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