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.

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