airfield where navy pilots train. Part of the school land is in an accident potential zone for student pilots. Community leaders are concerned about encroachment on the airfield, which could lead to bigger problems down the road, such as a Navy base closure.

After declining to disclose how much it paid for the land, the school district recently released a detailed expense report to KRIS 6 News, which included the land transaction details.

The records indicate the district bought the land in October during four separate transactions. Two of those occurred on Oct. 3. C.C.I.S.D. bought the last two pieces of property on Oct. 26th, which was about one week before voters had their say at the ballot box. The bulk of the CCISD bond package included a $175 million proposal to pay for the new high school campus.

The names of the landowners who sold the property include the Nuss family, the Massad family and the Harrod Living Trust, according to land records.

Community concerns have not been about who sold the land, but rather the location and the timing of the purchase.

“It was surprising to me that they spent the money on that land at the point they did,” said David Loeb, who has publicly criticized the land purchase. “They had gotten information at various levels that it wasn’t an appropriate site for a school.”

Initially, district officials said they had addressed those concerns, which included moving the high school building out of the accident potential zone.

A series of investigative reports by KRIS 6 News showed linger concerns by the Navy, including a letter the Navy sent in March 2018 to CCISD, in which it recommended the district not build the school on that site. The Navy has not changed its recommendation.

In the past few weeks amid growing criticism, the district has said it would consider other sites for the school.
Earlier today, CCISD Board President Catherine Susser confirmed there is another site being considered.

“We are in the process of coming to a resolution on another site,” Susser said. “We feel like that is going to address everyone’s concerns. Like I said, we’ve been working closely with the Navy.”

Susser would not talk about the location of the site because she said there could be potential real estate negotiations and she did not want to jeopardize those. She also did not say what would happen to the current site, which the district bought for close to $8 million.

Loeb, who studied the land around the airfield as a city council member, said the best thing CCISD can do now is slow things down to make sure they’re done right.

“It’s better to have a safe campus for our community and the students than it is to meet some deadline that somebody set,” Loeb said

Susser said the district is working to do both.

“We are trying as hard as we can to get everything resolved as quickly as we can,” she said.

Jessica Savage

Jessica Savage

Award-winning investigative reporter who has worked in East Texas and South Texas.
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