Friday, December 21, 2018

Planning for Community Visioning

Toledo SD will host a Community Visioning meeting on Thursday, January 10 at 6 p.m. at THS for the purpose of beginning to envision the new Toledo High School. The folks at Dowa/IBI have offered to facilitate this meeting. This is an architectural firm that specializes in school construction. Jason King, a THS alumnus, is scheduled to facilitate. I've had several conversations with their principals and I'm expecting a great event that will do more than get a "laundry list" of features, but will get at the heart of what our community wants to have as a school for the next 50 years.

We're asking that you give some consideration to these "primer questions" prior to the meeting. This is to get you thinking about the school in ways that you might not have considered:

  •  How do we define success for this project?
  •   What are your Hopes and Dreams for the new high school?
  •  What are your Fears about the new school?
  •  What are your Hopes, Dreams, and Fears for your kids’ futures?
  •  What are the top jobs and careers you want for your kids?
  • What are the most important things you want your kids to learn (skills vs knowledge - STEM/CTE, robotics, foreign language/other cultures, food, outdoor learning, etc)?
  • What businesses or community organizations would you most like to have involved in your school?
  •  How many of you as parents work outside of normal hours (M-F, 8-6)?
  • How many of your kids have smartphones?
  •  What do your kids do after school?
  •  What would you like your kids to do after school?
  •  If you had one thing this school should say to your kids and to their kids, what should it say?
We'd also like you to bring photos you feel evoke the kind of feeling, activity, or appearance you would like to see in the new high school. Dowa/IBI will be bringing photos of other schools for you to react to. This meeting should take about 90 minutes to two hours depending upon attendance.

Following the visioning, I'll be providing a quick overview of the upcoming replacement levy proposal that will be on the February ballot. The district is requesting an $895,000 levy for two years to support things like all athletics, after school activities, class size reduction, additional electives at the middle and high schools, elementary music and more. This levy is $205,000 less each year than the current levy that will expire at the end of 2019. If not replaced, programs and staffing will need to be reduced.

Construction Management

About 30 members of the Design Committee met on 12/19 to review submissions from six construction management (CM) firms. Each firm submitted a 25-page statement of qualifications (SOQ). The committee members are in the process of reviewing and scoring the submissions. This process will be completed by January 5 and I'll be compiling the scores to generate the top three. I'll check references of those and, assuming there are no "red flags", will submit them to the board at their January 17 meeting as the committee's recommendation for interviews. The board will interview all three firms in a special meeting and make a decision. Interested members of the community will be able to attend this open public meeting.

Some other information was shared at the Design Committee meeting:

  • OSPI now estimates that they will contribute up to $9.8 million for 55,632 square feet of new school. This is $1.8 million more than our previous estimate.
  • We were able to submit necessary forms to OSPI to preserve our ability to go out to bid in summer of 2019. While that is an aggressive timeline, we want to preserve all options available.
I'm working with an architectural firm to arrange tours of recently-built schools in the region. Some of the possibilities include Woodland HS, Hockinson HS and Hockinson MS as well as Salish MS in North Thurston SD. Tours will occur in late January. We believe that its important for the Design Committee to see what a 21st century school facility looks like.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Selling Bonds

On Dec. 12, Board Chair Brad Dykstra and I went to Piper Jaffray in Seattle to participate in sales of our bonds to the public. What happens is Piper Jaffray (PJC) agrees to purchase all of our bonds according to the parameters set by the board and then uses that inventory to fill orders for bonds from investors across the country. PJC has been preparing investors for over a week that this sale was coming and what the terms would likely be. That way, when the sale opens, investors are ready to place orders. The sale opened at 7 a.m. PST and closed at 9:30 a.m. PJC did some negotiating with some of the investors to fill in some areas that remained unsold, but by 10 a.m. PJC was satisfied that they could sell the bonds that remained within a short amount of time and we finished for the day.

PJC and our bond attorney are now preparing closing paperwork for signatures and posting documents with the government. We expect to close by Dec. 27 and $7 million will be deposited to the district's Capital Projects Fund that day.

We were able to reduce the term of the bond by one year (19 years instead of 20). This will save the district about $500,000. In addition, by purchasing in 2018 rather than 2019, we're saving an additional $500,000 in cost over the term of the bond. We predict tax rates will be 76 cents per $1000 every year (assuming 3% valuation growth). We are paying a Total Interest Cost of 3.24% In addition, our partners agreed to very reasonable fees for their services over the last four years.

As stated, some bonds with early maturity dates remained available at the end of the sale. They can be purchased in $5,000 increments by calling PJC at 800.552.0614. (Toledo Lions Club approved purchase at their general meeting last night.)

Some additional good news came through this week. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) did an updated estimate of our State Construction Assistance Program eligibility. Our last estimate was a little over $8 million. Our new estimate is $9.8 million. This means that we have nearly $2 million more dollars to use to cover costs of the new school. This is helpful because construction costs are escalating dramatically each year and we'll need every penny to complete this project properly.

The Design Committee, chaired by Dale Merten will meet again on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. at THS. The goal of the meeting will be to review the Statements of Qualifications from Construction Management firms. The committee will recommend 2-3 firms to interview with the board. If you'd like to participate in this important work, please contact Dale or come to the meeting on the 19th.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Design Committee Meets

The first Design Committee meeting took place on Dec. 4 at ToledoTel. About a dozen people were in attendance. I reported on many of the things I've written about here as well as answering questions about the process and progress we've made so far. I also shared a Google drive folder where I'll be uploading documents relevant to our project. If you're interested, you can view it here:

What's there now is information from an architectural firm that is interested in our project. They've given us samples of other school's educational specifications as well as a copy of  the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI's) School Facilities Manual. The manual is a 200-page document that lists all of the  required portions needed in order to claim School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funding. It also has information about educational specifications and answers many of the questions about capital projects that come up.

The Design Committee is chaired by Dale Merten and is intended to be a self-selected representative group of community members who will take on the work of guiding designers of the new school. The committee's work is to make recommendations to the board of directors relative to what the new school will be. If you would like to be part of this important committee, please contact Dale at ToledoTel  (360.864.4552) during regular business hours.

The next meeting of the Design Committee will be at 6 p.m. at Toledo High School on Dec. 19. It will be at this meeting that the committee will review the Statements of Qualification (SOQs) submitted by Construction Management firms. The committee will score the SOQs and (hopefully) be able to recommend 2-3 firms for interview with the board at a later time. Interviews will be at an open meeting. Once the board has selected a firm, I'll begin negotiations with them for their services and fees.

On January 10 at 6 p.m. at THS, there will be a community meeting for two purposes:

  1. Visioning for the new THS
  2. Presentation of the replacement Educational Programs and Operations levy

This will be the community's first (but not only) opportunity to make their desires known for the new school and for the design committee to begin collecting information to use in guiding our designers. Following that activity, I'll be presenting the levy proposition that will be on the February ballot. Bonds can only be used for capital improvements and this bond can only be used to build a new high school. Levies are used to pay for things that are underfunded for our system or are not funded at all. I'll be sharing the details of the plan recently approved by OSPI along with an explanation of how taxes will be reduced significantly by this new levy.

Moody's recently gave Toledo School District an underlying bond rating of A2 which will be very attractive to investors according to our underwriter. All documents related to the bond have been filed and we're ready for sale on Dec. 12. Brad Dykstra and I will be at Piper Jaffray in Seattle on the 12th to observe the progress of the sale. If the terms are favorable, we'll complete document signatures that day and funds will be deposited in our Capital Projects fund by Dec. 27. With a strong rating like A2, we may have terms favorable enough to reduce the term of the bond below 20 years. We won't know until the 12th.

Our underwriter congratulated the board for its fiscal management citing long-range planning and the district's strong financial footing as key factors in achieving the A2 rating.

One housekeeping note: If you'd like to follow this blog and be alerted when it is updated, just select the "follow" button at the top right of the page.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Blog Questions

Recently had an observation that this blog appears to be a personal one and that I may be conducting professional business on a personal blog. Originally, this was a personal blog where I wrote about educational issues and what I was learning about serving children and families in Washington State. It has been idle for a few years. I saw this as a venue where I could, through my professional work as the superintendent, keep our community informed on the progress that the district is making on building the new high school.

I will not be sharing personal opinions or observations on the state of education in Washington and the U.S. This blog will be strictly about the work being done to construct the new school. It also won't be a forum for public conversation. Folks who'd like specific information are invited to contact me at the office at 360.864.6325 or by email at

I consider this to be another way for the district to communicate with the community along with telephone, email, newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and a cup of coffee at Napa in the morning.


November 27

We're making progress this week. Here are some things that are happening behind the scenes:

We've engaged a construction attorney: Graehm Wallace of Perkins Coie. Mr. Wallace is well-known in the state for his work with K-12 construction projects.

We're posting a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in the Crier and the Daily Journal of Commerce (Seattle) for a Construction Management firm (CM) this week. Statements of Qualifications (SOQs) are due to the TSD office by end of business on 12/18. The building committee, chaired by Dale Merten, will meet at 6 p.m. on 12/19 at THS to review these SOQs and recommend 2-3 firms for interviews with the board. Based on that process, the board will direct me to enter into negotiations with the best firm to set the scope of their work and how much their fee will be for the project. This is a crucial decision as this firm is the one who watches out for the district's interests throughout the project and makes sure that work is done to our standards. If you're interested in participating on the building committee, contact Dale at ToledoTel and volunteer.

We're gearing up to sell the bonds on December 12. The bonds will be sold in $5,000 increments. Local investors who would like to purchase are advised to see their personal broker for details on how to purchase. Piper Jaffray is the underwriter. Look for an ad in the Crier next week regarding this opportunity.

We're hosting a community visioning meeting on January 10, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Toledo High School to brainstorm what the new school will look like and what features are important to the community. This is the first opportunity for community members to provide input to the design process. This will not be the only opportunity, but it is the first one and one of the first signs of our work to design and build the new high school.

At this meeting, we'll also talk about replacing our current levy. Many of our programs and staff depend upon local support in the form of a levy. For the past three years, the levy has been $1.1 million per year. This has allowed us to make mandated changes to the THS water system and re-roof the middle school as well as make many other repairs and upgrades to our facilities. Now that those projects are complete, the board has determined that we can reduce our replacement to $895,000 per year for two years. This is $205,000 per year less than the current levy and will be $1.50 per $1000 of assessed property value. The last time our levy was this small was in 2009. Our current levy is $2.17 per $1000. This represents a decrease in taxes of 67 cents per $1000. This replaces the funding that has been provided to the district every year by the taxpayers.

Remember, the $7 million bond can only be used for one purpose: build a new high school. Levies provide funding for programs, people, repairs, maintenance, athletics, extracurricular activities and all of the other things not funded by the State. 

Hope you'll follow this blog to stay current on information related to the new Toledo High School

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What we know now

There have been many questions about the new school. I hope to answer some of them here. If you have a question that I don't answer, be sure to leave a comment or send an email. I'll do my best to address your question.

We made the decision not to hire an architect to design the school prior to passing the bond measure. We did this for several reasons: 1. The cost of doing this was approximately $50,000 and if the bond did not pass,  would have been a waste of money, 2. There wasn't time to fully engage our community in a visioning of a new school. A proper design process can take up to six months. This is why the Citizens for Great Toledo Schools chose to use a picture of Lintott Elementary in Chehalis as an example of what a 21st century school can look like.

Two decisions have been made. We'll be building a new school. That new school will have a pitched (not flat) roof.

Some of the ideas that will be part of the design process:

  • The school will be sited on the existing THS property. Possibly between the current school and the stadium and extending to the rear of the existing school (staff parking lot).
  • We've been advised that remodeling is often more expensive that building new. Because of this, we're not planning to modernize the shop and gyms unless that becomes a less expensive option.
  • We will need to build approximately the same size building (60,000 square feet) in order to maximize state construction assistance and provide for student enrollment.
We are working to evaluate project management firms. These people will act as the district's agent in overseeing the project and keeping our contractors on budget and time. We will also be working with them to schedule the project and assist us with evaluating general contractors and architectural firms.

Most projects are done using a process called "design-bid-build". Under this process, the project is designed and then put out to bid. The low bidder gets the job and does the build. Another process is called "design-build". Under this process, teams comprised of architects and general contractors interview with the board. Once selected, they design the project within the budget and then build the project. 

It has always been the desire of the board to make sure that, to the extent possible, local people be able to participate in the project. We believe that local people will provide top quality and have more of a stake than someone who will complete the project and move on to the next. Under the design-build process, the district would be able to specify that local vendors and tradespeople be given the opportunity to bid as subcontractors. The general contractor with the oversight of the project manager would then be able to hire local firms and people. This  gives us the best opportunity to keep local tax dollars in our community. 

The district will need approval in order to use the design-build process. The agency that reviews our request will meet in January, so we're working hard now to find a project management firm that can help us with the application.

Soon after the beginning of 2019, we'll have the first of a series of community meetings to gather the community's vision for the new high school. We hope you'll choose to be part of the process and you'll check back often for updates on the project.

Selling Bonds

Following voter approval, the district must "package" the bonds for sale to investors. Many organizations and professionals are involved from bond attorney and securities brokers to underwriters, local elected officials and our school board. The district has been working with Cynthia Weed, an attorney who specializes in bond measures for schools. The district has also been working with an underwriter: Ryan Swanson of Piper, Jaffray and Co. These people have contributed an enormous amount of time and expertise over the past four years helping the district prepare bond measures for the ballot and explaining a very complicated market.

As of this writing, we are working to package bonds for sale to investors and to have them underwritten by Moody's. The underwriting is critical for keeping our interest costs low (a higher rating translates to less risk for investors and lower interest rates). We're also evaluating proposed board resolutions that will allow sale of the bonds within certain parameters. All of this involves coordination with the Lewis County Treasurer and Assessor.

These resolutions will be completed and acted upon by the board on November 19. Later, the district will present the plan to Moody's for underwriting. We're aiming for bond sale on December 12 with funds from the sale to be deposited with the Lewis County Treasurer by December 27.

By selling before the beginning of 2019, we lock in interest rates at historically low levels (estimated at 3.63%). We also save the taxpayers an estimated $500,000 over the 21 year term of the bond.

This is an aggressive timeline and requires everyone involved to work together and quickly. In the long run, it will save taxpayers money and position the district to begin the design process quickly.
On November 6, 2018, Toledo taxpayers approved a $7 million bond. Thanks to a Distressed Schools Grant from the State of Washington and State Construction Assistance Program funding, this $7 million will be matched by $18 million to build a new Toledo High School. In the coming months, I'll be documenting what is happening to bring this new school to life. I'll share information regarding the process, costs, and progress as the district and community work together to build a school that will serve Toledo students for generations. If you have questions that aren't addressed here, I invite you to contact me at the Toledo School District office 116 Ramsey Way Toledo 360.864.6325.

Thank you voters of Toledo for providing this opportunity for your children.

Chris Rust